LEED Programme (Local Economic and Employment Development)

LEED Forum on Social Innovations


Bookmark this page: www.oecd.org/cfe/leed/socialinnovation


Background  / Definition / Activities / Contact



Created in 2000 by eleven organisations from six countries, the Forum on Social Innovations has since then facilitated international dissemination and transfer of best policies and practices in social innovation.



The working definition of social innovation adopted in the framework of the Forum on Social Innovations was that it "can concern conceptual, process or product change, organisational change and changes in financing, and can deal with new relationships with stakeholders and territories”.
"Social innovation" seeks new answers to social problems by:

  • Identifying and delivering new services that improve the quality of life of individuals and communities.
  • Identifying and implementing new labour market integration processes, new competencies, new jobs, and new forms of participation, as diverse elements that each contribute to improving the position of individuals in the workforce.

Social innovations can therefore be seen as dealing with the welfare of individuals and communities, both as consumers and producers. The elements of this welfare are linked with their quality of life and activity. Wherever social innovations appear, they always bring about new references or processes.

Social innovation deals with improving the welfare of individuals and community through employment, consumption or participation, its expressed purpose being therefore to provide solutions for individual and community problems.



Since its launch in 2000 a number of activities have been organised in various OECD member and non-member countries under the framework of the Forum on Social Innovations.



  • September: An international conference was held in Vienna on Challenge social innovation - Innovating innovation by research, 100 years after Schumpeter. The conference aimed to lift social innovation on par with highly valued innovations in business and technology. This requires solid foundations of an extended innovation paradigm and methodologies suitable to identify and measure social innovations in crucial areas of social development, such as sustainability, demographic change, economy and labour, social inclusion. In 14 thematic panels the conference determined the most needed social innovations and adequate approaches of research. Suggestions were discussed, selected by voting, and the results documented in the form of the Vienna Declaration on the most important social innovation research topics. This declaration will feed into the preparation of the EU‘s future Framework for Research and Innovation. Full information can be found at http://www.socialinnovation2011.eu.


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  • June: An international conference was held in Rome on social entrepreneurship , hosted by the National Council of the Economy and Labour (CNEL). The Vatican, in the recent encyclical «Caritas in Veritate», paid great attention to the multiple forms that entrepreneurship can and should adopt and stated that there is a need to expand the boundaries of entrepreneurship so to overcome the polarization of the market and the State. Entrepreneurship is an important vehicle for job creation and well-being. It can foster social inclusion and contribute to social capital creation when it puts people at the heart of its concerns and aims to provide sustainable responses to people’s essential needs. The dialogue between the OECD and the Vatican provided an opportunity to examine and reflect on how to understand the new trends in the relationship between state, market and society, together with new ideas on how to enhance the role of social entrepreneurship and corporate social responsibility, so that they can concretely address the significant challenges of unemployment and social exclusion.


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  • Following the launch of the OECD project ‘Improving social inclusion at the local level through the social economy’ in 2008, this year work will be undertaken in countries including Korea, France and Poland. The purpose of the project is to assist national, regional and local governments, and their partners at national and sub-national levels, to build their capacity to design and implement effective strategies for social inclusion and economic development with a particular focus on the social economy.
  • Also in 2009 a project, sponsored by the Autonomous Province of Trento, will conduct four ‘mini-peer reviews’ on members of ESF CoNet – a Network of European Social Fund Managing Authorities. This project is designed to identify and share good practice in the areas of: social inclusion, lifelong learning and active employment policies. It is anticipated that the project will culminate in a Network-wide seminar in the last quarter of 2009.


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  • June: An international conference was held in Trento on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and local development, in co-operation with OAO Lukoil and International Organisation of Trade Unions of OAO Lukoil. The objective of this conference was to share experiences on how, through CRS strategies, public and private sector, trade unions and local community organisations can partner to support sustainable development at local level, with a particular focus on Russia. International best practices were presented to nourish the debate. The conference provided an update on the international guidelines regulating CSR, reviewed the role of trade unions in promoting CSR, and examined in detail ways to ensure sustainable development in mono-industrial cities through co-operation between the main stakeholders.
  • December:  An International working seminar on The European Union and international initiatives on CSR: A dialogue on local impact was held in Milan, Italy. The seminar, organised in co-operation with the Global Compact Network Italy, discussed the role, possible interaction and local implementation of the EU policy on Corporate Social Responsibility and policies and programs promoted by the UN Global Compact and OECD in the same field. It had a double focus. The first was the improvement of the international institutions’ and European Community initiatives in Europe, through enhanced co-operation. The second focus was on the problems linked to the implementation of international and EU CSR tools at local level and the possible role of actors such as the Global Compact national networks to this end. A final report is under preparation.


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  • June:  Conference on Social Enterprises in an Evolving Economy: From Non-Profit Organisations to Social Enterprises was held in Bucharest, Romania. This international conference was organised by the OECD LEED Programme, the Ministry of Labour, Family and Equal Opportunities and the Ministry of SMEs, Trade, Tourism and Liberal Professions, in partnership with World Learning for International Development, the Civil Society Development Foundation and the European Center for Not-for-Profit Law, with the support of USAID.
    This event discussed the current policy framework and recent developments pertinent to social enterprises in the OECD, and explored the potential of social enterprises in Central and Eastern European countries and in Romania in particular. Special attention was paid to ways to create an enabling environment for social enterprises. The conference also focused on the role of the social enterprise sector in delivering social services and on the crucial aspect of financing non-profit organisations committed to the welfare mix.
  • November: Conference on Financing local development: Understanding the role of mutual, credit and co-operative banks  was held in Paris, France. It was jointly organised by the OECD LEED Programme, in partnership with the French Inter-ministerial Delegation for Innovation, Social Experimentation and Social Economy, the National Co-operation Group, and with the co-operation of the Eurogroup Institute. The conference aimed to highlight the co-operative sector’s contribution to economic development by means of analysing its identifying characteristics, its territorial service mission, the differences between this sector and that of commercial credit, its relationship between alternative and philanthropic funding (finances solidaires). It also posed questions about the validity of the co-operative credit model compared with other existing models in the banking sector, and considered the challenges which the sector must face to find a balance between economic efficiency and its social mission, and between its dimension of proximity and its position on the international markets.
  • November: An OECD publication on “Social economy: Building inclusive economies” based on the 2005 and 2006 international conferences held in Trento was released in November.


