Supporting social innovations at local level: the role of local authorities
Social innovation is now taken into account in a great many public policies, from the English-speaking nations to Europe and Quebec. Meeting social needs becomes a more challenging issue at a time when economic and social models are being shaken up by the crisis.
In the space of just a few years, this polysemous notion has extended beyond the sphere of specialised research to enhance the concept of innovation and take it beyond a vision centred on the technological dimension.
Social innovation is even defined in the French law on the SSE of July 2014, which specifies the duel dimension of the concept: providing a response to social needs that are not or inadequately met, within the context of the market or public policies, and “responding to social needs with an innovative form of enterprise, an innovation process for producing goods and services, or an innovative method for organising work.”
By allowing the production of goods and services that provide solutions to needs directly linked to people’s daily lives in the territories (health, dependency, food, housing, mobility, employment, environment, etc.) and stimulating the invention and implementation of new solutions in response to social and environmental challenges, territories are seeking to strengthen their receptiveness to social innovation and their capacity to support its development.
One of the identified levers is the building of alliances and partnerships between associations, companies, the research world and public actors, with actions including forming a network of the different territorial actors and drawing up a diagnosis then a plan for shared territorial development.
Two issues in particular can be identified:
the part played by elected representatives and local authorities, whose primary role is now to act as facilitators and organisers, providing support for risk-taking in order to invent new forms of response, rather than as administrators or development planners;
looking beyond the desire to create a territorial ecosystem that fosters social innovation: how can this desire become an effective tool for social transformation rather than act simply as a corrective measure?
One case study
Sustainability 2015, 7(2), 1900-1931
3 Analyses/working papers/articles
The Democracy Collaborative, September 2014
Energy, Sustainability and Society 2014
Dossier Mutual Housing Métropolitiques
Article from Cooperative Grocer for retailors and cooperators, #109, November-December 2003
David J. Thompson, November 2003