In the last decade, we have witnessed new situations and configurations in the labour market due to the rapid technological, economical and productive transformations that have taken place in western economies, especially after the world economic crisis in 2008.  These transformations are embedded in deeper globalized processes where the logics of neoliberal policies and the dominance of free market economies have changed the nature of work and employment. Moreover, these transformations have eroded the foundations of the modern welfare state, in a context in which political disaffection is increasing among younger populations and life-long learning is a must in order to adapt to the new labour context. Younger generations have been highly affected by these processes facing increasing problems to find a stable and well-paid job. Lower wages, precarious labour conditions, and long-term unemployment are challenges that require the restructuration of employment policies in European countries. Whilst younger generations have been a collective that has been generally permeable to change and social transformations, these processes have had a major impact in their living conditions, their values and attitudes, having been one of the more affected and vulnerable groups after the economic crisis. Young unemployment rates rapidly increased in Spain, reaching 55% of the population in 2010. Although this rate has slowly dropped –36% in 2017–, the labour conditions have worsened the living and working conditions of the young, long-term unemployment rates have risen, and the young face increasing uncertainty and fear of the future.

If we don’t address this challenge, we risk of losing an entire generation in participating and contributing to this society. Social innovation can help solve this problem by creating an ecosystem capable of taking the time, the resources and applying new tools and methodologies to address this problem, from a co-participatory approach with the private sector, the academic community, public authorities and younger generations. This is key if we want to find a new entrepreneurial, social and political model that correctly addresses this problem in the near future.

In this sense, the UPV/EHU wanted to put this topic into the agenda of the Transformative Research Sessions which are being undertaken in the framework of the Social Innovation Community (SIC) project.

This session held in San Sebastian in December 2017 and was focused on the discussion of these problems with younger generations, practitioners and the research community in the Basque Country to find new possible and pragmatic solutions to these challenges from a transformative and socially innovative perspective.

The transformative research session was aligned with the policy challenges we are addressing through the Public Sector Innovation Network that we, as UPV/EHU, coordinate in the SIC project with the purpose of examining the role of research in this particular arena and how it can improve public policies. The session served as a perfect opportunity to create new spaces of interactive learning and engage in new networks with the local and regional communities that are working on this socioeconomic problem.

The transformative research session concentrated on trying to figure out some answer to some given questions such as: How can research and practice interact together to increase societal and scientific impact in the field of young unemployment and precarious work from a social innovation perspective? Or What are the barriers to innovation in public policy design to address young unemployment?

A summary of the conclusions and recommendations offered to tackle this challenge can be found in the following report.

Report: Transformative Research Session TRS2 report