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Examples of Social Innovation in local development

A total of 23 cases from across the five Nordic countries (including one from Åland and one from the Faroe Islands) and Scotland are included in this project. Material for the cases was collected through desktop research and interviews with the people involved in the initiatives. You can read a snapshot of each case here on the website or get the full story by downloading the complete case study. The cases were developed based on the “social innovation biography” approach developed for the SIMPACT Project, an exciting EU initiative focused on boosting the impact of Social Innovation across Europe. The aim is to provide a detailed account of each case from its inception, including an analysis of the role of the local context and of different actors in the initiatives success. 

The cases included in the project all have three things in common:

  1. They are consistent with our definition of social innovation in that they are social in both their means and their end.
  2. They all occur in, or have relevance to, rural or remote areas and as a result can help us to understand the role of social innovation in local development.
  3. They all work in some way to address demographic challenges faced by rural communities in the Nordic countries including ageing populations, outmigration of the population (in particular young people), and limited access to services. 

Broadly speaking, the cases can be divided into three categories: Forums for community development or capacity building, creative approaches to service provision, and providing community spaces. The cases are quite diverse and many incorporate more than one of these elements. These cases are listed below under the category that is the most relevant. Click on the links to access the full case study. 

Local forums for community development and capacity building

  • Tag Del / Participate is an online space where communities can come together to solve challengers they face.  (Denmark)
  • The Association of Outer Islands addresses the issue of outmigration from the small islands of Faroe Islands by increasing social networking and knowledge exchange among people living on the outer islands.  (Faroe Islands)
  • Area committees in remote areas of Rovaniemi increase close-range democracy by giving local residents responsibility for local service budgets.  (Finland)
  • Röstånga Together is an inspirational example of community-driven local development with positive outcomes for both social and economic development.  (Sweden)
  • Knoydart Foundation owns the Knoydart estate (17,200 acres of land) and works to preserve, enhance and develop Knoydart for the wellbeing of the environment and the people.  (Scotland)
  • Free State Lucky Næroset uses humour, fantasy, craziness and courage as tools to mobilise the local population and encourage joint action.  (Norway)
  • West Harris Trust is a community trust working to reverse a long history of declining population and limited opportunities through local endevour. (Scotland)


Creative approaches to service provision

  • Cycling Without Age promotes the older generation’s right to the wind in their hair, using bicycle rides to connect people across generations.  (Denmark)
  • Sorø Senior Service is a network of volunteers who deliver groceries to elderly citizens in the remote parts of the municipality.  (Denmark)
  • May I help you links young people, particularly those at risk of social exclusion, with elderly people who need assistance with everyday tasks.  (Finland)
  • “Viesimo” Societal Enterprise Cooperative is a great example of a user-based approach to public service development. (Finland)
  • Village house service centres bring services to local residents through cooperation between the municipality, local people, local associations and businesses. (Finland)
  • Life Cycle Café provides a place where retired volunteers and school students can meet and teach each other new skills. (Finland)
  • Bærum Municipality has been working systematically to mainstream innovation in the public sector. (Norway)
  • Ramsjö Public Meal Program has been taken over by a local entrepreneur with amazing results. (Sweden)
  • Offerdal Healthcare Centre is a resident-owned cooperative economic organisation that provides healthcare services to local residents in a rural area of Jämtland.  (Sweden)
  • Kalix Övre Bygden Service Centre was initiated by local residents and runs a local store and provides various public services, including home care service and school taxi service. 
  • Community Care Assynt is a charity established by local residents that delivers services to support people to overcome barriers they face due to age, health or disability issues.  (Scotland)

Providing community spaces and activities

  • Skovgård Hotel demonstrates how the local community can collectively take over private institutions and establish enterprises where people with disabilities can contribute to local rural development.  (Denmark)
  • Fish Factory Creative Centre is the result of the transformation of an abandoned fish factory in Stöðvarfjörður by a passionate group of individuals.  (Iceland)
  • Pikene på Broen (Girls on the Bridge) is a collective of curators and producers who are working to inspire cross-border cooperation and cultural exchange between Norway and Russia.  (Norway)


  • Workplaces for refugees in Tranøy Municipality are being provided thanks to cooperation between a local entrepreneur and the Norwegian State Housing Bank. (Norway) 
  • Emmaus Association addresses unemployment by acting as a middle-man between unemployed immigrants and local people who require assistance with small tasks.  (Åland)