Social innovation in Portugal

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  • "Housing is one of the main themes of the political and social debate of recent times in Portugal".
    "Housing is one of the main themes of the political and social debate of recent times in Portugal". Source: Pexels.

Reis highlights the significance of international collaboration within the third sector, particularly between Catalonia and Portugal, to address shared challenges such as social inclusion and housing issues. It emphasizes the need for fostering meaningful dialogue and collaboration to effectively tackle these pressing societal concerns.

Rui Reis


Catalan Government Delegate in Portugal.

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The existence of a dynamic third sector and working in an international network is becoming increasingly important. The nature of social issues associated with current global challenges requires practices and solutions that are the result of a permanent dialogue between various agents – public, private, third sector – from different scales – local, regional, state, European and global. For the success of the ongoing green and digital transitions it is necessary to ensure and promote everyone’s commitment.

We assume this commitment and work for the creation and strengthening of a dialogue with the third sector, but also between civil society entities in Catalonia and other countries, promoting collaborations and exchange of good practices. We recognize the importance of these collaborations and exchanges and we congratulate ourselves on the dialogue with the Third Sector Platform of Catalonia. We have the ambition to strengthen the links between Catalan and Portuguese entities, as well as contribute to the mutual knowledge of both social realities.

The Portuguese social reality is strongly conditioned by its demographics. The 2021 Census shows the existence of two structural indicators of the Portuguese population. The first is the low birth rate (7.7%), the third lowest among the Member States of the European Union. The second is the ageing rate: for every 100 young people between 10 and 14 years old there are 182 people over 65 years old. The latter account for 23.4% of the total population.

The low birth rate and population ageing are offset by the increase in the number of foreign residents, from 3.7% to 5.4%. To this demographic reality we must add a social context conditioned by the fact that 41.8% of the population is at risk of poverty and social exclusion, a percentage that falls to 17% when we consider social transfers.

In fact, social inclusion is the predominant theme in social innovation projects in Portugal, according to data from “Portugal Inovaç'o Social”. Within the framework of this public initiative, 623 projects were approved. With 261 projects carried out, social inclusion emerges as a priority issue, with health as the second most important area. Social inclusion and health will represent 63% of all social innovation projects. Education (13%), work (11%), citizenship and community (5%), social innovation incubators (4%) and digital inclusion (3%) are the other topics identified.

The action of these projects varies greatly. There is one against the isolation and inactivity of the largest populations in the interior, promoting intergenerational relationship and the fight against the isolation of the interior regions. In addition, it highlights the existence of youth training projects as transformation agents at the service of communities, as well as environmental intervention projects to promote the sustainability and socialization of young people. Finally, it is worth noting the projects in the field of housing that fight against social exclusion through the rehabilitation of buildings.

In fact, housing is one of the main themes of the political and social debate of recent times in Portugal. The constant increase in rental and purchase prices has reinforced difficulties in accessing the housing market. The working population tends to move away from their workplace, implying greater dependence on individual and collective transport. There is a deterioration in the quality of life with the increase in time spent on journeys and an added challenge for urban sustainability and the creation of green cities. In addition, the Portuguese housing stock is not energy-sustainable. Eurostat data for 2022 show that 17.5% of Portuguese people (almost two million people) live in energy poverty. These figures put Portugal in fourth place in the European Union, just behind Bulgaria, Cyprus and Greece.

We are convinced of the existence of shared challenges between the entities of the third sector Catalan and Portuguese and of the importance of the exchange of knowledge on the various issues that mark the reality of contemporary societies. Thus, we reaffirm our commitment to the creation of bridges for dialogue between Catalonia and Portugal for the emergence of collaborations that contribute to an effective response to contemporary challenges.

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