The event took place under the auspices of the Irish Presidency of the Council of the EU in the Leuven Institute for Ireland in Europe, Brussels, on 2-3 May and brought together about 240 participants from EU countries.
The Conference was addressed by László Andor, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, who declared: “Challenges must be turned into opportunities. We can restore and maintain prosperity in Europe if we invest in our human capital, from cradle to old age. This is what social investment is about. It is our responsibility to act on this knowledge, and to step up social investment in the months and years ahead.”
Joan Burton, Irish Minister for Social Protection, said “It´s not enough to simply navigate our way out of the economic storm if we leave millions of people behind fending for themselves. That is why the Social Investment Package is so important. We need to act swiftly and decisively on its implementation. It would go hand in hand with an economic approach based on jobs, investment and growth."
By bringing together policy-makers, experts, civil society, social partners, and the private sector, the Conference put forward proposals for action to spur social investment across Europe. Participants emphasised the importance of local and regional partnerships for the implementation of the Social Investment Package.
The main conclusion of the conference was that people are Europe’s biggest asset and only by investing more and better in women and men, from birth to old age, will Europe get out of the crisis, and ensure credibility and legitimacy.
In order to embed the social investment approach in EU and national policies, it was agreed that there should be an emphasis on the long-term benefits of early intervention and prevention, which are part of the social investment approach. The provision of comprehensive and integrated services should also be improved, as well as the balance between activating policies and adequate income support.
And in order to ensure that social innovation delivers in pursuing policies oriented towards social investment, it was agreed that partnerships and alliances between social innovators and stakeholders, as well as knowledge sharing, should be strengthened. Information and communications technologies are a key avenue for pursuing this goal. Social entrepreneurs are also important actors for social investment by bringing in resources, expertise on the ground, and innovative solutions to communities’ needs.
An inclusive process, with the active participation of NGOs, local governments, and people experiencing poverty is needed to achieve a wide partnership with all stakeholders to spur social investment across Europe. A regular, structured and meaningful dialogue must be maintained. The EU has a clear role in supporting stakeholders’ engagement, through capacity-building, peer reviews and promotion of good practices, as well as through the regular EU stakeholders’ dialogues and the Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion.