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Malopolska Incubator for Social Innovation

Malopolska Incubator for Social Innovation is a funding space for bottom-up, widely-consulted and fully-supported innovations in the field of care services for dependents: elderly and disabled. We use everyday non-standard ways and practices unprecedented in local government administration: Design Thinking, creating open-sourced products, bureaucracy reduce, financing 100% of costs. Incubator is implemented by Regional Center for Social Policy in Krakow.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

The number of dependents in Malopolska is constantly increasing. Many of them need medical assistance and the usual attention be able to maintain the independence and meet the challenges posed in front of them everyday. According to the forecast in 2050, every third Malopolska citizen will be 65+, and every tenth 80+. Most of these people will require care in the place of residence as the system of residential care will not be able to provide appropriate assistance. This will mainly burden families and informal care-givers. In addition, care services and assistants are required by people with pronounced disabilities which accounts in Malopolska for almost 12% of the population. Believing in the potential that lies in local communities, which measure with such a challenge, Malopolska Region through the Regional Center for Social Policy in Krakow under the Operational Programme Knowledge Education Development launched a project: Malopolska Incubator for Social Innovation - pilot and an innovative project that would not have a chance to develop without adequate support.

To increase in the quality and effectiveness of local care services for dependents through the development of innovative and bottom-up solutions.
- We were aware that some elderly and disabled, whom go to care institution, could function in their own home, after creation of appropriate conditions, including support for informal carers (families). That way we have realized about needing to support any ideas of transfer of supporting activities to the place of residence of the person. Both caregiver, organizational and technological support.
- We focus reduce the 24-hour institutional care provided in public and private institution and strengthen the independence of dependent people including support solutions for caregivers.
- We inspire and support the idea of empowerment through initiating constants between the Grantees and local environment. And participation both of them in the planning, implementation, and testing process. As well as its evaluation after the implementation and dissemination phase.

To realise the aim, we have created an experimental space and we award grants.

Since 2016, we have been inspiring, developing, testing and implementing modern solutions in care for dependent people. Among them 87 submitted ideas we have selected 40 that have been verified and funded. Among them: 7 products, 26 services, 7 IT solutions. Each of them is a new or improved solution that responds to the needs of dependent people in a more efficient and effective way. Each solution required cooperation, creating new opportunities and efficient use of resources. The Incubator turned out to be a place where active, stakeholders and organizations could safely test their ideas with the financial (we awarded grants up to 20,000 €) and specialist support of experts at every stage of developing and implementing.

The target group:
the recipients and users of new solutions, the dependent people and their caregivers.
The Innovators were selected in the two-stage competition. They could be an institutional or private person with an idea for an innovative tool, a method and a solution for care services for dependent people. The selected projects have submitted by individuals, public sector, non-governmental organizations, businesses (including the social economy), churches and religious associations, partnerships. In total, 100 elderly and 40 disabled people tested 17 solutions from the first and second round of the competition.

The innovation envisioned for the future:
- good practices continuation. The operate model tested will be continues and recommended us a useful innovative practices for other offices
- Every tested innovation tested by Incubator will be given an “open source” formula to be available for ever one who will be interested in
- The best and most needed will be taken by the Ministry of Development and prepare us a system solution for all country
- Implementation of solutions that have achieved the best test results and are most needed. We will do it by publishing publications, a regional conference, finding financing for implementing solutions in regional programs, meetings with local authorities and government. By the Internet, social media, movies, blog, press, radio and television
- Participatory impact on Influence the modernization and increase the efficiency of the care system in Poland (recommendations resulting from evaluation and social consultations)

Examples of Innovation prepare and tested:

a raincoat for the wheel chair users Design, pattern, sewing and how to do instruction itself (individual or commercial). Taking into account specific needs like: will-locking by raincoat, discomfort of an umbrella use, arrangement of buckles, zips etc.) The application supporting neighbourhood assistance for the elderly simple and big phone keys, four basic option to use to request and connected with neighborhood volunteer.

Innovation Description

What Makes Your Project Innovative?

We do not expect complete conception in the applications. It was judged by the ideas and potential itself. On the final version we worked together during the workshops, using design thinking. The Grantee is treated as a business partner–not client. A bottom-up recruitment process–every single person could be the Grantee. We supported all process – conception building, testing, evaluation, implementation, dissemination. Every grant had his own personal support. All reviews were important- innovations was public conducted at every stage of implementation. One test does not have to give success - we accepted right to incorrect conceptions. Settlement of grants based on the effects without invoices. Financing 100% of tasks. Non-standard operations of official - we organized business meetings in cafes, different cities, even in private homes. Small group mostly-conducive to open dialogue. Setting-up a Social Innovation Board to evaluate and select the Grantee.

What is the current status of your innovation?

