Links and resources

Explore links to a range of relevant projects, initiatives and organisations active in the social innovation and healthy ageing field.

Social innovation in the EU

Innovation Union

One of the seven flagship initiatives of the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing

With the Innovation Union strategy the European Commission aims to enhance European competitiveness and tackle societal challenges through research and innovation. One way to achieve this is with Innovation Partnerships. Their unique strength is that they will address weaknesses in the European research and innovation system (notably, under-investment, conditions which are not sufficiently innovation-friendly, and fragmentation and duplication), which considerably complicate the discovery or exploitation of knowledge and, in many cases, ultimately prevent the entry of innovations into the market place.

The European Commission has identified active and healthy ageing as a major societal challenge common to all European countries, and an area which presents considerable potential for Europe to lead the world in providing innovative responses to this challenge.

Social Innovation Research in Europe

The website provides information and links to research projects being conducted across Europe on social innovation, social enterprise (organisations combining commercial and social goals) and social innovation (innovative practices) in the public sector. This is research funded by the European Union that seeks to support and develop socially innovative projects and strengthen the evidence base for social innovation by developing metrics for measurement, identifying barriers to social innovation and ways they can be broken down.

Other social innovation databases


A platform of proven innovations from across the world. Their mission is to build community wellbeing by unleashing the potential of changemakers everywhere.


Changemakers partners with changemaking institutions, including global foundations and Fortune 500 companies such as GE, Google, and the Rockefeller Foundation, building a global network that includes more than 15,000 innovators and their solutions, changemaking organisations, and hundreds of thousands of changemakers from 125 countries.

Research projects

Boosting the impact of social innovation in Europe through economic underpinnings (SIMPACT)

SIMPACT with its 12 partners from ten European countries advances understanding of social innovation’s economic dimensions, creating new concepts, models and instruments for policy makers, innovators, investors and intermediaries. It systematically investigates how social innovations can enable the most vulnerable in society to become economic assets, integrating critical analysis of current and previous work with future-oriented methodologies, new actionable knowledge and continual stakeholder participation.

Social Innovation and Civic Engagement (ITSSOIN)

Research has made seminal contributions to describing the size and scope of the Third Sector, including volunteering as an essential component. However, most of the research has focused on economic benefits (revenues, employment etc). ITSSOIN, a project started in March 2014, posits that the core contribution and main impact of the sector on socio-economic development lies in the creation of social innovation.

The ITSSOIN consortium believes that the Third Sector is better equipped to foster social innovation than the market or the public sector. They aim to build a set of testable hypotheses that relate to its key characteristics, eg:

  1. Strong value sets.

  2. Persistent multi-stakeholder constellations.

  3. The mobilisation of multiple resources.

Social innovation: Driving force of social change

SI-DRIVE extends knowledge about social innovation (SI) in three major directions:

  1. Integrating theories and research methodologies to advance understanding of SI leading to a comprehensive new paradigm of innovation.

  2. Undertaking European and global mapping of SI, thereby addressing different social, economic, cultural, historical and religious contexts in eight major world regions.

  3. Ensuring relevance for policy makers and practitioners through in-depth analyses and case studies in seven policy fields, with cross European and world region comparisons, foresight and policy round tables.

SI-DRIVE involves 15 partners from 12 EU member states and 10 from other parts of the world. The approach adopted carefully interlinks the research process to both the complexity of the topic and the project workflow. First, cyclical iteration between theory development, methodological improvements, and policy recommendations. Second, two mapping exercises at European and global level.

TRANSIT (Transformative social innovation theory)

TRANSIT is an ambitious four-year long research project that aims to develop a theory of transformative social innovation useful for academics and policy makers as well as practitioners. This will be achieved by studying how networks of social entrepreneurs and families of social innovation projects contribute to systemic societal change. Examples of case-studies include Living Knowledge science shops, time banks, makerspaces and FabLabs, Transition Towns, eco-villages and energy cooperatives.

TRANSIT studies how these phenomena operate through 20+ transnational networks across Europe and Latin America. A main research question is how people are (dis)empowered in contributing to systemic change in the context of a rapidly changing world that faces ‘game changing’ developments such as economic crises, climate change and the ICT-revolution.

Third Sector Impact

The collaborative research project, which is part of the EU’s seventh framework program, involves 14 research institutes in Europe. It was launched in January 2014, and has a time frame of three years.

