social innovation

SIX Interview Series: Peter Ramsden of Freiss Ltd

Do crises bring innovation?  What is legacy policy and what can we do about it?  How can we mainstream innovation?

Watch Peter’s interview with SIX – Social innovation exchange posted on 9 January 2012


BEPA social innovation meeting

EU president Jose Manuel Barroso hosted a meeting on January 27th to which Freiss were invited to speak about Social Innovation.

At the meeting Barroso promised to ‘find a home’ for social innovation in Brussels. He took away a proposal from Ana Vale of Portugal to encourage Member States to reprofile their ESF programmes to focus 3% of the vast €72 billion programmes on social innovation.

Vladimir Spidla and Danuta Hubner also supported the meeting which was convened by BEPA the Bureau of European Policy advisers. Geoff Mulgan gave a useful outline of how social innovation could serve the European project. Diogo Vasconcelos, former minister under Barroso gave the summing up.

Let us hope things move on from here to find new ways of innovating in public policy.

Click here to access the meeting’s press release.


Main Page – Wikipreneurship

Wikipreneurship is Europe’s leading site for interesting examples of practice and policy on widening entrepreneurship and supporting enterprise development in disadvantaged areas.  It includes many case studies, policy briefs and articles from the EQUAL and URBAN programmes.   You can add your own case studies or comment pieces.  

Interview with Etienne Wenger

Interview with Etienne Wenger.

Etienne Wenger is the founder of the concept of communities of practice, working as a coach with the EQUAL and ESF communities such as COPIE.

In this video, he speaks about participation in social innovation as something which should be the result of engagement rather than led by motivation.

Are we connected with people closely enough for conversation to happen?



Why is the company called Freiss?

Freiss is short for Freissinieres, a tiny community of about 160 residents based in the Hautes alpes at 1200m. The company is named after this  tiny community in the alps where the Vaudois had settled  in the 13th century after leaving Lyon.

This community were dedicated to living a humble life and were accused of heresy by the catholic church.  Their reforms had included eschewing the wealth of the church and living frugally, and translating the bible into the local language. Women were empowered and the community was highly literate because their bible was accessible. They were persecuted and murdered by the armies of the church especially in the neighbouring valley of Vallouise. In freissinieres many escaped south after wintering in Dormillouse – a high village with no road access, and found a new future in the Luberon. The valley’s people continued to be non conformist, a little rebellious and today many are protestant or atheist.

Today Freissinieres is still rebellious in a small way. Its 160 citizens elect their local municipality. The valley is an oasis of calm in which social capital is freely and readily available.  Unusually the village has been welcoming of outsiders, although this can bring its own difficulties with too many houses lying empty.

For many people whether residents or visitors Freissinieres offers some clues about what a more relationship based and sustainable society might look like. But there is still much to do. The community is now heavily dependant on the economy outside the valley, not enough has been done to increase economic resilience and support  local jobs. Too many cars drive through without spending any money and the environmental capital is not sufficiently valorised though the air is pure and the environment relatively unspoilt. You can see more at



Freiss has continued its longstanding support of the development of European Microfinance by carrying out the evaluation of the EU funded aspects of the network’s activities for the second year running.   Using a similar methodology to that deployed in 2008 with a strong focus on identifying the added value for members of the annual conference, learning exchanges and magic consultancy.   The evaluation concludes that EMN is providing a strong service for members run with a lean and efficient secretariat and guided by an energetic board.  It is hoped that the growing awareness within the European commission of the role of microfinance in the crisis will lead to faster growth among members and the emergence of stronger models that are more sustainable over time and continue to reach clients in precarious social situations.