Project budget3 085 644 €
ERDF amount1 851 385 €
The common challenges tackled by the project are: “relatively low level of social innovation” and “development of social enterprises as SMEs”. Social Enterprises (SEs) are well placed to deliver social innovation in the 2 seas area. A 2012 SBS survey found 67% of UK SEs had introduced a new or significantly improved product or service in the previous 12 months compared to 43% of non-SE SMEs. Yet their dual missions of social purpose and business create complex needs which require specialized solutions in order to make social innovations commercially viable and sustainable.
The overall objective of this project is to improve the capacity of social enterprises to develop and deliver sustainable and high impact innovations. Currently there is no methodology for the consistent harnessing of sustainable social enterprise innovation and a lack of joint tools and services for their development. The expected change our project will make will be an improvement in the framework conditions for innovation through enhanced cross-border cooperation, increase in innovation partnerships and R&D, and new and more effective models and tools for delivery of social innovation.
- Formulation of a joint strategy and action plan to improve capacity of SEs to deliver sustainable and high impact innovation
- Establishment of a SE Innovation Accelerator network of quadruple helix partners in the 2 seas area
- Establishment of a joint framework methodology for SE sustainable innovation
- Development of actions to support established social entrepreneurs through a cross-border innovation accelerator programme linked to the framework
- Establishment of pilot actions linking capabilities of partners to develop an online training tool linked to the framework for SE Start Ups
Cross border approach
Working across borders, we will capitalise on smart specialisation to share knowledge and experience in this relatively new sector to inform successful implementation of sustainable innovation within SEs. Cross-border collaboration will enable smart specialisation and develop a market to transfer innovations from SE across the regions. We will further address the threat identified in the SWOT analysis “Social economy covers different realities in the four MS which may endanger the development of cooperation” by working collaboratively to build a platform for future cooperation.
The cross-border cooperation has been central to the success of the project. It was rooted in the positive and enduring working relationships between partners, setting the tone and an example of how more can be achieved through working together in an innovative and creative way rather than working in ‘silos.
To select a few particular highlights that we have evidence of particular impact –
The development of the innovation roadmap. The team developed a bespoke visual framework of the innovation process particular to social enterprises. This model became the foundation for other deliverables and was woven into the fabric of the project.
Our Strategy and Action plan evolved through research and first-hand experience of delivering support to enable stakeholders, support agencies, policy makers and others in the public sector to focus on 4 key pillars needed in order for social enterprise to flourish. Through numerous events, meetings and 1-2-1 engagement with stakeholders we managed to secure the commitment for the support of our strategy and action plan by 110 individuals – over 50% more than our original plan!
One of the pillars of our Strategy and Action plan is ‘Connect to Innovate’ and our SEIAN (Social Enterprise Innovation Accelerator Network) helped us to meet this fundamental requirement. Our network undertook both physical meetings and events for members of SEIAN (many of which were cross-border) and also for those that could not attend the events, and to further promote the cross-border conversation we established a ‘virtual’ network online through a LinkedIn group. Our target member ship for this group was 400, but again we surpassed this.
Our two main programmes were focused on established social enterprises (WP2 – The Accelerator Programme) and new or early stages social enterprises (WP3 – The Start-up Programme). We have had some wonderful feedback from the social enterprises involved in these programmes and our evaluation of the programmes has emphasised how useful the tools, services and support provided by SPARK has been. Hilary one of our cohort on the Accelerator programme said ‘Participating in the Spark project was a game changer for my organisation’ and Atif emphasised how the cross-border participation was helpful – ‘There was so much to gain… especially in meeting up with like-minded individuals, strategizing shared difficulties with our EU colleagues’.