How to win the European Social Innovation Competition – documentation

This session is about a practical guide to win the second edition of the European Social Innovation Competition. It was held by [Matthias] – one of the winners in year one – and [Alberto], one of the judges in year one, also adjudicating year two. Its goal is for edgeryrders to get all three winners this year! Failing that, we are happy to help everyone who wants to run by sharing our experience from year one.

Many informations can be found on the website. In the session we focused on the lived experience, and referred people to the website for the official stuff.


  • Depending on how much you have worked on your idea already it might take you 1 to 5 hours to apply. Stage 1 is simply seven questions in free form.
  • In Stage 1 focus on highlighting the innovation part of social innovation.
  • You can submit multiple ideas. And should, if you have them.
  • Check out the names of the judges on the website. If you know some of them it is a good idea to write an email to the competition's address and let them know: there might be some conflict of interest. They don't make a big deal of it, but doing full disclosure is a good idea anyway.
  • If you are selected as one of 30 semifinalist, you will be guided through resubmission to compete to be one of 10 finalists (get good quality mentoring) and one of 3 winners (get mentoring and 30K euro cash).

What do judges look for?

No one could ever agree just what exactly social innovation is. The jury panel represents the whole spectrum of the SocInn crowd, from Cisco (innovation– and tech-focused) all the way to social cooperatives types (focused on the ailing humanity). The European Commission’s DG Enterprise adds a keenness for job creation to the mix.

Three specific things:

  • social. You need to show you are solving a social problem (collective problems like environmental ones also ok). The socialcoop-leaning judges think in terms of "weak groups": which one are you targeting? The Roma? The disabled? The young-and-unemployed? I dislike compartmentalizing humanity into groups (and I dislike treating my fellow humans as passive "targets"), but if you do happen to think in those terms, you should definitely state clearly who your target group is.
  • innovation. You need to show what you do is innovative. In the first round of assessment, innovation will be the key criterion (unlike last year). The idea is that non-innovative projects be weeded out as early in the game as possible.
  • job creation. Most judges like it when you show your solution creates jobs.

And a few non-specific things:

  • sustainability. Where is your revenue? How are you going to stay up?
  • scalability/replicability. How are you going to go from humble beginnings to a continent-wide solution?
  • impact and its measurement.

Semifinalists are selected independently from one another. In selecting finalists and winners, judges like a certain diversity; across countries, lone hackers vs. establishe organizations, more social vs. more innovation.

Matthias's 10 steps to victory

  1. What is it?
    • Public call for competition entries to create large-scale solutions to the unemployment crisis in Europe.
    • Three first prizes of 30 000 EUR each, to be used for implementing your project (you have to be able to prove this with receipts).
    • And the simplest link to remember for finding all the information:
  2. yust apply, even if the idea is vague, even if it's right before the deadline.
    • And by the way, the deadline is 2013-12-11 12:00 CET.
  3. Apply with multiple ideas in parallel (5 * 2 hours is better than 1 * 10 hours  of effort).
    • The first stage in this round is now emphasizing innovation and novelty even more, to "find the crazy ideas".
    • Also, all the judges are from different backgrounds, and all will have their pet projects for also subjective reasons. So to increase the chance of one of your projects making it through, apply with many.
    • There were 7 entries from Edgeryders in the last contest, and one has won.
  4. Use a good name.
    • Our self-ironic name ("Economy App", as in "there is an app for everything, now even for the economy) was a risky thing to do. The judges were critical of the idea when hearing the name, but changed their minds after the proposal. (They probably did not get the irony, but still, maybe the provocative name got them interested.)
  5. Make ideas fit to what they like.
    • They like ideas that include a tech innovation (I think this is why our team did win).
    • For the first stage, they now emphasize innovation over sustainability (crazy ideas over ready-made bsuiness plans). This was different in the 2013 edition, where both were (I think) weighted equally.
    • Enter with scalable ideas, those that potentially can apply to all of Europe and create millions of jobs. Web based ideas are often scalable, for example. Stuff restricted to the jurisdiction of one country is less scalable, and stuff you're doing with an existing project in very specific circumstances is even less scalable.
  6. Make your project implementation plan as specific as possible.
    • This also applies to the first stage of the submission, but is not as important there.
    • If your project is still in idea stage, make and mention agreements with organizations for collaborations who agree to help you implement it in some aspect.
    • If your team is not yet complete, find members for your "extended team" on condition of funding, basically meaning they agree to be team members in exchange for a wage that you include in your spending plan.
    • It is ok if you have to adapt your specific plan after you won the competition: you do not owe European Commission obedience to your initial spending plan, you should however be able to argue why your updated plan is even better.
    • Judges like to see that you are able to make specific plans, not true plans. Everyone knowing about business plans for real knows that a business plan is outdated the minute it is written ...
    • If your project is still in idea stage, it is specific enough if you have a specific plan for a prototype of your idea. That was what Matthias did.
  7. Write the second stage application according to the rules, just better.
    • Use an optically tidy and pleasing template, add good formatting to the delivery plan and spending plan.
  8. And because you know Alberto, in addition to your application write an e-mail to to tell the EU Commission that you know him, so he won't judge your submissions. Else your entry might become disqualified, see the exclusion criteria.
  9. Let Alberto add some criteria from the judge perspective.
  10. (We did not actually do this in the session: shame!) Let us generate some ideas together now, and assign them to people who want to enter the competition with them.
    • Always say "yes, and" until we have a next idea.
    • Let Alberto judge the ideas quickly after we generated them.
    • Example ideas: Small Enterprise Alibaba
      • A system of direct import from small-scale producers to exploit arbitrage between market prices, cutting short through all the profit margins of the usual trade intermediaries, so that even less efficient small-scale producers can make a reasonable living in their local circumstances. For example, food prices in Romania are maybe 2 times cheaper than in Germany, and 6 times cheaper than in Switzerland.
    • Example ideas: Making computers less strange to the majority of people.
      • From Arthur.
      • It's about helping people get online and exploiting all the job opportunities and startup enterprise options that are there, from Etsy to Fiverr to eBay and all the other stuff.
      • This should also include education in English (the language of the Internet) and the basics of doing international business (shipping, customs, ...).

