The WILCO Project has studied 77 social innovations in 20 European cities addressing urban social problems.The WILCO Closing Event will take place in Brussels on Friday, January 31st, 2014.
Recently, some international organizations have celebrated the positive macro-economic indicators that indicate that some of the countries in Europe that were most hardly hit by the crisis are leaving it behind. However, the majority of European citizens are far from feeling that the worst lays behind and, in collaboration of public and private actors, have developed innovative solutions to social challenges.
Be it citizens’ regaining participation in how their city is governed in Spain, parents’ teaming up to offer support to lone mothers in Poland, or new schemes for fighting youth unemployment in Germany, social innovations abound in Europe. And still, why is their impact so geographically limited? Could they be replicated in other contexts for the benefit of other citizens?
Based on statistical evidence, the WILCO project has in detail examined urban social problems in the last years of economic crisis. In addition to an overall increase in social exclusion as a result of the crisis, social vulnerability has also raised, characterized by permanent instability in people’s lives. Different dynamics come together: increase of temporary employment, lack of affordable housing, changing family relations, increasing migration within Europe. This hits an increasingly broad range of people, beyond traditionally weak groups. Existing instruments of local welfare are insufficiently able to address this.
Social innovations are part of the solution to such problems. The WILCO project has studied 77 social innovations in 20 European cities addressing these problems. The majority of social innovations are new service arrangements, making a difference in terms of organizations, processes and types of service offers. For instance, they can involve a more participative role for citizens or building surprising alliances. The project discerns several patterns in the innovations, which are reflected across Europe.
Although there is a tendency in public communications on social innovation to discuss successful champions and system-wide innovations, the reality is that the majority of initiatives remains local and last only a limited number of years. According to Taco Brandsen, Coordinator of WILCO, “this points to the importance of capacities of cities to continually generate new innovations and to disseminate experiences effectively.” Innovations have a relatively good chance of survival when they involve a broad range of parties and when the city authorities have an open governance style.
The WILCO Closing Event will take place in Brussels on Friday, January 31st, 2014.