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Social innovation is salient as it aims to develop and improve the welfare and wellbeing of individuals and communities. In order to improve the value of society today, social innovation needs to be stressed upon, which is why organisations such as the Lithuanian Social Innovation Cluster (LSIC) emerge. EN spoke with Dr. Vilma Popovienė, Co-Founder and Managing Director of LSIC, possessing a strong background in humanities, culture and social entrepreneurship.

Where the journey began…

The Cluster emerged three years ago due to local and concrete challenges that focused on bringing back to life former Augustinian monastery complex in the heart of Vilnius Old Town and empowering community for co-reation and collaboration through social innovations. With a focus on the Augustinian community,  LSIC emerged with the aim to integrate and preserve different actors within the community. Vilma proudly proclaimed,

‘At a time there was no prominent social clusters in Lithuania as well as neighbouring countries, therefore we aim to use our Cluster as a tool for gathering together the most active social leaders, experts and innovators, and to create sustainable social innovation ecosystem in the country.’

Initially, there were five organisations that were part of the Cluster and believed in the overall mission of growing a ‘smart and responsible society,’ based on ‘trust and respect.’ In just the last few years, the Cluster grew and now has over thirty organisations from different sectors such as education, culture and social entrepreneurship…

‘We all strive for the common goal which leads us to our vision,’ says Vilma

The notion around smart and responsible society, or Society 5.0, which lay the foundation for LSIC was born in Japan as it emphasises on a human-centred society. Interestingly, the Cluster envisions people as their centre as it enables one to identify social challenges and solutions at a faster pace, leaning towards integral innovation and brining about effective ecosystems.

How Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship is viewed in Lithuania…

We asked Vilma how social innovation and entrepreneurship is viewed within society to which she responded,

‘There is still stigma around it. Not all NGOs and social enterprises are socially responsible and transparent when people believe they are. We hope to change this culture.’

In order to promote their vision and change public attitudes, LSIC aims to bring competences and skills which is required for social innovators and leaders to Lithuanian regions. Additionally, the Cluster aims to bring communities together for creation and collaboration.

‘Gaining experiences from other countries is also important. Lithuania has a fragmented social innovation ecosystem, we did not have a network of these organisations, therefore now we are trying to look for partners locally and globally to create connections,’ she says.

What LSIC is working on currently

The Cluster is working on reviving the Augustinian monastery complex which has several in-depth layers. The project includes different creative workshops for local communities as well as experts, artists and organisations with the aim to discuss how one can actualise, rethink and renew cultural heritage for today’s society. A digital platform is also being developed to centralise information, history and processes.

‘It has been a long process, but we believe the result will be worthwhile.’

Moreover, the association focuses more on innovative social enterprises. One of the Cluster’s members “Pirmas Blynas” runs a social restaurant on the first floor of the Church within the complex which not only creates work places for disabled persons, but also reinforces an educational mission.

‘We are trying to discuss ways in which we can involve these people in community life. It is a broader approach, and our focus is on innovative solutions,’ says Vilma.

The Cluster also established the Social Innovators Academy (SIA) – a network of non-formal education which aims to enable future innovators to address relevant and region-specific social challenges. As the Cluster works with various universities and experts, they aim to create a common programme for Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

How the organisation wishes to evolve in the next five years…

Currently, the Lithuanian Social Innovation Cluster has two overarching aims. They wish to bring competences to Lithuanian regions, and they wish to expand their global influence and create a strong international network. At the moment, the Cluster has two international partners in Cyprus and Sweden, however this is growing.

‘Joining international organisations such as Euclid Network helps us go international. Joining EN Network is essential for growth and sharing experiences and approaches. Finding new ways to face global challenges is important. It has added value for all of us,’ says Vilma.

EN Network greatly supports social innovation & the LSIC mission, we look forward to working with you!

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