A group of European universities and NGOs, led by CARPE-partner Manchester Metropolitan University, embarked on May 1, 2015 on a major research and innovation project looking at how innovative social investment policies can strengthen communities in Europe. The project, funded by the European Commission and lasting 30 months, asks important questions about how European welfare systems designed to protect against Twentieth Century social and economic risks, need to change in the Twenty first century.
In 2013 the European Commission adopted its ‘Social Investment Package’, which stressed the importance of social investment in welfare reform. Social investment challenges old ideas about a straightforward redistributive approach to social policy. Instead it emphasises the potential to use social policy to strengthen people’s current and future capacities and prepare them to confront life’s risks, rather than simply repairing the consequences.
This research is timely because to date, implementation of Social Investment approaches has been uneven across Member States and much remains to be learned about the best ways to deliver them. If policy makers get it wrong new social policies risk fuelling welfare chauvinism and nationalism and ignoring important social contributions made by those in society who do not contribute to economic growth as measured by GDP.
The consortium is led by the Policy Evaluation and Research Unit (www.mmuperu.co.uk) based at Manchester Metropolitan University. They are joined by nine other universities from across Europe. Among them the CARPE-partners in Utrecht, Valencia and Turku.
Also a group of ‘impact partners’ is involved, led by the Euclid Network (www.euclidnetwork.eu).
The project director, Professor Chris Fox, stressed that this is not a traditional research project: “Understanding the experiences of people across Europe who are on the receiving end of social policies is key to our project. That’s why we will be working with Peoples’ Voice Media recruiting a 100 ‘community reporters’ from across Europe and training them so that they can report the experiences of their communities.”
He also drew attention to the emphasis within the project on making an impact: “About a third of the €2.5 million going into this project is devoted to making sure that policy-makers across Europe engage with our research findings and that our research ultimately makes a difference to the lives of people across Europe. Making sure our research has an impact is key to our research ethos here at MMU.”
The InnoSI project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 649189