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Social innovations

Shaping the underlying conditions for a culture of innovation

Published on 20 Aug 2021

How can a society continually renew itself from within? What conditions do the forces for innovation within society encounter? What is needed in order for social innovations to emerge? How can technological progress, for instance, give rise to social progress? The humanisation of the working world is an important example of how this can be tackled successfully.

One core task of the BMAS is to provide long-term reinforcement for innovation processes. As the topic of social innovation relates to all sectors – not just within the BMAS but throughout the Federal Government as a whole – an inter-agency concept for social innovations has been developed in recent months. The Policy Lab Digital, Work & Society contributed its expertise in support of social innovations and AI innovations oriented towards the common good.

New technologies can often extend the range of possible courses of action open to our society. However, the interaction between technological progress and social transformation is frequently complex. Does society change under pressure from technological innovation or do new technologies emerge in response to existing needs, and how can these be identified?

One of the most important core functions of the BMAS is to help shape social innovations so that they can be applied directly and indirectly to benefit people, and to create conditions under which innovative solutions to societal and social challenges can develop closely oriented on the needs of society and based on practical experience. Possibilities for commercial exploitation are not excluded, but nor are they the main focus. This is reflected in countless projects, initiatives and programmes, such as the Civic Innovation Platform.

After all, social innovations are not born “at the drawing board”. Rather, they are the result of cross-sectoral interactions between disparate players, perspectives and skill sets. ‏For example: since its inception in 2020, the multifunctional Civic Innovation Platform has been a marketplace of ideas where a wide range of players can meet and come together on projects that can – subject to certain requirements – receive support within the framework of the initiative.

„Social innovations are generally a product of society and its needs. They are promoted by interactions between disparate players, perspectives and skill sets. That’s why we launched the Civic Innovation Platform – to encourage the transformation of technological progress into social progress.“

Hubertus Heil, Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs

The overall capacity of society to innovate is an ongoing process that requires the right underlying conditions and suitable formats for participation. Social innovations can promote a readiness to accept changes in society if such innovations are geared towards societal needs. Because the changes are rooted in society itself, they can motivate people to take action and transform their ideas into activities for the common good. Here, endowing people with the skills and the confidence to deal with the “new” is just as important as having a culture of innovation that defines failure not as an existential experience but as part of a process.

The BMAS is seeking to help create through its activities the underlying conditions for a culture of innovation. With this in mind, the BMAS, the BMU (Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety) and the BMFSFJ (Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth) have joined forces to create the initiative known as Civic Coding – Innovation Network for AI for the Common Good, which consolidates their activities and networks the relevant infrastructures. The aim, in keeping with the Federal Government’s AI strategy, is to establish the societal skill sets, structures and underlying conditions needed in order to place the common good, the people, the environment and the climate centre stage while creating more opportunities for the adoption of AI technologies in society.