Society is facing new challenges. This requires rethinking dominant modes of development. Strictly market-oriented innovations are no longer perceived as long-term sufficient solutions for the existing and future problems of society. Even traditional forms of innovation are converging to provide social value, towards greener, inclusive and smarter dimensions. For sure, innovation is gaining a more social focus, based not only in the social character of the problems to be addressed but also in the way innovation is created and put into practice. Social innovation is being consolidated, both as a concept and a policy artefact. Despite its current relevance, social innovation, because of its origin, is mainly characterized as a grassroots movement, a niche phenomenon, dominated by individual actors that seek social answers by generating small scale new ideas, products or processes, that need to be scaled up. But the urgency of society problems requires strong action for transformational change. In the context it is crucial to understand the role of the State in promoting social innovation. The comprehension of the role of the State is a result from many different contributions and events - from the social contract to the Welfare State and its contemporary erosion. A strong association between the State and the existing problem-solving mechanisms for social innovation is needed. This communication summarizes a focus group performed in the context of the Atlantic Social Lab (project EAPA_246/2016), involving organisations implementing social innovations and public policy bodies responsible for supporting and financing such transformative projects in Portugal. The results go beyond the understanding of the role of the State in social innovation, revealing many challenges that persist for public intervention, from the time-lag between policy decision and practical implementation, and the limited incorporation of social innovation in policy-making.
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