Social Good Week: back to the first round table

On 25 January, the Social Good Accelerator, in partnership with Social Economy Europe, co-organised the first event of the European version of Social Good Week. Four years after its last edition launched by HelloAsso, the Social Good Accelerator took up the torch at the beginning of the year for a first teaser.
A first round table, centered around the scaling up of the social economy, was broadcast live from Brussels to a hundred or so connected people. It was an opportunity to recall the favourable context towards a European approach for a digital society. Between the Data Service Act, the Digital Decade of Europe, the Pact for Skills and of course the Action Plan for the Social Economy, there are many public policies in favour of the sector. Let’s take a look at what the speakers at this inaugural event had to say on this subject.

Finals Social Economy Awards
The poster of the first pre-launch event of the Social Good Week, co-organised by the Social Good Accelerator and Social Economy Europe
Source: Social Good Accelerator
Conference FNAF 2021
Barbara Trachte intevenes at the Brussels regional Parliament
Source: Belga

The findings and ambitions of the decision-makers
The first speaker was Barbara Trachte, who began by recalling her commitment to innovation and the social economy, to digital technology and to Europe. The Secretary of State for the Brussels region praised the actions carried out by a number of social entrepreneurs based in the Belgian capital. Ms Trachte took the opportunity to detail the regional innovation plan, which will run until 2027.

It aims, for example, to act on support for innovative initiatives involved in “emerging or unsatisfied societal needs”. Barbara Trachte took the opportunity to congratulate the association’s approach to putting the digital transition of the social economy more on the European agenda. The moderators of the round table, Jeanne Bretécher and Víctor Meseguer, took the opportunity to ask Barbara Trachte to detail the actions taken at regional level during her mandate.

Rowan Barnett (Director of the Google Foundation for Europe, the Middle East and Africa) was then asked by the moderators to better understand the American firm’s code of conduct. Jeanne Bretécher underlined the reticence of social economy actors with regard to GAFAM tools. Rowan Barnett emphasised Google’s approach, which is not at all dirigiste, but on the contrary, allows social innovation projects to develop in more serene financial conditions. In particular, he had the opportunity to present Google’s ambition to help the European social economy through a 20 million euro fund.

Then, Isidro Laso, advisor to the European Commissioner for Innovation and Youth Mariya Gabriel, spoke about the role of the Commission in helping the emergence of new forms of cooperation and collaboration. He took the opportunity to detail the links that exist between the European Innovation and Research Agenda and the action plan for the social economy. There are many bridges, and the ambitions of the public authorities to see this kind of innovative relationship emerge are strong.

ActSE 2021 SOGA
Rowan Barnett presents the approach of Google Foundation to support European Social Economy at the Social Good Week
Source: Social Good Accelerator
Gabriela Martin ActSE
Julie Foulon maintened that gender equality in the digital sector is both a necessity and an objective to reach in the next years
Source: Girleek

Concrete actions carried out by Brussels’ changemakers
The second part of the round table was devoted to a focus on the actors of Social Tech in Brussels. Julie Foulon, founder of Girleek and co-founder of Molengeek, was able to detail her wish to see parity in the digital world. This is why she founded this association in 2017, which aims to train women in the tools of the sector. Julie Foulon was able to return to the role of the social economy as an essential breeding ground for innovation in the digital sector.

Then, Chanel Genova, digital strategist at SocialWARE, detailed the ambitions of the association for which she is invested with regard to the action plan of the social economy. The woman from Liège emphasised the essential support of the European authorities, before presenting solutions to develop the solutions that SocialWARE is already implementing, but on a larger level this time. On many points, the vision of Girleek, SocialWARE and the Social Good Accelerator come together and complement each other.

Lastly, Carl Mörch, director of FARI, was able to explain his favourite subjects, namely open data and artificial intelligence. Indeed, FARI is an artificial intelligence institute for the common good launched by the Free University of Brussels, the Vrije Universiteit van Brussel and the regional government. Carl Mörch was able to present the actors most likely to invest in research to initiate systemic changes in the social economy and innovation sector. For example, the Bettancourt Schueller Foundation is one of those actors who would like to see the development of innovation and solidarity incubators in the form of clusters.

He was then able to return to the role of local entities in the actions they carry out for the common good and innovation, whether in Belgium or elsewhere. Of course, national entities also have a key role. This is the case of the King Baudouin Foundation, for example, which finances data tanks.

ActSE 2021 SOGA
Carl Mörch presented the works of FARI, an artificial intelligence institute for the common good based in Brussels, Belgium
Source: Social Good Week

The diversity of this panel of speakers made it possible to put on the table the concerns common to each of the participants. There is no shortage of solutions for improving the European digital social economy, and the same is true for the initiatives launched by the Brussels and Belgian players who were present. The inspirations are numerous, the ambitions are strong, and the policies are encouraging. In short, the social economy has probably never been as popular as it is at the moment. One question remains unanswered: how the action plan will be translated into action by these local actors. Only time will tell. In the meantime, the Social Good Accelerator, its team and a host of social tech actors look forward to seeing you in Lisbon in spring for the second event!

About the author

Thomas Brisbart
thomas(at)socialgoodaccelerator.eu
Research and Public Affairs
Cologne, Germany