The main objective is to create knowledge that will further advance the contributions that the Third Sector and volunteering can make to the socio-economic development of Europe. The project is divided into seven main work packages. The first stages of the project will seek to clarify the concept of the third sector in Europe, and building on this the major contours of the sector will be identified; its size, structure, composition, sources of support, and recent trends.

In the next stages the project aims to identify the impacts of the sector, including its contributions to European economic development, innovation and citizen wellbeing, as well as barriers both internal to organisations and external to them. An important part of the project is also to forge a partnership between the research community and the European Third Sector practitioners. This will ensure that the understanding of the sector generated by this work remains grounded in reality.

Growing inequality and social innovation: Alternative knowledge and practice in overcoming social exclusion in Europe

KATARSIS brought together theorists, researchers and practitioners interested in the causes and consequences of inequality, giving particular emphasis to the (collective and individual) strategies through which people respond to social exclusion. Social innovation was the central binding concept for KATARSIS’ work, arguing that although innovation has long been a key objective of economic policy in the EU, its implementation has tended to focus on competitive technology and market-based solutions, particularly under the model of the Knowledge-Based Society (KBS).

Challenging this model, innovation was considered to be directed first and foremost at meeting human needs and, in conditions of inequality or exclusion, innovating in social relations, not just in markets.

Welfare innovations at the local level in favour of cohesion

The WILCO project looked into this missing link between innovations at the local level and their successful transfer and implementation to other settings. Innovation in cities was explored, not as a disconnected phenomenon, but as an element in a tradition of welfare that is part of particular socio-economic models and the result of specific national and local cultures.

By contextualising innovations in local welfare, the WILCO project gained understanding about how they could work in other cities, for the benefit of other citizens.

Social innovation for active and healthy ageing (SIforAge)

The SIforAGE project pursues to strengthen cooperation among the stakeholders working on active and healthy ageing. We aim at putting together scientists, end-users, civil society, public administrations and companies in order to improve the competitiveness of the European Union regarding the promotion of research and innovative products for longer and healthier lives.

The SIforAGE consortium is integrated by a wide range of stakeholders along the value chain of innovation, such as private foundations, care centres, civil society associations representing aged people, universities, public policy makers, think tanks and experts at European and international level in order to bridge the existing fragmentation among them.

Mobilising the potential of active ageing in Europe (MOPACT)

MOPACT was a four-year project funded by the European Commission under the Seventh Framework Programme to provide the research and practical evidence upon which Europe can begin to make longevity an asset for social and economic development. To achieve this aim MOPACT concentrated the highest possible quality of scientific analyses into the development of innovative policies and approaches that can assist public authorities and other key actors, at all levels in Europe.

MOPACT started from the conviction that Europe requires a new paradigm of ageing if it is to respond successfully to the challenges of demographic change.

Reports and resources for social innovation

Guide to Social Innovation, European Commission (PDF, 4.8MB)

DG for Regional and Urban Policy and DG for Employment Social affairs and Inclusion, Brussels, 2013.

The European Commission's guide to social innovation provides a comprehensive overview of the concept of social innovation and why it is needed if member states are to successfully meet the economic and social challenges that they face such health and ageing, social inclusion, migration, urban regeneration and the social economy. The Commission's definition of social innovation serves as a central concept to work in this area:

“... The development and implementation of new ideas (products, services and models) to meet social needs and create new social relationships or collaborations. It represents new responses to pressing social demands, which affect the process of social interactions. It is aimed at improving human well-being. Social innovations are innovations that are social in both their ends and their means. They are innovations that are not only good for society but also enhance individuals’ capacity to act.”

Five hours a day: Systemic innovation for an ageing population, Nesta, 2013

This report makes the case for a systematic look at how we live in an ageing society, to create models of living and working fit for the future. Key findings:

  • There’s a big gap between the focus of current ageing innovations and what older people actually want.

  • The report shows the following factors matter most to older people (and these are the outcomes that innovations should aim to achieve).

  • To have a sense of purpose – feeling useful and valued as an employee, volunteer, mentor, entrepreneur, employer, hobbyist or source of advice with a cup of tea.

  • To have a sense of wellbeing – living as well as possible with health conditions, being physically active and emotionally resilient.

  • To feel at home, independent and connected to others – wherever we’re living.

With life expectancies increasing by five hours a day and baby boomers entering their later years, our assumptions about ageing and who is ‘old’ are fundamentally challenged.

Innovating better ways of living in later life: Context, examples and opportunities, The Young Foundation, 2010

No society has yet ‘solved’ the challenges of ageing, and no past societies have provided comprehensive models to copy. Instead we have no choice but to innovate, experiment and learn fast.

