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Social Innovation in the Social Service and Health Care Sector: Drivers, Barriers, and Opportunities

This research project on social innovation in the health care sector was conducted in cooperation with the Vinzenz Gruppe, an Austrian hospital management group.

The aim was to assess the contribution of social innovative organizations and projects to finding solutions to the most pressing problems of the sector. Building on the research, recommendations how to support and accelerate social innovations were made, addressing not only policy and grant makers, but also organizations themselves.

In order to grasp the complexity of the phenomenon of social innovation, a working definition focusing on the intentionality of social outcomes was established. Based on this definition, we conducted a screening of national and international awards and prizes (e.g. Social Innovation Tournament, SozialMarie) in order to identify examples of social innovations in the health care sector. Of the many interesting examples, 13 were selected for in-depth analysis. They were allocated along the process of social innovation (prompts, proposals, prototypes, sustaining, scaling, and systemic change). The analysis shows that social innovations bring important impulses to the charitable sector, they foster cooperation between different stakeholders and sectors and point to shortcomings in the existing system.

There are a number of circumstances hindering social innovations from achieving systemic change. The most notable of these obstacles are, among others, the short-term oriented financing structure and grant making, unclear competences among different units of public sector administration, and a poorly developed culture of innovation. In order to meet the future challenges of the health care sector, it will be necessary to take social innovations into regular operations and to support scaling and dissemination. More public as well as private risk capital, e.g. in form of Social Impact Bonds (SIBs), will be needed. Equally important will be public and private accelerators and networks to support social innovation, potentially in the form of a Social Innovation Agency.


Dr. Paul Rameder

Senior Researcher

Tel.: +43 1 313 36/582