Norwegian welfare needs to be more concerned with impact
“If we are to innovate successfully, the process needs to be open and we need to adopt good ideas from elsewhere. Businesses have sourced and purchased ideas from elsewhere for a long time, and the public sector now needs to learn to do this as well”, explains Katinka Greve Leiner, the Director of Ferd Social Entrepreneurs.
Katinka Greve Leiner can see many positive signals in the market for social entrepreneurs in terms of the growing numbers of not only social entrepreneurs but also investors and organisations that want to work with such companies. However, she thinks that the breakthrough for social entrepreneurship depends on the public sector getting properly on board.
“The moment the public sector succeeds in taking advantage of these new ideas, more supporters, social entrepreneurs and investors will appear. The entire ecosystem will then accelerate”, explains Katinka Greve Leiner.
Although some social entrepreneurs cater for business and industry or the consumer market, the majority of them seek to solve social problems that concern the public sector. A lot of these companies struggle to succeed. Ferd Social Entrepreneurs has therefore worked for many years to gain greater insight into how the public sector operates in different markets.
“Many social entrepreneurs find that the public sector does not know how to collaborate with them or how to make their solutions work alongside their other measures. This prevents good ideas from being trialled and adopted”, explains Katinka.
The public sector is responsible for providing a broad range of welfare solutions. Katinka is of the view that it is important for the public sector to have a safe hand on the wheel, but that more space needs to be created for social entrepreneurs as collaboration partners and suppliers.
“We need more new ideas and solutions if we are to address the more demanding social challenges society faces”, she continues.
However, she does not think that it is only the public sector that needs to evolve in order for its relationship with social entrepreneurs to succeed. Social entrepreneurs for their part often know surprisingly little about the public sector’s role in the field in which they operate.
“Ferd Social Entrepreneurs has therefore found it important to help to educate both social entrepreneurs and the public sector”, explains Katinka.
Too short-term a perspective
Katinka has for many years been a member of the Board of Directors of Den Social Kapitalfond, a company in Copenhagen that invests in social entrepreneurs that employ vulnerable people. This position has allowed her to observe Denmark’s more impact-orientated public sector.
“It is interesting to see how Danish municipalities think differently in their interaction with social entrepreneurs. It is, for example, a lot easier to discuss impact contracts with a Danish municipality than with a Norwegian municipality. They seem to have better insight into what measures cost and are more committed to the social impact they will have over the longer term”, she explains.
Katinka thinks that Danish municipalities’ attitude to the cost-benefit relationship is the result of the fact that they have operated within a more restrictive financial framework for a long time. This has probably led them to have a different view of their own finances, making it necessary for them to see a clearer connection between the costs and benefits of the measures they consider.
“Norwegian municipalities often have too-short term a perspective. Asker Municipality’s exciting investment in its Asker Welfare Lab has demonstrated that a cross-discipline five-year commitment is needed to re-integrate a family that is not currently in education or employment. Doing so requires a willingness to invest in and monitor people’s development”, explains Katinka.
More and more people are not in education, training or employment, and many of the major social challenges are the consequence of this type of exclusion. Katinka is therefore of the view that it is important for the public sector to invest in welfare solutions that have longer time horizons and for it to monitor the social impact they generate as they are delivered.
“We need new solutions and an openness to change. Co-ordinated collaboration between the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration, the Norwegian Child Welfare Services, health services, and other high-quality sources of help is also required. Social entrepreneurs, social investors, charitable foundations and other organisations are good sources of help that should be invited to join community efforts to tackle exclusion”, explains Katinka.