How Portugal developed social innovation and plans to remain the European leading example - MAZE - Decoding Impact

How Portugal developed social innovation and plans to remain the European leading example

Constança Nunes and António Miguel from the MAZE team on the day of the launch of Agenda para o Impacto 2030.

The Agenda for impact 2030 is a national strategy that sets 5 measurable objectives and 14 recommendations to grow the Portuguese social innovation1 and impact investment2 ecosystem. These recommendations have the potential to mobilize €500M to the ecosystem by 2030, tripling the current market size. By promoting innovative solutions to social challenges, Agenda for impact 2030 aims to keep Portugal at the forefront of impact investment and to make it the European hub for social innovation.

What is the Agenda for impact 2030?

The Agenda for impact 2030 (API30) is a national strategy developed to strengthen the social innovation and impact investing ecosystem in Portugal started in 2014. This work follows the thriving European agenda on social innovation3 and builds on the pioneering work of the Portuguese Social Investment Taskforce, which promoted social innovation and impact investment at the national level. The taskforce published two reports: the first one, in 2015, setting 5 recommendations for the growth of the ecosystem, and the second one, three years later, monitoring the progress made by then. Through the work developed Portugal became the first country to mobilize EU funds to test social innovation financing instruments, currently ranking 2nd in Europe and 3rd worldwide in number of social impact bonds contracted4.

Who has been supporting social innovation in Portugal and is behind the API30?

The API30 results from the joint effort of 40+ representatives of influential institutions from public, private and social sectors. Together they constitute the Steering Committee for the National Competences Centre for Social Innovation, created in 2021 and led by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. Driven by the belief that social innovation is key to positive social impact, the group worked for a year to redefine the priorities for the social innovation ecosystem in Portugal for 2030. MAZE actively managed the group’s work dynamics, systematised members’ contributions, and drafted the API30.

Portugal has led by example a first wave of promoting favourable public policy initiatives that mobilised public and private capital for impact investment experimentation in the country. Now it is time to scale what has worked well, learn and adjust from drawbacks and continue experimenting with new instruments. Those are exactly the three fronts in which the 2030 Impact Agenda for Portugal focuses on, with actionable recommendations that guide all market players in the country.

António Miguel, Managing Partner at MAZE

What is the future of social innovation and impact investment in Portugal?

This agenda targets the main players of the Portuguese ecosystem — the market champion (Portugal Social Innovation), promoters of social innovation initiatives, public entities, and impact investors — and sets the following five objectives:

  1. Strengthen Portugal Social Innovation as the reference entity for social innovation by creating a National Competences Center for Social Innovation:
    • Recommendation ex: simplify the reimbursement requests and overall process;
  2. Promote social entrepreneurship reaching 750 promoters of social innovation initiatives;
    • Recommendation ex: capacity-building for Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Initiatives (SEII)
  3. Launch 3 regulatory initiatives that enable the development of social innovation;
    • Recommendation ex: enable the use of unclaimed financial assets and direct them towards social innovation;
  4. Mobilize an additional €150M for outcomes-based commissioning:
    • Recommendation ex: train and develop public sector entities in the area of outcomes-based commissioning;
  5. Mobilize 1700 social investors to raise €200M invested capital in social innovation.
    • Recommendation ex: create new financing instruments adapted to the needs of SEII.

14 recommendations are to be implemented by 2030 to achieve these goals and ensure capital mobilization, development of capacity-building programs, and promotion of outcomes-based commissioning and simplified cost options practices. These recommendations intend to sustain long-term change by continuing the good work carried out by the social innovation ecosystem (scale) while testing new initiatives (innovation). This ambitious agenda is aligned with the current maturity level of the ecosystem and the national context.

The achievement of the established goals depends on the engagement and collaboration of all players in the ecosystem. The API30 offers clear guidelines for current players and potential newcomers, allowing them to align their practice with the common goals. It encourages the use of social innovation and impact investment as tools to alleviate or solve the most pressing social challenges, with the end goal of positively impacting the most vulnerable groups of the Portuguese population.

MAZE has been lucky enough to closely follow the great progress of the social innovation and impact investment ecosystem in Portugal. Our team will keep working hard to implement this agenda and to support the ecosystem moving forward.

If you are impact-driven, the API30 is your call to action! 

1 Social innovation occurs when resource-efficient solutions are created to address social needs that either have persisted for many years — and to which there is no adequate social response — or are arising due to recent social phenomena.

2 Social impact investment is the provision of finance to organisations tackling social challenges with the expectation of a measurable social and financial return.

3 The European Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI), launched in 2013, is a European Union (EU) financial instrument allocated to support social innovation across Member States. Also, the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) is an instrument for investing in people and supporting structural reforms in key social areas. The EaSI and ESF+ co-funded an initiative that aims to create Nacional Competences Centres for Social Innovation in 24 Member States and in the United Kingdom.

4 Government Outcomes Lab, Impact Bonds Database, https://golab.bsg.ox.ac.uk/knowledge-bank/indigo/impact-bond-dataset-v2/?query=&maptype=markers, [accessed 3 Nov 2022].

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