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Press Release: ITSSOIN – Assessing the impact of civil society


The Centre for Social Investment coordinates a European research project

How can organizations and committed citizens promote social innovations? A European research consortium deals with the question of the impact of civil society in a new project, which is coordinated by the Center for Social Investment (CSI) at Heidelberg University. Scientist from eleven research and public institutions and nine countries examine what kind of impact the Third Sector or civic engagement has on society. The results should be seen as policy recommendations for practitioners to promote innovations in Europe. The European Union funds the project “Impact of the Third Sector as Social Innovation” (ITSSOIN), which started in March 2014 for a period of three years with 2.5 million euros. Altogether 3.1 million euros are available for research work through further third party funds.

The Third Sector, to which associations, welfare organizations, foundations, social enterprises and NPOs belong assigns itself neither to the market nor to the state. Dr. Georg Mildenberger from CSI explains: “Together with socially committed citizens they build an important part of the society in Europe”. Within the framework of the ITSSOIN project the researchers try to find out how and if these two groups contribute with new approaches to problem resolving which faces the society. An example for successful social innovations, which was recently initiated by Third Sector organizations and socially committed citizens was the founding of citizen driven energy cooperatives to promote a turnaround in energy policy.

“Our research project is based on the assumption that the Third Sector is more capable to originate and advance social innovations than the state or the private sector”, explains Dr. Mildenberger “because the Third Sector organizations are associated with different stakeholders. They are confronted with social issues in their daily work and they can refer to a variety of creative influences through their volunteers.” For the examination of their hypothesis the researchers are going to study the impact of the Third Sector based on social innovations in different fields like culture, art, social services, healthcare, environment, sustainability, consumer protection, labor market integration as well as community development and regional development. The research project should demonstrate how societies in different European states are able to modernize themselves by civic engagement and self-organization.

Besides the Centre for Social Investment (CSI) at Heidelberg University other research and public institutions from the Netherlands, Britain, Italy, Denmark, France, Czech Republic, Spain and Sweden are engaged in this research project. The total budget of the Center for Social Investment (CSI) amounts to 600.000 euros from which 500.000 are from EU funds. The CSI was founded in 2006 as a central scientific institution of Heidelberg University. It is an interdisciplinary research, education, consulting and information center.

Dr. Georg Mildenberger
Center for Social Investment
Telephone: (06221) 54-11959

The University of Heildberg has published a corresponding press release: “Wirkungsmöglichkeiten der Zivilgesellschaft – Centrum für soziale Investitionen und Innovationen koordiniert europäisches Forschungsprojekt” (in German).

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