Please help me (Alberto) put together the documentation – pinging [rhithink].

The unMonastery II

We were considering applying again fro the competition with the unMonastery. To do so, some questions popped up:

  • to which step of the competition did the unMonastery get to?
  • was there a motivated refusal of the project?
  • the unMonastery's first prototype is about to hatch: should we work on that one (giving in further information on the local level) or should we mostly work on the unMonastery as an idea?
  • should we work on what has already been written, or start from scratch?

I can answer most of that

  • The unMonastery I was stopped by minions, and was never shown to the judges themselves.
  • No. But I can imagine this: it did not tick the box of "creating jobs". That is not the point of the unMonastery, of course.
  • Both. I recommend pitching the big idea, offering the Matera prototype as proof that the idea has traction, and making a case that the idea is replicable all through Europe.
  • I have no idea what was written. Probably easier to start from scratch, since much ground has been covered over the last year.

Another attempt to be clear about a Form Storm.

The main goal of the online event suggested in a Form Storm post is “for edgeryrders to get all three winners this year”.

So, basically, the suggestion is to make a multiplatform extended online session dedicated to these “1 to 5 hours to apply”.

Meanwhile, or later during the event, we can look at other applications, and make the work on them mutually beneficial.

Reasons for suggesting to make an online event fixed in time out of the application process:

A gut feeling that ER has all the features to make it a useful thing to do. Probably comes from experiencing the twitterstorm, for instance, and another things which happened to me on the platform and with ER people. Please, note, I’m primitive: instincts, hunches and gut feelings, so any compos mentis input is highly appreciated.


Thanks for update. Thats an invaluable distillation. For this megalomaniac FormStorm building I suddenly found myself in after LOTE.

Babele - create together

Hy, we have just launched in august a open business modeling platform. It is called Babele ( and it offers entrepreneurs the methodology to convert their idea into a viable social business, validate the key assumptions with the crowd and find the right people to help them develop it. This online platform is based on a crowdsourcing approach to social innovation. We would like to apply for the EU Social Innovation competition. We would have two questions:

  • is it a problem that the platform exists already, and it is not just in the idea phase? We launched a simple version, but we are developing it every day to introduce new features.

  • our mission is to help social entrepreneurs realise their ideas, and therefore create jobs. From this point of view we would satisfy the judging criteria. But how can we stress this point more?

Thanks for your feedback!

Not a problem

Hello [Ruxandra], and welcome. The short answer is that no, it is not a problem that your idea is already out there. You will have to specify what you’ll use the cash for if you win though, and you can’t pay yourself for stuff you have already done. And yes, helping people to launch businesses definitely qualifies as a goal. If you want to go further into that, I suggest you attend this event.

Thanks Alberto for your answer. I will definitely attend the event.