Social Innovation in the Netherlands

نوآوری اجتماعی در هلند

نوآوری اجتماعی در هلند

In the past, solving social problems in the Netherlands was often done by the government and public organizations using a whole-to-part approach. But now, changes are happening. Hence, the process of solving social problems involves combining coordinated efforts from both the public and private sectors, social businesses and local communities.

Developments of social innovation in the Netherlands
In the Netherlands, people’s views on social issues have changed over time. In the 1980s and 1990s, the government played a very important role in solving social issues including deprivation, housing, poverty, education and employment with a policy called “social modernization”. This policy was developed based on the social government model and was implemented by public institutions.

But today, social innovation is seen differently. Changes in the economy and technology have caused more activities that are affected by the market and societies and the role of the government has decreased in them. Today, social innovation focuses more on realizing innovation in the economy.

In the period from 2001 to 2012 in the Netherlands, social innovation meant finding new ways to organize work, manage relationships in the workplace, take advantage of people’s skills, and improve work productivity. This concept was first known as social innovation, but today the term “workplace innovation” is used to describe these practices. The social aspect of this concept emphasizes interaction with employees and ensuring favorable working conditions.

At the same time, the Netherlands Center for Social Innovation was founded. Along with that, sectoral policies emerged that combined technological innovation with workplace innovation, called “top sector policy”.

Since 2010, the Netherlands has followed social innovation measures in other countries. These measures include various processes such as active democracy, citizen activities, social workshops and social infrastructure. However, in 2017, social innovation in the Netherlands was not fully integrated into innovation, knowledge and public value policies together with solving market failures.

Despite the many examples of activities that we today consider social innovation, the Dutch government has only recently begun to develop strategies to guide and support these activities. This includes the necessary structure and provision of funding opportunities to promote social innovation.

Diversity of social innovation strategies in the Netherlands
A group in the Netherlands examined how social innovation occurs in their country and identified four main types in this context:

1. Individuals or groups working towards specific social goals: This category includes groups that seek to achieve specific goals, such as small-scale energy generation, care for the elderly, setting up collective insurance for the disabled, using local currencies in business. and ensuring that the city center serves the public properly. Sometimes, these efforts lead to the formation of new social businesses.

An example of urban gardening in Rotterdam
An example of urban gardening in Rotterdam
2. Creative online networks or platforms with general social goals: These are creative and innovative online groups that focus on broad social goals. For example, in the Netherlands, there are online communities for planting plants in cities or building sustainable and social settlements. They use the Internet to share ideas and plan joint actions.

3. Companies or groups that focus on specific social goals: This category usually collaborates with public organizations and resources to achieve a specific social goal. Private companies can also participate in these efforts, for example the Dutch Sustainable Growth Coalition, where large companies work towards sustainability. Another example of this category is the citizenship coalition, where schools and scholars determine what citizenship means for the education system. Also, workplace innovation, such as finding new ways to work, is a good example of this type.

4. Companies or groups with general social goals: These organizations or networks try new social innovation solutions for different goals. For example, social laboratories, living laboratories, field laboratories and impact hubs that act as innovation development stations. They bring together designers, scientists and executives to create prototypes and test ideas for various social problems. For example, they may work in ethical issues, big data, life sciences or safety. Academic research environments are another example of people from different fields working together on research that is actually useful. After conducting research, they receive public questions and share their findings.

car sharing
car sharing
Unfortunately, there is not enough information about the frequency of these social innovations in the Netherlands or detailed analyzes in this field.

Innovative strategies of the Netherlands in encouraging citizen participation
The Dutch government has been involved in promoting changes in the work environment and encouraging citizen participation in solving social problems. Through the European Social Fund, they have supported projects related to human resources, industrial relations, productivity and social dialogue. The concept of “do-it-yourself democracy” refers to the activity of citizens in finding solutions to problems, and the role of government is to remove barriers, provide space for experimentation, and ensure fair implementation.

Inspired by the Obama administration, some mayors have experimented with public-private partnerships using social impact assessment. Under this policy, they fund social services based on performance and encourage social entrepreneurship to solve social problems. For example, the “Social Impact Factory” in the city of Utrecht connects entrepreneurs with social causes. Municipalities also ask entrepreneurs to allocate 5% of their contracts to “social return” if their contract is more than one hundred thousand euros. The social return may be to create jobs or support local activities, which has led the central government to support social entrepreneurship.

Compared to other leaders in social innovation, both in Europe and elsewhere, the Netherlands is just getting started with the infrastructure and financing methods.

The future of the Netherlands in social innovation
Moving forward, many individuals and groups are experimenting with new solutions to social problems. They work in areas such as health, urban gardening, education, design for social improvement, energy production in better ways, and energy conservation. New ideas have also been proposed for joint administration of affairs, responsible citizenship, and improvement of work environments and social life. All these efforts can help to solve various problems of the society and help to improve the situation from the point of view of the government, especially when ordinary people are asked to work harder. But in the Netherlands, the challenge is to coordinate all these different measures and create a wider impact on social innovation, and this means finding new and better ways to help society.

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