Ever since the discovery of fire, humans have worked to improve their lives through innovation. The term “innovation” can be defined as something original and more effective and, as a consequence, new, that “breaks into” the market or society . According to the INSEAD Social Innovation Centre, Social Innovation can be defined as the introduction of new business models and market-based mechanisms that deliver sustainable economic, environmental and social prosperity. Although legislations and policies exist to tackle numerous specific issues of social life, experience has shown that some of the most pressing social challenges are multivariate and thus complex to tackle through predetermined legal operations, rules and procedures. Social innovation is a powerful way of tackling complex social challenges and problems by combining the strengths of multiple stakeholders (cross-sector including, governments, agencies, NGOs, charities, businesses, Universities, philanthropists, or combinations of the above) in order to develop original solutions for pressing social needs. Its nature is participatory and aims at achieving societal behavioral changes towards sustainability or a ‘public good’. The main challenge in carrying out social innovation projects is that there is no standard and uniformly advisable approach to tackle problems. Thus social innovations are “tailor-made” (developed according to each individual case).
In “Triggering Sustainable Biogas Energy Communities through Social Innovation”, ISABEL explores examples of cases, methods and good practices that could inform future, successful biogas energy models and socially responsive ways to deliver social programs and partnerships across Europe. It includes empirical studies of relevant initiatives based on semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders. The novelty of this project is its approach to biogas, which is branded as a “public good” linked to social innovation for today and the future.
ISABEL’s research findings with regards to Social Innovation:
Social innovation is a powerful way of tackling complex social challenges and problems by combining the strengths of multiple stakeholders (cross-sector) in order to develop original solutions for pressing social needs. Social innovation is particularly applicable in tackling global issues, such as these of climate change, poverty and sustainability. It is strongly linked to the environment challenges and their impacts on peoples’ lives, health and wellbeing. Social innovation can be conceived, planned and executed by governments, agencies, NGOs, charities, businesses, Universities, philanthropists, or combinations of the above. Its nature is participatory and aims at achieving societal behavioural changes towards sustainability or a ‘public good’ (e.g. the implementation of a new biogas community energy project).
The main challenge in carrying out social innovation projects is that there is no standard and uniformly advisable approach to tackle problems. That is due to the complexity and breadth of the problems raised. The tendency for social innovation is to follow organic multivariate approaches, often by borrowing and combining a variety of existing strategies. Each project has different characteristics and needs. Thus it is common that social innovations are “tailor-made”.
Successful social innovations applied to community energy projects create alternative marketplaces that trigger consumer behavioural changes. This can be implemented by following a number of methods and tools. Analysing bioenergy projects, across ISABEL’s targeted regions and Europe in general has shown that improving and enhancement of both top-bottom and/ or bottom-up existing and future successful bioenergy communities depend on the following relation,
Communication + Motives = Cooperation (Partnerships) + Investments
This way social innovations can promote effectively and strengthen community biogas projects.