SIPs seldom drive systemic changes but access to government data can change that
Most SIPs are launched as local initiatives aimed at specific domains (e.g., local governance, social services, healthcare, support for local communities) – rarely as drivers of systemic shifts. The primary reason for this in Central Asia is the lack of governmental support to implement the necessary institutional, legal and other changes to institutionalize SIPs. In Armenia, Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, besides having greater civil society participation, legal steps have been taken to secure the availability of open data that could later be used to run “social start-ups” and/or services combating corruption. Examples include electronic school access and registration in Yerevan, or the greater involvement of the general population in decision making such as Armenia’s crowdsourcing ideas for its national budget.
In many SIPs across post-Soviet countries, the trend of using information and communications technologies prevails. In Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine, mobile applications collecting data resulted in better traffic prediction, improved local government services based on the needs of local inhabitants (e.g., in the city of Rustavi in Georgia), or enhanced predictions of patient flow in local hospitals in Moldova during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Measuring the social impact of SIPs remains challenging
This is due to missing methodology and the lack of good-quality data on SIPs. There have been notable attempts at meaningful measurement. In Armenia, NESTA standards of evidence were partly applied to solve the problem. The Social Innovation Index of the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and the assessment tools offered by the European School of Social innovations focus on evaluating the impact of social innovations. Post-Soviet countries, however, have yet to undertake such evaluations.
SIPs are scaling up but some more than others
SIPs in Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine have demonstrated signs of scaling up and diffusion across the social systems of these countries. The scaling up of social innovations in post-Soviet Central Asia has been possible to a limited extent due to collaboration with governments, while in Armenia, Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine, successful cases of civil society and government cooperation have attracted attention. Evidently, in countries with a more active civil society and a cooperative government such as Armenia and Ukraine, the possibility of SIPs integrating into the social fabric is generally greater, and social change becomes more likely to happen.