Incubator is a perfect option for all wishing to bring about major positive change in what is currently called “social care for dependents and their supporters”. For those who want to take part in imagining, creating and communicating a future where what we currently creates will makes a major contribution to the health, well-being and success of people, communities and our economy.
Incubator do so by providing innovative solutions about what the social care do, how it can do this and the promising practices that should be built on, grown and spread dialogue and the sharing of ideas for anyone whom have vision or stake in the future of social.
At the moment we focus on popularization and create an implementing environment for arising solutions. We maintain the cooperation by groups willing to work together and supporting each other on the way to positive changes. Incubator instill unscientific thinking of young people by initiative and do workshops for students at the university.

Innovation Development

Collaborations & Partnerships

Regional Cooperation Platform – space for social consultations
Social Innovation Board - 27 people conducting substantive and strategic evaluation applications, selecting innovations to disseminated. They ensure participation and transparency
Universities, cultural institutions, cafes - providing space and conference equipment for organizing meetings with interested activities of the Incubator
Institute for Educational Research
European Commission

Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries

Dependents and their caregivers, local governments and their units, the service of transferable securities, NGOs, health and medical companies, business companies, scholls, media companies, or any others who is ready to introduce the innovative solutions.

Innovation Reflections

Results, Outcomes & Impacts

The main result of the Incubator is the creation of an environment to which ordinary citizens apply, and innovative solutions to social problems. The incubator has already supported 40 Innovators whom have developed, for example, models of work and support for older and disabled people, a cookbook for people with intellectual disabilities with 2nd and 3rd degree obesity, 2 mobile applications, a model for self-service shops, which supports blind people. Innovations change institutions from inside, support innovative thinking, open their eyes, motivate to a different perspective. For many people, participation in the Incubator was the first step to start working differently and changing the world around them.
The project has developed a full, blank evaluation study. It is divided into 3 stages: ex-ante, mid-term and ex-post. The study is based on individual and group interviews, analysis of developed models.

Challenges and Failures

The biggest challenge of the Incubator is to support innovators who have no design experience and have never settled grants or subsidies. On the other hand, it is the core of the Incubator’s activity. For this purpose, the Incubator has appointed each innovator a guardian who supports and helps throughout the innovation test period.
The incubator in its model of action assumed also that the innovation may fail, that the solution that will be tested will not work. We consider such incubator designs to be a project's success.
However, the challenge for the incubator are administrative procedures, which do not always adequately and quickly respond to the pace of innovative projects.
The challenge is also a closed catalog of costs that can be implemented in the project and the lack of funds for the promotional activity of the Incubator.

Conditions for Success

The operation of projects such as the Social Innovation Incubator requires meeting several conditions that will allow not only to act but to increase its effectiveness and influence the long-term effects of the undertaken activities:
- a motivated, well-coordinated team that can act in flexible and adaptable way and adapts to the needs of innovators
- educated, experienced professionals, leaders,
- relevant legal provisions
- lack of administrative barriers and excessive documentation
- reduction of bureaucracy
- ordering chaos in legal regulations
-communication between the administration, business and universities
-long-term projects including the budgets, that can build and create the innovative environment for citizens.


At least 6 of the 40 innovations tested within the Incubator will be disseminated at the national level. Innovations are chosen by the Social Innovation Council, consisting of regional leaders and representatives of institutions helping the elderly and disabled people.
Right now, after the first stage of the project, we can see a lot of interest in the models that have been developed. We also can see that the institutions that operate as part of the Incubator are starting to cooperate with each other. This is an added value to the grant that we received from us.
We have also met with great interest from international partners within the ITHACA project, where 9 regions from EU share experiences and good practices on smart health and care innovation to improve active and healthy ageing of the population.

Lessons Learned

After two years of building the Incubator and supporting the inhabitants of Małopolska in innovations, we see that one of the most important areas of our activity is fuelling innovation, showing citizens that they do not have to be scientists, employees of large companies to come up with a new solution to the social problem.
We often meet with disbelief that we are not a technology incubator. On the other hand, after a few sentences of discussion, our discussers themselves admit that technology incubators are most often supported and by that we lose contact with people and society.

In our work, we believe in the power of bottom-up initiatives, that everyone can come and tell us about their idea. We also think that Malopolska residents have the potential and the best knowledge about social problems, because they are often the closest to them.

The second course of action, which worked very well for us, is the establishment of a regional Social Innovation Council, which consists of leaders, representatives of many aid institutions, universities, scientists and representatives of non-governmental organizations. Every day, members of the Council have influence on social policy in the region, they know problems of the elderly and the disabled people. They are interested in new solutions that can be implemented to the institutions they work with.

After 2 years of operation, we can see that the Council is also a guarantee of the long-term impact of innovation in the region. Thanks to it, developed, good and working innovations have a chance to enter the system and change it for the better.

Year: 2016
Level of Government: Regional/State government


  • Developing Proposals - turning ideas into business cases that can be assessed and acted on
  • Implementation - making the innovation happen
  • Evaluation - understanding whether the innovative initiative has delivered what was needed
  • Diffusing Lessons - using what was learnt to inform other projects and understanding how the innovation can be applied in other ways

Innovation provided by:

Date Published:

25 January 2016

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