How do we invest in well-being?

Social investment refers to investing money or work contribution in the well-being of people and communities. It’s not about income transfer but activity, which aims at the permanent improvement of the ability to function of people in need of help.

Social investment is called investment because profit is expected of the input. Directing a young person, who has dropped out of school, to education is an investment in the future, if the education produces competence that leads to employment. Investing a euro in the mapping of a youth’s situation in life, and tailoring actions accordingly will pay for itself to society multifold, when the youth becomes a customer of the tax office, instead of income-support services.

It is not essential whether or not the change has been achieved by the public, private or third sector, but rather the fact that the benefits of the investment can be verified and have an impact.

The future of well-being society?

In the discussion on the future of European well-being societies, social investment has become a popular topic. Social investment has also attracted the interest of the academic community.

Our strategic cooperation network CARPE (Consortium on Applied Research and Professional Education) has dived right in and for almost two years, has conducted a research project on social investment called InnoSI.

The project, which is funded by the EU Horizon2020 programme, searches, evaluates and compares local and regional social investment, and increases the knowledge of decision-makers on social investment and the opportunities they entail in reforming the well-being society. This is necessary as European societies progress at different paces in terms of social investment.

In InnoSI, the focus is on social innovations that take place at both the regional and local level. The core of the project consists of 20 case studies, implemented in 10 EU countries. From Finland, the national youth guarantee and the Arjen pelastajat (“Everyday saviours”) experiment implemented in the region of Kainuu are involved. The regional and local approach is a conscious choice, as it helps the project to access the mechanisms and contextual factors that have an impact on the efficiency of social investment.

We create preparatory information

The InnoSI project leader is Manchester Metropolitan University. TUAS is responsible for the work package that produces foresight information on the future of social investment. We implement the foresight work package in close cooperation with the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities and Futures Fit.

The role of the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities is to act as a bridge between decision-makers, developers and citizens. Futures Fit offers tools necessary for the foresight work and their methodological competence for the project. A good example of the cooperation is the Social Innovation Camp events, which were organized in September–October 2016 in all ten participating countries.

The foreground of the foresight package will be completed by the end of 2016 and will comprise future scenarios spanning ten years, analysis on the change drivers influencing the scenarios and a foresight workbook which supports social innovation.

Face-to-face meetings still necessary

Even though most of the mutual communication between the actors within the project takes place via Skype, email and social media, ideas and thoughts are also exchanged in partner meetings. The kick-off of the project was organized in May 2015 in the idyllic Buxton in the county of Manchester, in January 2016 a meeting took place in Valencia, and in October 2016, Bologna.

The InnoSI researchers will travel to Debrecen for their next meeting in January 2017. In addition to the partner meetings for the entire consortium, the project has organized cross-boundary, everyday researcher cooperation and several national events, for example in the Tulevaisuusfoorumi ("Future Forum") event organized by the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities. The project will be completed in October 2018.

Kirjoitus on julkaistu Turun ammattikorkeakoulun
Aurinkolaiva-sidosryhmälehdessä 8.11.2016.