• “Successful innovation involves working creatively and caringly to improve lives through user-centred approaches”.

    John Halloran CEO of the European Social Network
  • “The opportunity for the digital revolution in social services is about transforming social policy, not just service delivery”.

    Brian Lee Archer Director, SAP Institute for Digital Government, Australia
  • “Cities and governments need to create new opportunities and the only way to do that is stimulate innovation”.

    Ahmed Aboutaleb, Mayor of Rotterdam, The Netherlands
  • “Integration, through devolution, is what drives local innovation…our ultimate goal is user-centred innovation that engages citizens and enables communities to flourish”.

    Janet Menard Deputy Minister of Community and Social Services, Ontario, Canada
  • “In order to gain real innovation you need to start outside… from the stories of people. Focus on new interactions. Stories can help people to be empowered”.

    Chris Sigaloff Director of Kennisland, The Netherlands


The 25th European Social Services Conference will explore how new innovative practices and technology can help create better local social services for the future.

Innovation – what does it mean for social services?

Important changes are under way across government and local public services to make services simpler, better and more effective – in a word, smarter. Turning to new solutions, the latest thinking and cutting-edge practices is necessary to ensure that public social services effectively tackle social exclusion in Europe, fight poverty and keep responding to the needs of citizens in a challenging environment.

Innovation’ has become a buzzword used in many sectors to mean different things. The European Union, national governments, local authorities, civil society, citizens…everyone is for innovating! But what does this actually mean in practice? How can new innovative approaches, policies and practices help public services better fight social exclusion? How can digital government transform the way services are designed and delivered to improve people’s lives? And what can we learn from citizen-led initiatives and new thinking from other sectors and parts of the world to create smarter services?

Creating smarter services to transform lives – technology, service design, citizen participation

Financial pressure on governments to deliver more and better is driving the need to create new innovative approaches, which will in turn require a shift in culture of some existing practices. New initiatives involving users in service planning, design and implementation are becoming commonplace. Likewise, the value of informed decision-making drawing on evidence is still gaining a new momentum in the public sector to improve the impact of social and related services.

As we become used to living and working in the digital age, new technologies adopt an increasingly important role in managing people’s health and social wellbeing. The digitalisation of services to promote accessibility and independent living for people with disabilities and vulnerable older people is transforming the relationship between professionals and users. E-Government is also providing more efficiency, transparency and participation of citizens.

The increasingly active role of citizens and other sectors led by grassroots initiatives, social enterprises and businesses is also creating a new ‘social innovation’ space. This in turn is changing the relationship between the government, its citizens and other sectors creating opportunities for new kinds of partnerships.

Celebrating 25 years of knowledge sharing in Europe

Bringing together thousands of senior professionals from all sectors across Europe over the past 25 years, the European Social Services Conference (ESSC) has long been pioneering the value of knowledge exchange in improving services and transforming people’s lives. Since the first event in 1993, we have witnessed extraordinary developments of new ideas and technology impacting on our own lives and the lives of those we care for.

The 25th anniversary edition of the ESSC is organised for the first time in cooperation with the Maltese Government who will be presiding over the Council of the European Union. Combining a diverse mix of cultural heritage with 21st century sophistication, Valletta is the ideal place for us to celebrate 25 years of international cooperation while also looking ahead to the future of social services.

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