European Commission seeks solutions to challenges of mass migration

The European Commission is offering a total of €150,000 to social ventures and initiatives designed to support the reception and integration of refugees and migrants in Europe.

The 2016 European Social Innovation Competition has been launched by the European Commission in Amsterdam and aims to source and nurture initiatives that enable refugees and migrants to contribute to the social, economic, cultural and political life of their host countries.

Speaking at the launch, councillor Marijke Shahsavari-Jansen from the City of Amsterdam said: “Social innovations and social enterprises are shaping the future of the 21st century and Amsterdam wants to be in the middle of it… One of the great challenges of our time is the refugee crisis. It is a tragedy that so many people are forced to flee the horrors of war. It is a huge challenge for the European community, for European solidarity, for our governments and for our cities.

We have the great responsibility... as a society, to warmly welcome and to make refugees fully part of our community

“As a member of the City Council of Amsterdam I cannot control the geo-political events or the European legislation that determines in part who will arrive here. But, we do have the great responsibility as a city, as a society, to warmly welcome and to make refugees fully part of our community. That is why this year’s theme of the competition is so rightly chosen – Integrated Futures.”

The European Social Innovation Competition was launched in 2012 in memory of Portuguese politician and social innovator Diogo Vasconcelos, who worked with the European Commission, the European Investment Bank and a number of other organisations to help address issues such as climate change, urbanisation, globalisation and an increasingly ageing population. The competition runs with a new theme each year, with this year’s being ‘Integrated Futures’.

Slawomir Tokarski, a director at the European Commission, told delegates at the 2016 competition launch event in Amsterdam: “Last year we got more than 1,400 entrants. We hope that this year we get at least the same volume and quality of applications… All you have to do is to spell out your idea in seven questions and 1,000 words. We want this process to be very much driven from the bottom up.”  

The competition is open to individuals, groups and organisations across the European Union and in countries participating in the European Horizon 2020 programme. Applications that are led by or have been co-created with refugees and migrants are particularly encouraged. The scope of the types of entries the competition is looking for is extremely varied – from products to technologies, or services that work in sectors including education, housing, health, human rights and community cohesion.

30 of the most promising applications will be chosen as semi-finalists and will be invited to a social innovation mentoring academy in Berlin in July to progress their ideas. Of these the three best projects will each be awarded with a prize of €50,000 at the awards ceremony to take place in Brussels in October 2016.

Maja Grcic is the founder of Takecarebnb, which was set up last year to match refugees arriving in the Netherlands with Dutch families who are offering them a place to stay for three months. She advised those thinking about applying to the competition to “go back to the basic principle – what would you like to be done for you” if you found yourself in a new country having been forced to flee your own.

Applications to the 2016 European Commission Social Innovation Competition are open until Friday 8 April 2016 at 12.00 noon Central European Time. For full details, please click here.


Header image: Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Photo credit: Sébastien Bertrand