What is Red Social Innovation?

With the socio-economic models of the 20th century revealed as incapable of meeting the challenges of our times, health and climate crises are disrupting our social fabric and accentuating inequalities throughout the world. Since its creation in 1864, The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement – comprising 192 National Societies around the world – has always strived for a more humane and peaceful world; one in which the wellbeing and the aspirations of the most vulnerable people around the world are cared for and prioritised. 

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement promotes open innovation and local experimentation in order to maximize the social impact of its activities. It does so while taking into account the increasing complexity of accessing financial resources and in a constantly evolving environment.

RED Social Innovation is an international resource centre for social innovation supported by the French Red Cross and the Spanish Red Cross. Its goal is to test, scale and highlight social innovations created and developed within the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, or by other private or public actors.  

For many years, the French Red Cross, through 21, its social innovation Accelerator, and the Spanish Red Cross, through the TECSOS Foundation, have transformed their activities by exploring social and technological innovation. RED Social Innovation is an extension of this approach on an international scale.

The objectives of Red Social Innovation are as follows:

. Sharing good practice of social innovation and transformation within the Movement to withstand socio-economic change.

. Enabling the transfer of skills from innovative National Societies to those in need of support.

. Supporting open inclusive innovation by sharing methods, solutions and results.

. Creating synergies between associations and actors in the Social and Solidarity Economy and the private sector.

In order to achieve its objectives, RED Social Innovation is committed to :

. Publish articles presenting social innovation solutions that meet the innovation criteria established by the French and Spanish Red Cross. These articles are translated into three languages (French, Spanish and English);

. Send a monthly newsletter offering a selection of the best publications from the site. Subscribers can personalize the newsletter they receive by indicating the subjects that interest them most when they subscribe;

. Publish an annual report listing the most innovative solutions tested and developed within the Movement.

What is social innovation?

Social Innovation comprises all solutions created to meet new or unmet needs. It brings effective solutions to complex issues that cannot be tackled by the State or by the market. Up to the 1970s the concept of “social innovation” was closely associated with the development of new technologies. Since then its definition has evolved and it now refers to “acting differently” to serve the common good. 

All actors in society can be involved in social innovation, including the voluntary sector. By imagining new socio-economic models, creating new uses for technology or transforming the way we work, social innovation allows us to act in the most appropriate and efficient way possible to tackle all forms of vulnerability.

The selection criteria

 The innovative aspect of a solution from an organisational standpoint will be evaluated by the French Red Cross and 21 based on the following four criteria : 

1. Addressing social or organisational needs | The solution effectively contributes to meeting a social need or organisational challenge faced by one or more National Societies.

2. Adding value | The solution provides a new response to a social or organisational need. 

3. Social Impact | The solution has obtained conclusive results in its first pilots or its potential impact is promising.    

4. Strategic interest for the Movement | The solution helps to improve the impact of one or several National Societies of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. 

The innovative aspect of a solution from a technological standpoint will be evaluated by the Spanish Red Cross and TECSOS Foundation based on the four following criteria :

1. Addressing a social challenge | The project responds through the appropriate use of technology, to a real social challenge for society in general, impacting the quality of life of people

2. Applied technological innovation | The solution can be a new technological development, a combination of several or it is applied in an ingenious way depending on the groups it is aimed at.

3. Accessibility | The solution is accessible to as many people as possible, regardless of their culture, age, socioeconomic status or the degree of disability they present.

4. Viability | The project is based on an effective, replicable and scalable technological solution, with the possibility of transferring other areas, vulnerable groups or National Societies.

The governance

Executive Board | The RED Social Innovation Executive Board is composed of four entities : French Red Cross, Spanish Red Cross, TECSOS Foundation and 21, the Accelerator of Social Innovation of the French Red Cross.

French Red Cross | The French Red Cross is a recognized public utility organization which prevents and alleviates all human suffering without any discrimination since more than 150 years. With its history, its roots in all the departments of Metropolitan France and overseas, its involvement in the largest humanitarian and social movement in the world, it is the leading social organization in France. The Association relies daily on the commitment of 59,000 volunteers in 1,000 local units and 17,000 employees working in 664 health, social and medico-social and training establishments.

The French Red Cross operates mainly in the following areas: training in health, social and medico-social professions, social action, international action, emergency relief, and first aid operations.

Spanish Red Cross | The Spanish Red Cross is a humanitarian organization member of the International Movement of National Societies of the Red Cross and Red Crescent and one of the largest civil society entities in Spain. As a volunteer-based humanitarian organization and strongly rooted in society, Spanish Red Cross provides comprehensive responses to vulnerable groups from a human and community development perspective, reinforcing their individual capacities in their social context.

The organization consists of professionals and volunteers geographically distributed through 665 local delegations, covering different contexts (both urban and rural). The entity’s programs and activities are aimed at vulnerable groups in society including the elderly, immigrants and refugees, children in social difficulty, victims of gender violence, and unemployed. Spanish Red Cross’ missions are organized under  Knowledge Areas, the main ones being: relief, social inclusion, employment, health, and environmental education. This is made possible by the support of 231,053 volunteers and 13,342 multidisciplinary professionals: social workers, doctors, psychologists, therapists, nurses, psychologists, engineers, etc.

In 2019, 2,849,827 people have received assistance through the Spanish Red Cross services, and 11,589,787 have benefitted from national, international and awareness programs. The Spanish Red Cross’s mission is to become increasingly close to vulnerable groups through integrated actions, carried out essentially by volunteers and with broad social participation and territorial presence in both the national and international domain. 

21, Social Innovation Accelerator of the French Red Cross | 21 is a 1000m² space dedicated to social innovation located at the French Red Cross headquarters in Montrouge, Paris. Composed of a coworking space and a digital studio, 21 runs a set of support programs for projects with social impact.

TECSOS Foundation | The Social Technologies Foundation, TECSOS, is a non-profit foundation created in 2002 through the joint promotion of the Spanish Red Cross and the Vodafone Spain Foundation. In the TECSOS Foundation, the social experience and technological excellence of each of the entities come together with the aim of addressing social needs. TECSOS relies on technological innovation and Information & Communication Technologies to respond to social needs in a responsible manner, contributing to skill development and paying special attention to the most vulnerable.

The partners

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent, the Solferino Academy, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), Ashoka and the Stanford Social Innovation Review.


Giulio Zucchini
Chief of International Innovation of the French Red Cross

Ana Peñalver Blanco
Project Management at Fundación de Tecnologías Sociales – TECSOS Spanish Red Cross and Spanish Vodafone Foundation

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