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  • April: Social innovation in the 21th century: a Dialogue.  Organised in partnership with Mission Australia, Macquarie Bank, and the Australian federal government Department of Family and the Community, this key conference addressed selected topics such as social enterprises, welfare to work, corporate social responsibility and civil society.  It aimed to foster a dialogue on how social innovation can play an important role in contemporary economies and on how governments can foster it.
  • July: An international seminar, jointly organised with AVISE, the French National agency on Socially Innovative Initiatives, was held on Conférence sur "Accompagner le développement de l'entrepreneuriat social", Paris, 4 juillet 2006, in Paris.
  • September: Capacity Building Seminar on Emerging models of Social Entrepreneurship: possible paths for social enterprise development in Central east and South East Europe, was organised in Zagreb (Croatia) by the LEED Trento Centre for Local Development and the Institute for the Development of Non-Profit Organisations (ISSAN) in co-operation with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The seminar was designed for policy makers and practitioners from South, Central and Eastern Europe.
  • November: International seminar on Reviewing OECD Experiences in the Social Enterprise Sector: policy Insights for Central East and South East Europe was held in Trento, Italy.
    The seminar was organised by the OECD LEED Centre for Local Development in Trento, in co-operation with the Autonomous Province of Trento, the Trentino Federation of Co-operatives and the Institute for the Development of Non-Profit Organisations (ISSAN) of the University of Trento, Italy.
    The event was organised in conjunction with the Third Donor Roundtable Meeting on civil society development in the countries of Eastern and Central Europe, the CIS, Western Balkans and Turkey, co-convened by the Government of Italy, the World Bank and the European Commission EuropeAid Co-operation Office. The final report is downloadable here.


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  • November:  A one week capacity building seminar on Social Economy and Social Innovation was held for policy makers and practitioners from South, Central and Eastern Europe responsible for social economic issues. This capacity building activity was organised by the LEED Trento Centre for Local Development, Trento, Italy.


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  • October: A joint conference was held in Rome with the Forum on Cities and Regions on Entrepreneurship and Local Development in Distressed Urban Areas. The role of social enterprises in revitalising distressed urban areas and in fostering enterprise creation was analysed. An OECD publication, Entrepreneurship: A Catalyst for Urban Regeneration was released in June 2004.
  • December:  An international conference, From Cooperatives to Social Enterprises was held in Trento, Italy, in co-operation with the University of Trento.


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  • April: A delegation from the Forum on Social Innovations participated in the international conference on Asset Building for Low Income People, held at Windsor (Ontario), Canada, organised by the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) United States, the Center for Social Development, United States, and Social and Enterprise Development Innovations (SEDI), Canada. The LEED Programme led a high level, international delegation to the conference in order to participate in an exchange of views on how this policy could fit into the welfare and protection systems in OECD member countries. An on-line report on the results of the conference was published in October 2003, Asset Building and the Escape from Poverty: A New Welfare Policy Debate (also available in French, Spanish and in Italian).
  • May: There was a study tour and attendance at a conference in the San Francisco Bay Area, California, to analyse the role of social innovation in helping to reduce the inequalities driven by unbalanced growth in this area, which is considered to be the cradle of the New Economy.
    An internal report, Social innovation and the new economy: Evidence from the Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area was prepared (available upon request).


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  • January–July: Identification of a hundred social innovations (projects, programmes, business initiatives, practices, policies) through the analysis of a questionnaire sent to international experts to examine the most interesting fields of analysis for the future activities of the Forum.
  • September: Based on the results of the screening, a programme of work for 2002/2003 was elaborated (financed by the German Marshall Fund for the United States and by the European Commission) in order to pursue the comparative assessment of innovations in local social policy in Europe and North America and to promote the exchange of best practices through conferences, seminars, workshops, study tours and reports.
  • December: An international conference on Social enterprise: A comparative perspective, organised in co-operation with the University of Trento, was held in Trento, Italy. 


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  • April: Launch of the Forum on Social Innovations in Washington DC with a seminar on defining social innovation and presenting a first set of socially innovative initiatives (both in the non-profit sector and in the financial sector).
  • September: International conference organised in Washington DC, at the International Monetary Fund, on “The New Trends in the Non-Profit Sector”. This conference was based on a transnational comparison between the non-profit sector in Western European and non-European countries and tackled many critical issues for the development of the sector, including the financing and evaluation of the sector. The French and Canadian ministers for the social economy attended, together with other high-level participants. The results of this conference, enriched with original studies, were presented in the OECD publication, The non-profit sector in a changing economy, OECD, 2003 (also available in French and in Spanish).
  • November: An international conference, “Partners for Progress: Towards a New Approach to Corporate Social Responsibility”, was held in Paris at OECD Headquarters. The conference underlined the importance for business to adopt socially responsible behaviour, especially towards SMEs and external stakeholders (including territories), in order to contribute to sustainable local development. The results of the conference were published in Corporate Social Responsibility: Partners for Progress, OECD, 2001.



Ms Antonella Noya, Forum Manager, Senior Policy Analyst, OECD LEED Programme.


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