What are social innovations? Social Innovations are ideas, products, services or models that are new, or applied in new contexts, and which are designed to improve the well-being and quality of life of people as they age.

Social innovation is not a new concept but has been widely encouraged as a means to improve, expand and diversify innovation for the benefit of society. It is not an easy concept to define, but is broadly understood to mean new ideas meeting social needs and creating new relationships or collaboration.

For social innovation to be effective it needs to be tied more directly to the targetted populations and individuals – in this case the ageing population. However there is an absence of successful and sustainable social innovations in the field of well-being in later life, in contrast to civic entrepreneurialism or the public sector. The lack of clear definition and wide understanding of social innovation means many social innovators may not identify themselves so; many innovations remain small, immature and effectively hidden from view.

For example there is great potential for the use of ICT in this field, for example in support services for informal carers, smart home technology, the use of mobile phones to for preventative health care and management of chronic conditions, but none of this is yet implemented on a large scale. In addition, there are few recognised instruments for ensuring the success of social innovations; outcomes are many and varied, making comparisons difficult.

INNOVAGE will develop an evaluation process to assess the impact of social innovations on well-being in old age. Building on methods being developed as part of the Joint Action Healthy Life Years, INNOVAGE will develop a database of exemplars of social innovation, those with a proven track record or really obvious potential. Four social innovations are also being trialled as developed as part of the project, please read about them from the links below.

INNOVAGE has published "Guidelines for user involvement in social innovation" which emphasise the importance of engaging with older people in the social innovation process. Download them here.

ESF Exploratory Workshop on Ageing and Social Innovation

Partners from the INNOVAGE project have led an ESF Exploratory Workshop on Ageing and Social Innovation, which was co-scheduled with our first INNOVAGE Forum, in Sweden in September 2013. The Exploratory Workshop took the first stages in mapping the active and healthy ageing in relation to social innovation, and outlining a new research agenda intended to maximise the potential of social innovations in securing extended healthy life years. Download all documents from this meeting here.

Funded by the European Commission's Seventh Framework Programme
FP7-HEALTH-2012-INNOVATION-1/No 306058

©Copyright INNOVAGE 2013