Monthly Spotlight: Interview with Max Bulakovskiy and Antonella Noya from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

How is your work related to social innovation?

Since years we have been helping governments find ways to solve societal issues they are facing, and helping them collaborate and learn from concrete examples of citizens, civil society, and government and private sector actors. Over this period we met a lot of policy makers, governmental officials and innovators and learned about numerous cases of social innovation worldwide. This knowledge allowed us  to contribute to a number of documents such as the EU Social Innovation Guide, BENISI (FP7) outputs, reports or high-level statements, and the important document released by the BEPA of the EC, just to mention a few. We also participated in EC projects, such as TEPSIE, Seforis and collaborated with various institutions such as the European Commission (EC), the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and others helping them to get better understanding of the socially innovative initiatives.

At OECD, we work on gathering relevant data, analysing it, in order to provide advice to policy makers.  Through a variety of events organised by the CFE/LEED Forum on Social Innovations since 2000, and dedicated workshops we increase awareness over social innovation and share the latest developments with the experts and policy-makers. For example we held dedicated workshops on Social Impact Bonds, on social innovation ecosystem, social impact measurement and social impact investment, on how to un leash the transformative power of social innovation to  create more democratic, inclusive, competitive and resilient economies and societies, among others

At OECD we also provide tailored advice to the governments, for example last year collaborating with the national stakeholders we released a Social Innovation Policy Framework for Croatia which provides analysis of the situation and a set of policy-recommendations to the government that could help boost social innovation. Currently, we collaborate with the ASEAN Secretariat and national stakeholders trying to gather any relevant available data from the region.

What kind of impacts do you expect from social innovations on our societies?

We are great believers in the potential of social innovation, because it can help remedy both government policy and market failures. Government failure happens when governments cannot regulate or solve all societal problems on their own, owing to a lack of resources or capacity – and it becomes more and more a case with the increasing fiscal deficit.  Market failure arises when private actors do not find it profitable to provide a socially valuable service or product. Social innovation can not only address those failures by involving new actors and developing new partnerships involving the private sector, civil society, or academia but also initiate socially innovative approaches which can be inspiring for Governments to solve societal challenges. Social innovations are currently being tested in many countries to determine whether they can help governments use their resources more effectively, and help reduce the strain on public finance – while providing the same quality of service.

Another reason for social innovation’s rising popularity is that recent technological advances –especially in the area of the information and communications technologies (ICTs) – have generated new models and tools that foster better collaboration among various actors, including citizens.

However, social innovation cannot solve all societal issues at once, but it has proven to be an effective tool in many cases especially when used wisely.

What is the biggest challenge for social innovation to become alive?

Well, social innovation is alive, and has been alive since many hundreds years, maybe even if we did not know about it. There are many challenges that social innovation is facing, but probably there are two which are critical the first one is the difficulty to scale-up and make grow, especially expand geographically some social innovations

Often, social innovations work very well in a particular context would it be linked to the particularity, for example, of a demographic situation in a city, or a particular set of laws, hence they are very much customised to the local context.  This particularity makes it extremely difficult to export social innovations and apply them in a different context.

The second one is to ensure that there is space for social innovation when policies are designed. Institutional infrastructure and governance arrangements are needed: how can political leaders engage and foster systemic transformation to create more democratic, inclusive, competitive and resilient economies and societies. Replication of successful social innovations is important but is not enough and that is why it is important also to involve policy-makers.

Please note that the opinions expressed and arguments employed herein do not necessarily reflect the official views of the OECD member countries and represent our personal views.

Max Bulakovskiy, Global Relations Secretariat (GRS)/OECD,

Antonella Noya, Centre for Entrepreneurship (CFE)/LEED,