With the Best Social Innovators in Europe

Known first through exceptional individual achievement and socially committed initiatives, social innovation is now a powerful global movement spreading values, transforming work and social dynamics, looking for ways to disrupt and solve complex global social problems with different stakeholders.

Government, corporate business, academia and entrepreneurship are looking for cross-functional and sectorial areas for collaboration for the common good and are exchanging business models and methods. New ways of funding, incubation and growth are ideated and tested. Value-based participative leadership, start-up team dynamics, creative methodologies, engaging dialogues and gamification are transforming the way we live, work and collaborate not only in underprivileged social groups, but also in leading economies.

A delicate yet every time more popular subject for international institutions, leading corporate business, NGOs, governments, entrepreneurship and academia, social innovation is a fragile sector by definition and needs all our encouragement and support.

I came across first at Impact Hub 7 years ago with the social innovation concept and it has been so inspiring to see how this sector made its first steps and gained popularity in Spain over the past 5 years. The Spanish society is traditionally among the most solidary and team, group oriented societies in Europe.

This October it was a great honour for me to get back to the area and take part in one of the most significant gatherings of the best social innovators in Europe.

Co-founder of several start-up projects, as well as head of strategy, learning and development programs design for CDI Spain, an NGO project we developed together with Guadalupe de La Mata and Daniela Mendez /Prince of Girona Award for Social Innovation/, I participated in the selection and evaluation of the fifteen finalists selected among 171 candidates from 26 countries, who flew to Madrid to present their proposals at the final event in October at IE Business School.

The event moderated by Louise Pulford, the leader of the social innovation exchange network in Europe - SIX, was a unique opportunity to meet the best social entrepreneurs, share and cross thoughts on how to grow business ideas to improve the lives of the most underprivileged with entrepreneurs, experts and investors.



Hosted this year at IE Business School in Madrid, the established in 2012 Social Innovation Tournament (SIT) of the EIB Institute, rewards and promotes innovative initiatives with an ethical or environmental impact in the fight against social exclusion.

In his speech Roman Escolano, the Vice-President of the European Investment Bank, said he is proud the EIB has invested in Spain more than in any other country in Europe so far, allocating more than 10.000Mln€ to finance projects focusing on job creation, combating youth unemployment, reactivating the credit for SMEs and investment in R&D. He outlined the mission of the event: “The goal of the Social Innovation Tournament is to help us reap the full benefits of innovation processes thanks to the integration of innovative solutions into our day-to-day lives. This will also improve our growth potential and ensure that this economic growth is inclusive and reaches those people who have suffered most the dramatic effects of the financial crisis.”


During the Tournament, the finalists had to present and defend their project before a Jury composed of seven social innovation experts chaired by Sophie Robin (Stonesoup Consulting) and Paula Almansa (Impact HUB), Olivier de Guerre (PhiTrust), José Tomás Frade (Former EIB staff member), Rémy Jacob (First Dean of the EIB Institute), Meredith Niles (Impetus Trust) and Johannes Weber (Social Venture Fund).


While the jury was taking the hard decisions, the participants had a lecture with the Founder of the London Social Stock Exchange – Pradeep Jethi, who shared generously his insight in social business growth. His introduction in social investment culminated in a debate and roundtable on what does it take to be a social entrepreneur, what are the best practices and trends on the funding of social innovation projects in different stages across Europe. Rodrigo Aguirre de Cárcer from Reemprende and Francisco Soler from Creas brought the messages from the investors side, Teia Gavrilescu from VitorPlus – 1st Prize Winner from SIT 2013 and Francisco Polo from Change – told us about the social entrepreneur challenges, Sofía Hernández de Mesa from Telefonica – represented the corporate business interested to foster social innovation growth and innovation, together with Guadalupe de la Mata from EIB, who is developing diverse micro finance projects fighting extreme poverty and advocates for the transversal integration of all agents involved in social innovation across the globe through the platform Planet for Change.



Adie, an initiative from France that aims to launch social microfranchise networks designed to offer turnkey business models to low-income entrepreneurs, and Blue Badge Style, a style website from the United Kingdom and app for disabled people that allows users to explore travel options, restaurants, theatres, sporting arenas and retailers, received EUR 25 000.

School4All, which organises and creates opportunities for the inclusion of physically or mentally disabled children in public schools, received EUR 10 000.

In addition, four projects – Career Moves (Austria), Filisia (Greece), Hello Mum (Hungary) and PinkLime Social Business (Romania) – received a voucher to benefit from subsequent mentoring services from practitioners in the field.



The next Social Innovation Tournament will take place on 24 September in 2015 in Milan, Italy with the call for projects scheduled to start in February 2015.

Over two days in July, the 15 finalists will participate in a mentoring bootcamp in Budapest, organised in cooperation with the European Entrepreneurship Foundation and Demola-Budapest, at which experts will offer practical advice aimed at improving every aspect of each project.

Learn more about next year’s competition at:   http://institute.eib.org/programmes/social/social-innovation-tournament/