Objectives: Mutual learning, building bridges, and international networking among practitioners from various fields and social sciences

Very briefly, social innovations are new combinations of social practices1 , or – in the form of an analytical definition2:

Social innovations are new practices for resolving societal challenges, which are adopted and utilised by individuals, social groups and organisations concerned.

All innovations are socially relevant and they are in need those days. Next to technical innovations social innovations are required within the EU’s private sector in order to assist in becoming a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy. The public sector across the globe, furthermore, demands sustainable solutions for the efficient use of its limited resources and civil society is called upon to engage in the political as well as societal challenges of today worldwide. The key questions raised during the SOQUA Summer School, hence, comprise:

  • Which social innovations are needed in the private sector that contribute to EU’s growth strategy, in particular?
  • Which social innovations are on demand in the public sector in order to invest tax money sustainable?
  • How to best engage civil society concerns to provide answers to our most important societal challenges?
  • What can social science and innovation research do in order to provide analysis, concepts and empirical data about social innovations?
  • Which trends and status of social innovation development, pre-conditions and impact can be observed in international comparison?

The first day, organised in the framework of the SOQUA Summer School “Social Innovation in Europe and Beyond” on Monday, 9 July, will highlight some major topical areas in need for social innovation. Following a keynote on social innovation, the areas looked at in the afternoon will comprise “working life and social welfare”, “democracy and political culture”, and the “funding of research and innovation”. The next days will address, by keynotes and working sessions: social innovation in social science (Tuesday, July 10), social innovation in the private sector (for-profit business and social entrepreneurship; Wednesday, July 11), social innovation in the public and civil society sectors (Thursday, July 12), and international trends and strategies (Friday, July 13).

A specific objective of the summer school is to facilitate networking among practitioners, researchers and international platforms supporting social innovation. This is based on close collaboration with “SozialMarie”, the Austrian Social innovation Award (annually since 2005 with meanwhile more than 2000 applicants and more than 100 prize winning projects, cf. http://www.sozialmarie.org/winners These are invited to make contact with participants and participate themselves in a specially dedicated workshop on Wednesday evening (pls. refer to the programme).

  • In this workshop each project present will have a table to which participants of the Summer School are sent with certain questions to learn from practical experience.
  • ZSI will facilitate a matching between SozialMarie projects on the one hand, and Summer School participants and lecturers on the other hand.
  • ZSI also collaborates with two online networks focusing on social innovation: "SIE - Social Innovation Europe", http://www.socialinnovationeurope.eu/, and "SIX – Social Innovation eXchange", http://www.socialinnovationexchange.org/
  • They would like to connect with social innovators, either face-to-face or online, and carry out interviews to become published on the two sites indicated.

Generally speaking, we are going to learn about and from social innovation in regard to concepts and practices of innovation.

Focus and composition of the faculty and participants is international. There will be a strong European core of speakers and participants, with a systematic built-in nexus to local social innovators from Austria, yet also key intelligence provided from other world regions.

The summer school calls for experienced social innovators, as well as for persons who feel their area of work requires social innovation. In addition, academics and scientists from various disciplines, who are or would like to become involved in social innovation research, are invited to take part in sharing scientific eagerness for knowledge and enthusiasm.

Participants are welcome from Austria, Europe and beyond. There is no age limit. Students are very welcome, yet we do not want to solely educate students. This Summer School also wants to involve on the one hand employed and self-employed persons that are social innovators, and those who feel their area of work calls for social innovation. On the other hand academics and scientists from various disciplines, who are or would like to become involved in social innovation research, are invited to take part in sharing scientific eagerness for knowledge and enthusiasm. “Involvement” means, we wish to bring together experts from different walks of life in an ambience which allows to learn from each other, benefiting the inquiring mind and the quest for practical experience.


1Adapted from the famous quote of Schumpeter (1912): “Innovations are new combinations of production factors”.
2Centre for Social Innovation (2012): “All Innovations are Socially Relevant”. ZSI Discussion Paper 13, Vienna; online: https://www.zsi.at/dp