Social innovation has been gaining more and more interest from funders, nonprofits, government officials, civic leaders, business executives and a variety of other actors that embrace social impact and want to contribute to social change.

More and more is being published on the topic but what should you focus on if your reading time is limited? This blog post presents 8 publically available ‘must read’ reports for those that desire to expand and deepen their knowledge of social innovation.


The report describes the methods and tools for innovation that are being used across the world and across different sectors. The Open Book paints a vibrant picture of social innovation practice and draws on inputs from several organisations to document the many methods currently being used to tackle societal challenges. Most of the people that are trying to innovate are aware only of a fraction of the existing social innovation methods. This specific report is a part of the Social Innovator series, which contains different ways to design, develop and accelerate the growth of social innovation. A ‘must read’ material for those desiring to build a solid foundation in social innovation. │You can read the report here. 

BEPA (2014) Social Innovation; A Decade of Changes

The report consists of two parts. The first part describes social innovation as a new path and a driver for change. It examines the origins of the concept, the social market economy in the European arena and the ecosystems for social innovation. Also, it refers to the different ways of financing and funding social innovation and the measurement of its social impact, as well as it provides a mapping study of social enterprises and the instruments to improve the ecosystem. As for the second part, it refers to the main developments in EU policies. It makes references to the European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion and other programmes in which social innovation can be seen. This report will help you understand social innovation at its core and see its usefulness in several public and private sectors. A ‘must read’!  │You can read the report here.

NESTA (2015) Growing a digital social innovation ecosystem for Europe

This is the first systematic network analysis of the emerging digital social innovation ecosystem in Europe. It provides a definition of digital social innovation, maps the leading digital social innovators, their projects and networks, and creates suggestions for how policymakers can make the most of this movement. Some of the key findings reveal that digital social innovation is being done by a few large organisations across Europe and that the most of social innovators in Europe are disconnected from the larger networks of mass organisations. This is a ‘must read’ if you want to deepen your understanding of digital social innovation. │ You can read the report here

The Economist Intelligence Unit (2016) Old problems, new solutions: Measuring the capacity for social innovation across the world

The report refers to the growing interest of policymakers, non-government organisations, charities and entrepreneurs in social innovation. It provides a thoughtful explanation of social innovation concept and refers to the efforts of different countries to embrace it. Some of the key findings place USA as the leader of the Social Innovation Index 2016 and the UK as having the best institutional framework and policy support for social innovation. The report is built on several pillars of social innovation: social innovation in financing, entrepreneurship and civil society, and it concludes that there are factors, policies and best practices that are common across countries in which social innovation has taken root and thrived. A very interesting report for readers that would like to know more about the social innovation situation worldwide. │You can read the report here.

NESTA (2017) What next for Digital Social Innovation? Realising the potential of people and technology to tackle social challenges

The specific report and accompanied guide was produced as part of the DSI4EU project. It features the projects and organisations in Europe that use technology in order to address the different arising societal problems. The report further examines the barriers to social innovation growth and includes interviews with digital social innovation practitioners and other stakeholders. It also provides hints and tips of what the policymakers, practitioners and funders could do in order to overcome these barriers and speed the growth of the digital social innovation. A ‘must read’ report if you are hooked to the potential of digital social innovation. │You can read the report here. │

European Commission, Directorate General for Research and Innovation (2017) Social innovation as a Trigger for Transformations: The Role of Research.

This Policy Review paper investigates the role and place of social innovation in research and development projects. It provides an overview of the history of the use of the concept social innovation in political, philosophical and scientific discourse and practice. Specifically, it makes suggestions on how social innovation research can aid in the strengthening of the position of Social Sciences & Humanities in the modern and future European research and policy landscape. In that manner, it tries to explain how social innovation as a concept and a practice holds a great socio-political transformative potential. │You can read the report here.│

SI DRIVE (2018) Atlas of Social Innovation; New Practices for a Better Future

The present Atlas of Social Innovation is a contribution to the discussion of how social innovation is impacting the growth of the European countries. It contains 62 articles that provide a comprehensive overview of social innovation initiatives worldwide. It presents various types of social innovation in different world regions and policy sectors, such as environment, education, health, social care and many more. It is a proof that social innovation can have a major role in the tackling of societal challenges. The report also does a great job in portraying experiences and lessons that have been learned globally. It can work as a great tool for those desiring to know how to implement social innovation initiatives and create social impact. Lastly, it can work as an inspiration for those innovators that experiencing difficulties in innovation, by examining similar examples that have happened in a different time period and place. This global mapping of cases can help you gain a deep understanding of social innovation and the tools and ways to use it. │You can read the report here.

Goldenberg (2009) Social Innovation in Canada: An Update

The specific report examines the growth of social innovation both in Canada and internationally over the years and refers to the expansion of the concept and the widening of its application. It is the continuity of Goldenberg’s (2004) Social Innovation in Canada Report and supports the view that even if Canada was a pioneer in social innovation, it grew up to fall behind other countries in social innovation initiatives. The main objective of the report is to find and display new trends and models in social innovation in order for the reader to comprehend its concept and evolution. The findings of the report suggest that different social innovation models are beginning to emerge, which reflect a great array of strategic collaborations and working with others. A must read report for individuals that have social concerns and are curious to learn about social innovation tactics. │You can read the above report here, as well as the old version here.

It is clear that there is a growing need for social innovation initiatives, and for that, we need more people skilled in the related process, tools and concepts. To address this issue, Limitless together with 4 other partners has recently started a project aiming to develop the first online Social Innovation Academy in Europe. The Social Innovation Academy will be the first fully online management training programme focusing exclusively on social innovation. Why Social Innovation Academy? Social Innovation has been increasingly perceived as the answer to the rising number of European societal challenges. While the European authorities, leading academics, policy experts, business people and activists agree that social innovation is the key to better future for Europe and the world – as can be clearly seen from the presented reports – it is extremely difficult for professionals to obtain high quality training on what social innovation actually offers and, more importantly, how it can be done in practice. Social Innovation Academy will aim to change this situation in Europe and beyond. If you are interested in keeping up with this project, you can subscribe to our newsletterbecome one of our friends or follow us on social media (LinkedInTwitter and Facebook). We welcome all requests for collaboration here!”

The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsi­ble for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

Limitless is leading the development of the first Social Innovation Academy online.

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