Valuable disturbances in society and the economy


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Event on 16 November 2016 at Impact Hub, Vienna

The SozialMarie is the oldest prize for social innovation in Europe. In addition to the annual award ceremony, SozialMarie regularly organises workshops on innovation topics with leading experts and invites its award-winning and nominated project creators to attend, as well as all those interested in these projects. In case you missed the last event, you can read the main contents here.


How does social innovation work?

Social innovation has become a buzzword, with the "hype" about socially innovative projects spreading all over the world. A socially innovative project is particularly focused on satisfying immediate needs, yet it often has little systemic impact. Precisely because of the tendency to call every measure dealing with crisis management "social innovation", it is important to clearly identify the characteristics of social innovation in order to determine its impact:

  • Offers a solution to an immediate social concern that is better or more lasting than previous solutions
  • Addresses a structural social problem
  • The innovation is systemically relevant (or has the potential to become so)

Although socially innovative projects focus on issues that are crucial to the (survival) of many, only a fraction of social entrepreneurs manage to bring about far-reaching, radical systemic change. What is the reason for this?

Technological innovation is highly sought after in every company. How can (genuine) social innovation in companies be given the same high priority as technological innovation?

At our event, Univ. Prof. Dr. Josef Hochgerner, sociologist, founder of the Centre for Social Innovation (ZSI) in Vienna, head of the world's first Master of Arts in Social Innovation at the Danube University Krems, president of the European School of Social Innovation (ESSI) and SozialMarie jury member spoke on these questions.


Social but profit-oriented – how does that work?

Social concerns and profit orientation are still often wrongly regarded as mutually exclusive business objectives. However, a joint project of the former ANECON software company (now NAGARRO) and Specialisterne Austria shows how well the goals of a leading company can be reconciled with the mission of inclusion. In Austria, there are about 80.000 people with autism – and 80% of the people with autism who are able to work are unemployed. ANECON and Specialisterne Austria have responded to this by employing people with autism as software testers – for them, a win-win situation. According to the trainers, employees with autism are able to match the qualities needed in a good software tester: concentration, accuracy and an eye for complex details. While working together can be a (rewarding) challenge for both sides, the project provides a sound education in software testing and test automation, as well as subsequent rapid integration into customer projects under professional guidance.

Questions: What measures, training and development programmes already exist for the integration of employees with autism? What do colleagues with autism mean for company structure? What does the daily work routine look like? What can employees with different talents learn from each other?

Responding to these questions at our event were Elisabeth Krön, actress, trainer for executives and companies and (former) director of the association Specialisterne Austria responded to these questions at our event, and Hannes Färberböck, consultant, trainer, architect and co-founder of the software company ANECON, (one of the most successful, privately managed IT service companies for software development and software testing in Austria).


Can social innovation change the behaviour of young people?

What does the future of youth look like? Postmodern narcissism, the "entrepreneurial self" and the duty to individualism are new manifestations that should be met with innovative answers. When we look at youth, we see the rise of elitist scepticism, the flight to individual problem solving instead of participation in community initiatives, a tendency towards right-wing populism or bourgeois authoritarianism. The agent of this regressive politicisation is the fear of relegation – a fear that has taken root at the centre of society. What seems necessary is to work on a comprehensive future perspective, on new, grand narratives.

But social innovation also means thinking about strategies to change the political balance of power in a country where the top 10% of the social hierarchy owns 69% of the total assets. How should we start thinking about such strategies?

Bernhard Heinzlmaier, honorary chairman of Institut für Jugendkulturforschung (Institute for Youth Culture Research) in Vienna and Hamburg and managing director of the tfactory Trend Agency in Hamburg, spoke on this question at our event.


Projects marketplace

Subsequently, prize winning project creators were invited to present their work: Conclusio (Upper Austria), Displaced (Vienna), Kontaktepool Sprachencafé (Vienna), magdas Hotel (Vienna), Vienna Law Clinics – Student Legal Advice in Vienna, PROSA – Project School for All (Vienna) and Grow Together (Vienna).


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