Ecosystem for social innovation in Finland

Demos Helsinki has supported the Finnish Ministry of Employment and Economic Affairs to build the conditions for the launch of Finland’s competence centre for social innovation in 2023. The final report was published in November 2022.

EU increases commitment to social innovation initiatives

Social innovation is increasingly attracting the attention of the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+). With meaningful investment, countries are seeking ways to expand their social innovation expertise and practices to solve collective problems. Competence centres for social innovation are set up around the EU to strengthen the impact of social innovation. Finland’s project is coordinated by the Ministry of Employment and Economic Affairs with the support of Demos Helsinki.

The project is driven by the European Commission’s aim to further invest in social innovation. EU member states are pursuing social innovation from structures that are fragmented and with little resources for promotion. As a result, the impact of social innovations generated with EU funding has been low. Finland has a history of valuable and progressive work in the field, but the ecosystem is facing similar challenges as other countries.

Social innovation in Finland

“In Finland, we are not starting from scratch when preparing the competence centre for social innovations. One of the challenges is bringing together existing structures and processes”, says Tapani Kojonsaari, Ministerial Adviser, Minister of Economic Affairs and Employment. “Increasing the impact of social innovation requires raising the profile of social innovation. This has also been recognised by the European Commission, where a lot is happening in the field of social innovation.”

Demos Helsinki has thus built an operating model for the Finnish competence centre and creating a knowledge base on how to strengthen and nurture the national social innovation ecosystem.

The final report was published in November 2022.  Moreover, ass part of the project, we completed a report on the state, opportunities and challenges of the Finnish social innovation ecosystem (currently only in Finnish). We organised participatory stakeholder events for spring 2022, aiming to convene actors throughout the ecosystem.

Social innovations can provide us with the key solutions for great societal challenges. Βut, as with most innovations, they require commitment and effort. There is thus an urgent need to promote receptivity to social innovation in decision-making and construct a joint path for the actors of the social innovation ecosystem.

Key conclusions of the final report:

  • Addressing complex societal problems requires systemic change. The main challenge is to bring together the existing good structures and practices across silos. In Finland, there is a need for a shared space for peer learning and the nurturing of good ideas.
  • The proposed approach is built on the premise that scaling up social innovation takes a flourishing ecosystem of actors. Therefore the competence centre should focus on weaving together networks of innovation developers, funders and other relevant actors.
  • The proposed operating model of the centre is structured around three areas:
    1. Knowledge: raising awareness of what works and is impactful. Making information on results more visible and accessible.
    2. Competences: strengthening innovation developers, funders and adopters agency in the community. Constructing a joint path for the actors of the social innovation ecosystem by linking broad impact goals with individual actors’ objectives. 
    3. Influence: promoting the recognition of social innovation as a key solution to society’s wicked challenges. Strengthening the role of social innovation in innovation policy and increasing the demand for social innovation among policy-makers.


Want to know more?

Vera Djakonoff
Transformative Governance Expert


Finland is a member of the consortium Pan-European Social Innovation Lab (PEnCIL) which is building up national competence centres for social innovation in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Finland and Lithuania. The consortium identifies the visions, needs, opportunities, and priorities of social innovation stakeholders and advocates to build a strategy and action plan specific to each country.


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