Social innovation to promote active ageing
Last week, I had the opportunity to moderate the opening session of the “Next Rev – The Social Innovation International Congress”, in Lisbon. Organized by the Portuguese NGO Tese and by Young Foundation, with Cisco support, the two days of the excellent congress gathered nearly 300 participants, including an impressive international group of social innovators.
Professor Anibal Cavaco Silva, the President of the Portuguese Republic, participated in the conference, which focused on the application of social innovation in three thematic areas: education and employment, health and quality of life, and communities and participation.
The goals of the Conference were: to show what Social Innovation is, where and how it happens, to inspire the existing and potential changemakers and to accelerate Social Innovation in Portugal and in the World.The venue was the auditorium of the Gulbenkian Foundation, an excellent auditorium with a window overlooking the Foundation beautiful gardens. The Portuguese President Cavaco Silva, opened the event. On a bold speech, the Head of State explained why social exclusion is an area to which he have given special attention since the beginning of his mandate as President of the Republic. “I put forward for a civic commitment for social inclusion, I carried out the campaigns of the Route dedicated to this theme, I assumed as a main concern the identification and the dissemination of good practices in what nowadays is known as the third sector, that of social economy”, he said. “I congregated with organizations of voluntary workers dedicated to the development of new management skills in private institutions of social solidarity, or to promote networks of mutual aid and cooperation, with the objective to share donated goods or food products received daily”.
The President explained how Social Innovation is instrumental: “It was an unforgettable experience which helped to perceive the extraordinary impact that social innovation can have in the answer to the identified social needs, and to understand how a new generation of social responses is being developed that breaks away from the traditional means of intervention. It is urgent, however, that this new generation of social responses is extended to the problems which are late in being overcome.”.The Portuguese President emphasized “the problem of ageing associated to the pressure for early inactivity, especially that resulting from the recourse to early retirement or unemployment of thousands of workers who are too young to go into retirement, but already too old to resume a professional activity. The waste of human capital that this event represents is manifest, but the indignity and lack of respect for the human being which it reveals is intolerable.” Prof. Cavaco Silva advocated “the promotion of the principle of active ageing, with recourse to innovating remedies that provide flexibility to the transition from active life to retirement. The knowledge and experience accumulated throughout their professional lives would thus be valued, with benefits accruing to society and to them. This is a clear example of Social Innovation which should be urgently materialized.” How? “It is important to create platforms of assessment, dissemination and monitoring of the good practices of social innovation and, at the same time, develop a culture of cooperation, structure a network in which performers and organizations may share, and promote the new answers for the new social needs”, concluded the Prof. Cavaco Silva In Europe, ageing well will clearly be one of the most urgent themes on the political agenda of this decade. The combination of pervasive connectivity, collaboration and innovative social policies will be instrumental to tackle this fundamental challenge.