Midterm meeting in Leipzig

27-29 April 2022

Sharing of achievements, challenges, learnings and goals for the future

Almost a full year after our kickoff meeting in May 2021, all partners were very excited to meet in person. Many of us did not have the chance to get to know each other yet – even within the national groups. After successfully managing a year of online collaboration, we finally had the chance to arrange the first in-person meeting which also marked the midway point of our project.

Embedded in the European network, we support each other in establishing national competence centres of social innovation.

The Art of Advocacy

When it comes to connecting and conversing with political decision makers in order to advocate for the social innovation sector, strategic and diplomatic tactics are especially needed. Each partner’s situation is unique to its country, yet all of us face similar challenges when trying to engage political and administrative figures and draw their attention to the need for better conditions for the development of social innovation to thrive.

For more insights, we share three different situations and their approaches:

United Kingdom

Glasgow Caledonian University and SIX has been organising several nationwide convenings to engage Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland. They realised that it was difficult to engage all parts of the UK as each country has a very different context from the other. The process of ecosystem mapping brings up this question – Does mapping ever end? This brings up the need to focus, amidst time and resource constraints.

The UK also faces another challenge that is unique to them – Brexit and the loss of European funding. While most countries within this project look towards the European Commission or their ESF authorities for further financial support, GCU has had to start conversations with different departments in the Scottish government. In this video, Mark creatively explains what that process is like.


Estonia’s government is a keen supporter of social innovation. Our Estonian partners have been tasked to create their national social innovation strategy. The social innovation landscape in Estonia is considered fairly young and they are keen to learn from other parts of Europe.

Estonia has had some very interesting and successful experiments like their social hackathon model. It is influenced by tech’s hackathon model and their desire to engage local ecosystems in solving social issues. They found that this was a useful tool for rural innovation as it was first tested in Võru county in Estonia. Learn more about how to set up your own social hackathon here. We hope that Estonia's Võru county's emerging social innovation spirit could inspire other ESF authorities to support social innovation.


Partners of the German team collaborated mostly bilaterally before the joint project of setting up the national competence centre for social innovation. With the great effort of an engaging campaign before the German election in September 2021, SEND sparked insightful conversations and brought awareness of social innovation in the general public and in politics. Through discussions and public panels, representatives of all major German parties were invited to discuss pressing societal issues and the urgency of finding new innovative solutions to address these challenges. Despite the successful campaign, Germany faces difficulties when communicating with ESF authorities on the topic which can go either way as Norbert shares in the video.

While this project allows the ten German organisations to move beyond bilateral singular activities and enhance cross-sector collaboration, a challenging yet important relationship between the welfare sector and social businesses. With bringing together organisations from many sectors, the German Competence Centre places great importance on productive collaboration.

Poland’s Social Innovation Alert: Crisis response

“Failure is not an option, not on my shift”

Kuba Wygnanski (Shipyard, Poland) came up with the idea of a social innovation alert button a couple of weeks before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. We chatted over our regular morning coffee sessions about how we could better organise to come together and support each other in times of need. Never did we expect that this alert button had to be activated so quickly soon after. The war in Ukraine was shocking and devastating for many of us. Our big, immediate challenge was how to support the influx of refugees coming from Ukraine. We quickly organised a topical session over morning coffee to support our Polish partners. This has since become a part of our conversation at ESIA.

Danish Social Innovation DNA

Danish Social Innovation DNA is democratic, cross-sectoral, educational enlightenment, pragmatic, equality creating, collective and rooted.

Our Danish partners were inspired by the Danish Design DNA and looked to their history to understand what makes up their social innovation DNA. We found this an innovative way of storytelling. One of the struggles of social innovation is to be inclusive – how do we reach the actors who don’t know about social innovation and don’t identify themselves as social innovators? Could a social innovation DNA build a more inclusive narrative?

Trudging through, moving forward

We sat down for an interview with our Danish and Polish partners. Instead of a typical question and answer, we decided to spice things up and asked Kuba Wygnanski (Shipyard, Poland), Clara Dawe and Anders Folmer Buhelt (Akademiet for Social Innovation, Denmark) to draw from their artistic sides. How they responded to our cues is very amusing yet also shows the struggles and difficulties when actively contributing to a thriving ecosystem of social innovation.

Newspaper Headlines in Five Years

Intriguing ideas and visions bubbled up when we pondered the question: What exciting futures can we imagine? We want to share one inspirational answer shared by Anders Folmer Buhelt (Akademiet for Social Innovation, Denmark) and Brian Frandsen (Danish Design Center, Denmark) in the video on the right.

The European Social Innovation Alliance is a joint project of Centre for Social Investment, Danish Design Centre, Danish Social Innovation Academy, Diakonie Schleswig-Holstein, FASE GmbH, Foundation for Civil Society, Glasgow Caledonian University, Institute for Work and Technology, Phineo gAG, Social Entrepreneurship Netzwerk Deutschland e.V., Shipyard Foundation, Social Enterprise Estonia, Social Innovation Exchange, Tallinn University, Technical University Dortmund, Võru County Development Agency with the lead partner Social Impact gGmbH and is funded by the European Commission via the European Social Fund and the European Programme for Employment and Social Innovation.