€150,000 challenge prize to reboot equality in Europe launched

Pippa Smith

European societies are transforming rapidly due to technological change. Trends such as digitalisation and automation are changing the way we live and work faster than ever before, reshaping the labour market and wider economy in fundamental ways.

Digital / ICT-based businesses, the creative industries, high tech manufacturing, and knowledge-intensive services are thriving, pushing forward and taking advantage of technological progress. On the other hand, low tech, labour-intensive manufacturing and routine jobs in service sectors are at risk of disruption.

This growing problem is what the 2017 edition of the European Social Innovation Competition- Equality Rebooted, aims to tackle. The competition is a €150,000 challenge prize by the European Commission, supported by a consortium of partners including Nesta, now in its fifth year.

The competition is looking for innovations in tools, services and models to equip all members of society with the appropriate skills and opportunities they need to be able to compete in a changing economy. Ideas could include, but are not limited to:

  • New technologies and business models that make the digital economy more inclusive or use collaborative solutions to reduce inequality;
  • Innovations that empower disadvantaged people to fully participate in the digital economy and gain revenue from employment or entrepreneurship;
  • Initiatives that equip those at risk of being shut out of the labour market with the appropriate skills to shape the knowledge economy, such as creativity, communication or problem-solving;
  • Solutions to protect and support low wage/skilled workers in the evolving labour market.

Launch of the Competition

The competition was launched at the Benaki Museum in Athens on 28 February 2017 by Rania Antonopoulou, Deputy Minister in the Government of Greece and Panos Carvounis, Head of Representation in Greece from the European Commission. We were joined in the morning by the Vice Mayor for Civil Society and Innovation, Amalia Zepou, who welcomed us to Athens. Impact Hub Athens then led a panel on the ‘Misfits Economy’, or the social innovation ecosystem, with engaged Athenians discussing their work..

The afternoon panel, on spreading the benefits of technological change, showcased innovators who have already put their ideas for reducing inequality into action. Felix Weth from Fairmondo and Antonin Léonard of OuiShare discussed the growing movement towards community ownership of platforms, or platform cooperatives, which Nesta has already highlighted through last year’s ShareLab event and our research on the collaborative economy. Inés Bebea presented Ondula, an initiative that takes a person-centred approach to learning about technology and Vasilis Vlachokyriakos of OpenLab:Athens discussed their approach to using technology to strengthen civil society.

These initiatives, engaging critically with technology and using it to reduce inequalities in the ongoing digital transformation, are the kind of solutions we are looking to develop through the process of the competition. If you have an idea that has the potential to be the next Fairmondo or the next Ondula, we want to hear from you.

Three €50,000 prizes to be won

The competition is open to entrepreneurs, social innovators, students, designers, makers, tech enthusiasts, educators, individuals, groups and organisations from throughout the European Union and in countries participating in the Horizon 2020 programme.

The competition will help the most innovative ideas and projects achieve sustainable impact. Thirty of the most promising applications will be chosen as semi-finalists and will be invited to a social innovation mentoring academy in Madrid in July to progress their ideas. The three best solutions will then each be awarded a prize of €50,000 at the awards ceremony in Brussels in October.

If you’ve got a solution that fits the bill, applying to the competition is straightforward. There are just seven questions to answer and your project needs to be no further than the idea stage to enter. Full details of how to apply are available on the competition’s website. The deadline for applications is Friday 7 April 2017 at 12.00 noon Brussels time.

The European Social Innovation Competition, launched in memory of Diogo Vasconcelos, is a challenge prize run by the European Commission across all European countries and Horizon 2020 participants, now in its fifth year. The competition is delivered by a consortium of partners including Nesta, Shipyard, Impact Hub, Kennisland and Matter&Co. Follow us on Twitter for updates: @EUSocialInnov

This blog originally appeared on the Nesta website.