Social cohesion is clearly at stake in Europe. A key to achieving it is striking the balance between equality and diversity by understanding it as a complex, multi-layered problématique, that needs to be tackled in terms of being able to ‘live together differently’. This paper asks about the contributions of a socially innovative initiative in the field of intercultural education in Austria, the Vielfalter, to social cohesion. In particular, the article scrutinises the Vielfalter’s approach to ‘participation’ and ‘empowerment’, quasi-concepts that have become buzzwords in social innovation.
The concept of social innovation has gained prominence in the international policy making community throughout the last ten years, particularly in the European Union. It is highly ambiguous, with blurring boundaries, involving diverse policy fields and actors in the public, private and non-profit sectors. The articles in this special issue deal with social innovation in a territorial development perspective. With a focus on social policy, they tackle the question of the potential of social innovations to respond to limitations of welfare regimes and they also reflect on the contradictions regarding the combination of social innovation with neoliberal reforms.
Concerned with how social innovation and macro-level social policies can complement and mutually reinforce one another to promote social inclusion and equality, this article develops a case study of the Furniture Re-Use Network (FRN), a large network of re-use non-profits in the United Kingdom. The article explores the development, policy embedding and future challenges of the FRN in relation to public policies and welfare reform. Our study shows how this development is particular to the UK welfare regime legacy and how current austerity politics and a lack of recognition by the government for potential cross-departmental value creation by re-use non-profits hampers the sector’s development.
This article deals with the social inclusion of hitherto marginalised people by means of social innovation. Theoretically guided by Fraser’s ‘3-R-approach’ to promoting social justice, social inclusion is understood as a multi-dimensional process, involving redistribution, recognition, and representation. Empirically, the focus is on the Brazilian social movement of collectors of recyclable material. This historically marginalised group of people was able to constitute a nation-wide social movement. Based on this achievement, further social and political inclusion has been promoted since 2003. The article describes the process as ‘bottom-linked’, in the sense that a middle way between ‘top-down’ solutions by the state and ‘bottom-up’ processes by civil society has been found.
Social innovation rises and grows within specific social and institutional conditions and relations, being at once an outcome and a driver of change of the contexts in which it is embedded. This paper sheds light on these processes, by studying the relationship between social innovation and local welfare configurations in the development of the same innovative practice, the Housing First model to contrast homelessness, in two different European cities: Bologna (Italy) and Stockholm (Sweden). The comparison allows us to highlight how the two local innovative practices, inspired by the same global model, have developed differently in these contexts and how they have adapted to the conditions posed by local welfare and housing configurations.
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social innovation, work integration social enterprise, sustainability, welfare reform, re-use