1/17/22 · Research

From self-confidence to empathy: interpersonal skills are key to social innovation in organizations

The UOC is taking part in a European project to promote changes in social innovation in companies and the public administration
Training to care for dependent elderly people has been one of the sectors studied
Some professional caregivers have difficulties gaining access to specialized training
For the European Union, social innovation consists of finding new ways of meeting social needs that are not adequately covered by the market or the public sector (photo: Headway / unsplash.com)

For the European Union, social innovation consists of finding new ways of meeting social needs that are not adequately covered by the market or the public sector (photo: Headway / unsplash.com)

In the +RESILIENT project, institutions from 14 European countries have joined forces to tackle the need for innovation that enhances the competitiveness of SMEs and to foster the development of new jobs, especially in the social economy. The Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) is participating in this European project through the researcher Lídia Arroyo, a member of the Gender and ICT research group (GenTIC), at the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3).

The project collects qualitative and quantitative information to drive changes in European regional policies for the integration of successful elements in the EU's new cohesion policy. +RESILIENT has identified the skills that ensure an inclusive intersectional perspective, and which are particularly relevant for the social economy.

This international research aims to help improve the policies and practices of emerging dynamics in social innovation, using open data and creating a socially responsive transnational value chain. In order to achieve their goal, the researchers study existing initiatives to adapt and test them, with the ultimate objective of capitalizing on them.

Social innovation needs interpersonal competencies

In order to identify the skills involved in the process of change, the study has analysed those considered hard skills, which are certified by specific qualifications, and soft skills, which are linked to values and attitudes required at the individual level. The project has also studied the factors in organizations needed to promote inclusive social and digital innovation. Overall, the study sample includes 366 participants from 11 regions and 7 countries in the EU.

Among the primary soft skills identified as necessary to promote digital social innovation, Arroyo emphasized interpersonal skills including empathy, handling relationships and social conflicts, teamwork and communication skills, as well as self-confidence in one's own abilities, a personal ethical commitment and the adaptability to work with people with different points of view and approaches.

As for the hard skills, the researcher highlighted the skills required to manage and analyse data and information appropriately in order to understand the social context and identify social needs. The findings of the study also highlight the importance of interdisciplinary skills and the need to combine perspectives and capacities from different sectors and fields of knowledge, i.e. socio-humanistic and technological perspectives.

For the European Union, social innovation consists of finding new ways of meeting social needs that are not adequately covered by the market or the public sector. This innovation must also foster the behavioural changes necessary to solve the major challenges facing society, training citizens and creating new relationships and collaboration models.

Social innovation was the primary objective of the 6th Transfer Webinar organized by the GenTIC research group at the UOC, within the framework of +RESILIENT, which aimed to transfer the knowledge generated by the project on topics such as the potential of digital tools to promote social innovation, how to support participation, engagement in social innovation processes, social innovation and tourism, and the lessons learnt on the role of public authorities in promoting social innovation and organizations with high levels of commitment and a capacity for a social response.

The researchers analysed the overall results of the European project in terms of their relationship to current debates on the future of work and the organizational factors needed to generate sustainable digital social innovation. "+RESILIENT has not only addressed the skills required for digital social innovation, but it's also explored how they can be mobilized," said the researcher.

The professional future of caring for dependent elderly people

Among other institutions participating in +RESILIENT, Barcelona Activa, Barcelona City Council's local development agency, presented conclusions from the sectors analysed, including care for dependent elderly people in the Catalan capital, studying the resources available for guidance and professional training. The project emphasizes social awareness, policies for improving the care work economy, the identification of partially known situations and future trends in the sector as key factors.

+RESILIENT shows that some professional caregivers have difficulties in gaining access to education and training. The team working on the project said that training that certifies and improves caregivers' skills is necessary, as well as a commitment to increasing the digital skills of workers in the healthcare sector.

Mediterranean Open Resources for Social Innovation of Socially Responsive Enterprises (+RESILIENT) is a project (number 3303) of the Interreg MED Programme, co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, which promotes open resources for social and digital innovation by socially responsible companies in the Mediterranean region, in particular by companies operating in the social economy.

This research contributes to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 8: Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all.



The UOC's research and innovation (R&I) is helping overcome pressing challenges faced by global societies in the 21st century, by studying interactions between technology and human & social sciences with a specific focus on the network society, e-learning and e-health.

Over 500 researchers and 52 research groups work among the University's seven faculties and two research centres: the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3) and the eHealth Center (eHC).

The University also cultivates online learning innovations at its eLearning Innovation Center (eLinC), as well as UOC community entrepreneurship and knowledge transfer via the Hubbik platform.

The United Nations' 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and open knowledge serve as strategic pillars for the UOC's teaching, research and innovation. More information: research.uoc.edu #UOC25years

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