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FA.1: Social innovation and social change

1. New types of communication, social networks and social laboratories.
2. Social values and ethics.
3. Migrations and human rights, multiculturalism, immigration and social cohesion.
4. Families and minors.
5. Innovation in emerging sectors: entertainment, culture and trade.

The British The Young Foundation defines social innovation as “innovative activities and services that are motivated by the goal of meeting a social need and that are predominantly developed and diffused through organisations whose primary purposes are social” [Young Foundation (2006). Social Innovation: What is it, why it matters. How it can be accelerated. London: Basingtoke Press]. In simpler and more direct terms: new ideas that work socially.

Social innovation is the central pillar of a model which aims to balance sustainability and competitiveness. Innovation without bearing in mind society produces undesired results which we see on a daily basis: a lack of synchronicity between what’s local and what’s global, the destruction of the environment, social disintegration, demographic contradictions, immigration, the economic crisis, precarious jobs and unemployment, global non-governance, ethnic-religious conflicts, problems with personal identity, a loss of personal autonomy, etc.

Social innovation is linked to improving the capacity of individuals, organisations and institutions to resolve existing problems and prepare to address future ones.

The wager on R&D+I in the area of social innovation represents an attempt to understand social changes, anticipate future scenarios and develop projects which favour a more intelligent, more intelligible and more humane world order.

This focus area is dedicated to researching and developing social proposals for the problems (ecological, demographic, economic, political, cultural, etc.) that have accompanied the scientific and technical innovations developed over the last decades.

Concretely, we could say that social innovation encompasses all those ideas and initiatives aimed mainly at addressing cultural and social challenges: sustainability, mobility, territory and housing, migration, humanitarian aid and cooperation, social services, social exclusion, infancy, handicaps, family, aging, youth and sexual equality, health, the economy, management and competitiveness; employment, learning; education and learning; politics, governance and participation; inter-culturalism; and culture, entertainment, tourism and sports.

To provide value to the topics included in this focus area, our universities have specific research groups whose work aims to: analyse social reality, diagnose existing needs, observe social trends, identify good practices, propose alternative concepts and models to the problems considered and integrate social innovation and the scientific-technological paradigm.

This aggregation will allow us to create interactive learning spaces in which to resolve the problems mentioned in an on-going process of research, application, exchange, search, and generation of knowledge. It is a project to share, exchange and transfer knowledge and best practices between the aggregated universities’ research groups and between the latter and the social agents involved in the social change.