Much of the conversation in the impact sector has been directed towards financial innovation. The sector tries to answer how capital can be used effectively to deliver more valuable services for communities. This is evident in social impact bonds, which has leveraged private capital to fund programs such as improving the outcomes of young offenders exiting the juvenile justice system.
A key component of this equation is to fund programs that work. More specifically, it is about funding intervention programs that prevent ailment to communities before it happens. The goal for young offenders is to proactively prevent recidivism rather than spend on remediation services.
To formulate ideas that work, innovation to social services is needed as much as financial innovation. Recognizing the need to identify, develop, and debate on the potential of innovative services, the European Union has funded the INNOSERV project, a platform that presents the types of innovation in today’s social services sector.
Beginning with innovations for people with disabilities, BlueAssist is a mobile application created by nonprofit organization Ithaka to enable users to act independently. For some with intellectual disabilities, they are capable of participating in society autonomously with some help from passersby, but often can’t ask the right question. For passersby, it is often intimidating or difficult to understand the question.
BlueAssist makes communication between the two parties possible. Questions can be prepared in advance and entered in the app on the smartphone. Users can show the questions from the app to someone else. For more difficult inquiries, users can reach their caregivers or “coach” through a call function on the app to help them sort things out.
The app originated from Belgium and is spreading across Europe and beyond.
For senior citizens, Ammerudhjemmet is an “open nursing home” originating from Norway. As an open nursing home, the facility offers a place where people across generations and cultures can meet. There’s a café, library, swimming pool, hair dresser, and pedicure service on site. Parties, concerts, and other events are organized weekly. Who said nursing homes were only for seniors?
Five years ago it was extremely rare that retail banks in Canada would open on Sundays and longer on weekdays. Today it would be difficult to find one that doesn’t. In the current economy with parents working longer hours, children often have no place to go after school. The Môm’artre network from France started providing after-school care for children since 2001.
For low-income families it offers a variable fee structure. At the same time, it employs difficult-to-employ who may not always be recognized by the economy for their work, such as artists, and develops job training and employment opportunities for parents. Today, there are 7 associations that follow the same model.
Want to see more? The INNOSERV website features other projects addressing areas such as poverty, health, education, and financial literacy.
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