SEMPRE promotes empowerment in social service provision in rural areas of the Baltic Sea Region (BSR). Social service providers such as welfare and public sector organisations, NGOs and social enterprises are encouraged and enabled to involve end-users – namely members of disadvantaged groups such as single parents, the elderly or migrants – in the development and delivery of social services.

Many rural areas of the BSR find themselves in a downward spiral, where outward migration and economic downturn lead to a deterioration of service infrastructure and quality of life and vice versa. Competences that are needed to renew services and stimulate social innovation and entrepreneurship are missing while regional disparities increase. Demographic changes and financial austerity further add to these challenges.

SEMPRE aims at improving the social service infrastructure by empowering end-users to participate in service design and delivery. Institutional capacity building of social service providers (public, private and third sector) is essential for this process in order to adapt work methods and instruments and successfully manage organisational change.

To this end, the SEMPRE partners will test empowerment approaches in the local context by initiating enduser-driven micro projects and developing their entrepreneurial competences. The lessons learned in this process are compiled in to an “Empowerment Handbook” that will guide social service provider staff in the practical application of end-user involvement. They will also develop training modules and methods to build the empowerment competence of social service provider staff and develop an “Organisational Roadmap for Empowerment” to inspire the leadership level of social service providers to rethink their role in the social economy. Lastly recommendations for policy makers will be derived from the project activities with a view on creating more favourable socioeconomic conditions in rural areas that include a reliable, affordable and accessible service infrastructure. Innovation in the social sector can create growth and job opportunities in the rural areas of the Baltic Sea Region and make them more attractive places to live and work in.

Nordregio’s role is to develop an ‘Empowerment Handbook’ based on the collection of good practice examples from project partners and assist the partnership in the compilation and dissemination of recommendations targeted at social service providers and policymakers.

SEMPRE is part-financed by the Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme 2014-2020 (European Regional Development Fund) of the European Union.