Winners awarded in 2015 European Commission Social Innovation Competition

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Three organisations with ideas for ‘New Ways to Grow’ in Europe selected to share €150,000 prize

Sit-in beekeeping foundation Apiform, peer-to-peer homestay model for older people The Freebird Club, and accessible car sharing platform Wheelizhave been named the winners of the 2015 European Social Innovation Competition.

social new ways to grow

Selected out of 1,400 applications from over 40 countries, the winners represent this year’s theme, ‘New Ways to Grow.’ The judges selected winners with the potential to increase growth and sustain not only financial value, but also social progress for citizens, government and enterprises alike.

The three winners highlight social and environmental issues that are concerns for many Europeans. They are addressing our ageing population, inclusion and accessibility in creative ways.

Bosnian winner Apiform allow people in wheelchairs, older people, those with back pain or arthritis to take part in beekeeping. By developing a beehive accessible from behind and from a lower level, Apiform open up the opportunities offered by beekeeping. They aim to replicate the model across countries to foster entrepreneurship and organic living, while contributing to restoring the bee population in Europe.

The Freebird Club is a peer-to-peer social travel and homestay platform specifically designed for over 50s. Established in Ireland, the idea applies ‘collaborative economy’ principles to address practical issues such as loneliness and financial sustainability for older people. The Freebird Club offers a new world of social travelling for older adults, with a membership-based model.

Wheeliz address accessibility and inclusion within the transport industry through a car-sharing platform. Public transport in many cities is not accessible for wheelchair users, and the use of specialised taxi services is not affordable. Wheeliz aims to pool the estimated 100,000 adapted cars owned in France, to create a shared fleet of automobiles available for rent by wheelchair users, with hopes to expand across Europe.

In memory of social innovator Diogo Vasconcelos, the Competition sought game changing ideas to advance Europe’s growth model. This year, top of Europeans’ agenda were solutions around inclusion, education and young people, employment, health and ageing, climate change, food waste and the environment.

Daan Weddepohl, competition judge and founder of the collaborative platform Peerby said: “All of the judges were very impressed with the quality of applications. Each of the semi-finalists and finalists should take being shortlisted as a stamp of credibility and an endorsement of their projects“.

“Deciding on three winners this year was very difficult, but we took into account each ideas ability to stimulate growth in their local communities and beyond, as well as their potential to address the social issues that affect us every day. I wish all the luck to our winners, and to those who didn’t win, it doesn’t end here. Take advantage of the amazing network of social innovators you have met over the past year, stay involved in the social innovation community in your country and across Europe however you can, and keep working hard to make positive changes around you.”

As part of their journey through this year’s Competition, each of the 3 winners – along with 27 other semi-finalists – took part in the social innovation academy, hosted by a finalist in the 2013 Competition, Magdas Hotel. Since being part of the Competition, Magdas is now successfully operating a 78-room social business hotel in Vienna, offering employment and training to refugees and asylum seekers from over 14 countries.

Georgi Lossmann-Iliev Manager of Magdas Recycling and part of the team who started Magdas Hotel said: “We’ve come a long way since our own experience in the 2013 Competition. This year’s winners, finalists and semi-finalists have great futures ahead of them, thanks in part to support from the European Commission, but also with great credit to their own determination and creativity.”

“The Competition has demonstrated that social innovation is alive, and will continue to drive Europeans to create, adapt and disrupt, all in the name of growth and progress. It’s been an amazing journey so far and as the Competition moves into its fourth year, we’re even more excited to see what’s yet to come.”

Each winner will receive a €50,000 prize to implement their idea.

For more information about the Competition, please visit this website

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