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“Addressing the legacy of the crisis, from long-term unemployment to high levels of public and private debt in many parts of Europe, remains an urgent priority.” These are words from President Juncker in the White Paper on the future of Europe, stressing the importance of social progress as a collective duty. And in this very spirit the European Commission, the Portuguese Government and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation joined forces and announced “Opening up to an ERA of Social InnovationConference, to be held in Lisbon starting from Monday November 27th to Tuesday November 28th.

The two-day event will bring together people from across Europe and ranging from world-class scientists, philanthropists, social entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, to politicians, civil society representatives, and students. The common objective: to boost social innovation in Europe as “a good, cost-effective way to advance inclusive and wealth-creating public policies”.

The conference will essentially be a proactive environment where concrete steps will be taken to improve Europe’s future prospects. The speakers will review the state of affairs of contemporary social innovation, examine new trends, and recognize the achievements of great social innovators. Most importantly, it will be a common ground where to set the scene for “lively and stimulating discussions”, and promote networking among innovators, entrepreneurs, and all those driven by a social ideal and devoted to the cause.

In this context, The European Union’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) will present its Science for Policy Report on ICT-Enabled Social Innovation (IESI). The paper, summarizing over three years of the IESI research, aims to investigate the existing and prospective ways in which ICT can positively impact on social welfare through innovative, technology-driven solutions. Gianluca Misuraca, IESI project leader and conference holder, will moderate a workshop based on his work, which will be attended by a panel of high level experts.

The IESI projects reaches far into the world of technologically driven social innovation. The IESI Knowledge Map, for instance, is being used to monitor and assess over 800 ICT-enabled initiatives across Europe, to “identify most promising cases and to provide better understandings of key drivers of success to facilitate scalability, replicability and transferability of practices.” ICTs support provides the ground for the reengineering of social protection systems and the reshaping of relationships and roles, towards a more proactive public intervention and social policy and service redesign, thus inspiring the creation of future possible “sharing welfare” models.

To navigate the increasingly vast and interconnected future reality of social progress, IESI’s proposal is the i-FRAME. This will be a framework designed to keep track and exchange information within the field of ICT-enabled social innovation, capable of processing complex evidence, outlining a project’s root cause dynamics behind the design of impactful initiatives, and assessing the social and economical outcomes. The i-FRAME proposal will be a foundation upon which to build evidence informed Social Policy Innovation, with the aim of redesigning European welfare systems through ICT-based dynamic modelling.

During the conference, the IESI will assign Awards in recognition of some of the best examples of ICT-based social innovators. The IESI Awards will be divided into three different categories, respectively Best Evidence of Impact, Most Promising Solution, and Active and Healthy Ageing; the winners will be able to showcase their work.

Lisbon’s conference, all in all, can be taken as hard evidence of the will of European social innovators to come together, collaborate, and build an interconnected reality of initiatives, with the final aim of impacting social legislations and increasing the European social welfare. The JRC itself is setting the grounds of a future where such initiatives can exchange data, progress together through ICT-enabled solutions, and join forces to tackle the Union’s social challenges.