Intervention of Mette Petersen, Director of RCEU Office, at the Social Impact and Innovation Event, in Strasbourg on the 6th of May 2022.

Before I go into these two topics let me introduce the RCEU office. We represent the 27 National  Red Cross Societies across the whole of EU, as well as the Icelandic Red Cross, the Norwegian  Red Cross and the IFRC. We work in the interests of the most vulnerable, providing support  services and needs-based assistance in the fields of health, inclusion, and humanitarian action,  with the aim to improve the situation of vulnerable populations. Together with other social service  providers, the Red Cross forms a crucial part of national social economies both as service  provider and employer.

Let me first reflect on Red Cross approach to social impact and the importance of quality of  services  

Social impact is at the heart of the Red Cross mission. National Red Cross Societies believe that  there are several ways to create positive social impact, however all of these must be based on  ensuring services are accessible to all, without distinction, discrimination and regardless of legal  status. They must be person centred, focusing on meeting the needs of service beneficiaries, improving their boarder inclusion in society. Importantly, they must be of the highest quality and  sustainable to ensure lasting impact. 

As a Movement we are present in every Member State, providing support to vulnerable  populations through our auxiliary role with national authorities. Our contribution to achieving social  impact and social inclusion can be best captured through our presence in all EU Members States.  In the EU we have over 250,000 employees and 1 million volunteers working in close to 15.000 local units developing and delivering services to the most vulnerable in our societies.  

They do this through the provision of essential social services to millions of people in Europe,  helping older persons, persons with disabilities, children and young people at risk, people at risk  of poverty, homeless persons, migrants, women experiencing domestic and gender-based  violence, and many others to live better, healthier, longer and more active lives in dignity. 

In doing so, their work produces positive social impact through meeting these pressing social  challenges and supports to those who need them most, resulting in more inclusive communities. 

The European Action Plan for Social Economy acknowledges that social economy organizations put people first and produce a positive impact on local communities. In doing so we also support  the implementation of EU social policy priorities. As one of the largest social service providers in  the EU, National Red Cross Societies are working towards the implementation of important social  rights frameworks such as the European Pillar of Social Right. Social Services are essential to the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights. This  social impact is demonstrable through the contribution of social services to at least 10 principles  of the European Pillar of Social Rights (notwithstanding their role as employers). Be it though the provision of childcare, supporting youth mental health, meeting the needs of the  homelessness, and supporting the care of older people in their communities, National Red Cross  Societies implement the key principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights, and therefore  achieve positive social impact. However, with ongoing entrenchment of social budgets in EU Member States and more people  requiring social services, social innovation has become increasing important to ensure ongoing  positive social impact. 

Let me therefore now turn to the other issue social innovation which is at the core of the Red  Cross  

As a non-for-profit social service provider we invest in the development and delivery of health and  social services for the most vulnerable. However, we do not stop there. We also invest in  innovations and new ways to improve our service delivery and quality, and to bridge social gaps. Through our committed network of volunteers, our proximity to vulnerable populations and our  constant presence on the frontline, Red Cross are able to observe and understand the changing  situation on the ground and to innovate our approach and services based on the changing needs  of those we serve. Therefore, we can say that our innovations are truly person centred and needs  lead. 

An example of how we do this is well illustrated by the innovative work of the Spanish Red Cross.  To establish more integrated service approaches the Spanish red Cross developed the MAP  Project, the acronym for Personalised Assistance Model. Implemented throughout Spain, the  innovation is based on an IT solution that it accessible to different relevant professionals only, who  are working together to support a social service beneficiary. This innovation has transformed the  way Spanish Red Cross work, it places the service beneficiary at the centre, as it breaks down  silos between different teams, ensuring that the different needs of beneficiary are met. The MAP  understands the person from a multidimensional perspective and thus facilitates a holistic and  integrated intervention.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, National Red Cross Societies have been at the forefront in the  development and delivery of services to support the most vulnerable. In fact, during this time,  National Red Cross Societies were one of the first social service providers to innovate and change  their practices to overcome the challenges posed by lockdown to ensure access and continuity  of services to the most vulnerable. In this case innovation was not only necessary but vital to  ensuring ongoing support to those who need it most. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Red Cross have been dealing with loneliness in all its forms,  particularly for the elderly. The project of the Italian Red Cross “Elderly and COVID-19: protecting  the most vulnerable people in Nursing Homes, establishing self-protection and safeguarding measures” was developed to improve the quality of life of older people, though direct contact with  their families, with volunteers and the outside world, promoting digital and recreational learning  activities and reducing social distances and feelings of loneliness.  All of this highlights the important role of Red Cross in achieving positive social impact using innovation, while ensuring our services and interventions are person centred, of the highest quality and remain relevant.

In conclusion, to ensure ongoing innovation in social services and that these services have the  most impact, we have the following 3 recommendations to the European Commission and  Member States:

1. Work to ensure that the Social Economy Action Plan can be used to the benefit of all the
most vulnerable by recognizing the important role of the non-for-profit service provides,
like the Red Cross as vital to the EU social economy both in terms of the social services
that they provide but also as important employers.

2. Ensure ongoing funding and investment in non-for-profit social service organisations who
have an established track record in the provision of quality services and developing
socially innovative programmes which are based both on meeting the changing needs of
service beneficiaries and ensuring quality. It should be stressed that cost efficiency should
not be the sole focus of investment, as social innovation from the perspective of Red Cross
should also take into consideration the needs of the person, and the quality of the service
to that person.

3. Ensure alignment between the Social Economy Action Plan and other important EU social
initiatives such as the Child Guarantee, the EU Care Strategy, and the European Platform
for combatting Homelessness as to represent a true measure of the important role social
service providers play to the social economy.