In the paper we survey many dozens of examples of innovation from across the world, including:

  • New ways for older people to remain active, as volunteers or in providing mutual support.

  • New models of service delivery and care that contribute to greater independence.

  • New environments that can improve everyday life.

  • New ways of mobilising trusted networks to provide support of all kinds.

Social innovation: What it is, why it matters, how it can be accelerated, The Young Foundation, 2007

This report examines how social innovation happens in NGOs, the public sector, movements, networks and markets. It presents an analysis of the history, the theory and the process, paving a way for social innovation to play an increasingly significant role in society.

Social innovation hubs and incubators

The Social Innovation eXchange (SIX)

A global network of organisations and individuals committed to inspiring, connecting and supporting social innovators. The work of SIX covers social innovations on a wide range of topics ranging from ageing through citizen participation and education to youth.

SIX values:

  1. Value social impact (rather than ideas)

  2. Celebrate solutions (more than heroes)

  3. Engage honestly (more than just inform)

  4. Inspire through action (not just words)

  5. Connect as peers (not in a hierarchy)

  6. Committed to openness (and welcome the unexpected)

Nesta (formerly the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts)

Nesta is a charitable organisation dedicated to supporting innovative solutions to contemporary challenges facing society. It funds socially innovative projects in their early stages, provides guidance and support to social innovators as well as conducting research on social innovations. It provides practical support for social innovations and builds partnerships to build capacity and knowledge in this area.

The Young Foundation

The Young Foundation has been influential in developing and pioneering the concept of social innovation at a local, national and international level. It conducts research and provide guidance and support to social innovators and their projects to tackle the root causes of inequality.

The Australian Centre for Social Innovation (TACSI)

The Centre focuses on developing innovative solutions mainly in relation to improving family life, ageing and indigenous people. In relation to family life and ageing, they have established the Great Living Company as a vehicle for investment in six social innovations that would add life to the extra 30 years that Australians are now living compared to a century ago.

The six social innovations to great living are:

  1. A Bit Better: Shifting mindsets from ‘I can’t’ to ‘I can’. A new solution in the area of mental health and depression.

  2. Weavers: Helping people who help. A new solution in the area of respite and carer support.

  3. Sharing Zone Co. Neighbourhoods great to grow up and old in. A new solution in the area of 'Ageing in place' and intergenerational communities.

  4. Meals with Mates: Great food and company. A new solution in the areas of isolation, food and nutrition.

  5. The Opp Store: More helpful help. A new solution in the areas of volunteering, workforce participation and consumer directed care.

  6. Care Reflect: More meaningful care. A new solution in the areas of aged care workforce development and person-centred care.


Complex challenges in society require new forms of innovation. In order to tackle these issues, knowledge of the people directly involved is necessary. The challenge is to mobilise and utilise that knowledge in order to achieve sustainable renewal. That’s what we do. A smart society is one that works together, one in which the knowledge, talents, experience and intuition present at all levels and in all areas is made use of to the full: a knowledge-driven society.

Our mission is to make society smarter and to empower people to learn and to renew themselves continuously. Kennisland develops solutions to the questions that arise during the transition to a knowledge-driven society, and is part of the vanguard of that process. We learn how this must be done by developing interventions, both on a commissioned basis and on our own initiative. We share the knowledge accumulated in doing so with as many people as possible, because knowledge only gains value when it is shared.

Social innovation: Beyond the hype

Kennisland believes that we must look beyond the trend for new solutions. New solutions do not automatically create new or better public value, nor do they share this value in an equal manner. It is often the case that such solutions fail to meet the needs of end users and that a great many people are not reached by them. In short, new solutions do not automatically bridge the gap between failing systems and the daily lives and experiences of those who badly need these services.

Euclid Network

Established in 2007 as a joint venture between ACEVO (UK), CJDES (France) and Ideell Arena (Sweden), Euclid Network connects members from more than 40 countries from across Europe for a more innovative, professional and sustainable European civil society. We work to empower the network (through membership and projects) to become the changemakers of civil society - challenging the status quo, bringing solutions to the table and fostering collaboration and peer-learning across boundaries.

Euclid Network receives a core grant from the European Commission, DG Education and Culture. This core funding supports our continuing partnership with the European Union, through which we carry out a number of independent consultation on issues which are important to European civil society and our members in particular. We are funded to run specific projects by the European Commission and the United Nations. Funding also comes from membership fees, partnerships and training and consultancy that Euclid Network offers.