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#SIT2021: Empowering Europe’s Best Social Entrepreneurs

Fifteen finalists have been selected for the 2021 edition of the Social Innovation Tournament, the flagship initiative launched by the EIB Institute’s Social Programme to recognise and support Europe’s best social entrepreneurs – including an impact venture from Luxembourg.

Social entrepreneurship, what exactly does it mean? If one consults the OECD definition, social innovation refers to the design and implementation of new solutions that imply changes that ultimately aim to improve the well-being and prosperity of society.

The EIB Institute’s Social Innovation Tournament (SIT) aims to promote just that: the generation of innovative ideas that promise significant societal benefits or demonstrate best practices with tangible, scalable results. Its objective: to make a positive impact on people’s lives. To achieve this, projects are included from a wide range of fields, from education and healthcare to environment/biodiversity preservation and sustainable production, and new technologies, systems or processes.

This time, 15 finalists from a total of nine countries were selected. They managed to be chosen from a group of 280 applicants from 28 countries. Among the criteria being assessed to shortlist the applicants’ projects: the relative significance of the problem targeted, the sustainability of the innovation proposed and the estimated social, ethical and/or environmental impact of the proposed solution. “The selection committee considered that these 15 solutions were the best ones. But it was not an easy choice at all”, says Maria Luisa Ferreira, Head of Social at the EIB Institute, who was willing to answer some questions on the tournament:

Why is it important to promote social innovation in this way?

“Many of the problems that are being addressed by these solutions are the so-called wicked problems, normally because of their complex and interconnected nature. Climate change and poverty are two suitable examples. But there are many more one could mention, unfortunately. Public powers cannot be expected to solve everything, and the individual, private and third sector need to feel empowered and address the many complex problems society faces these days.”

How can the SIT be of help here?

“The Social Innovation tournament is exactly about this. It supports strategies that seek to build people’s capacities, leadership and confidence to find solutions to improve the lives in their communities. The tournament is one of the ways the Bank and its Institute found to encourage Europeans to come up with innovative solutions. And because there are so many facets to problems, there are as many fields where one can intervene.”

In this respect, what do you think is the role of the European location, the European Union and institutions like the EIB?

“Europe has an important history of social innovation. The Bank and the Institute have the obligation to nurture the great innovation potential that exists in Europe. As the biggest lender and borrower in the world, we can make a difference by and supporting these initiatives.”

What are the advantages of the tournament for the participants?

“On top of cash prizes, they participate in a comprehensive mentoring programme during the competition to tune their business model and to prepare them to pitch their solution in front of a jury. When they pitch at the grande finale, they get visibility and exposure to philanthropists, impact investors, other social entrepreneurs and social innovation experts. They also network with social innovators from different countries and sectors… But this is just the beginning of the journey with us! The 15 finalists, whether prize winners or not, will become members of the SIT Alumni network, which includes great benefits.”

A brilliant opportunity, then, for Magrid, an effective pedagogical program from Luxembourg to improve the development of early visual-spatial and mathematical abilities. Magrid, a start-up at the University of Luxembourg’s incubator, offers a personalised learning environment within an app where students can repeat instructions at their own individual pace. This way, their confidence in mathematics is increased, as it is designed to be intuitive and accessible to all children, regardless of their language skills. Together with the other finalists, Magrid will participate in a training programme first and will then be part of the pitching competition taking place in Lisbon in early October.

You want to know more about Magrid and his participation in SIT 2021? Silicon Luxembourg got you covered: more on this topic soon.

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