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October 5, 2015

Q&A: Right to Challenge

Q&A: Right to Challenge

During their work, social innovators and stakeholders run into situations in which experiences and inspiration from other can be very useful. SEiSMiC helps by connecting questions and answers through the network. The first Q&A is about the right to challenge.

Katia Scholder works on the implementation of the right to challenge (RTC) in the Dutch city of Utrecht. During the implementation, she ran into some fundamental questions on which she asks the international SEiSMiC network to share experiences and share some reflections and inspiration:

  1. How do we deal with quality and continuity standards of activities outsourced under the RTC? Do we set the same standards as for commercial contractors? If not, what differences are realistic? And who is to blame when things go wrong?
  2. What are the needs of social innovators and stakeholders working with the RTC, other than the budget? What facilities, assistance or knowledge are needed to make the RTC effective?
  3. How can local governments make the wisest choices? By giving every neighbourhood an equal opportunity to subscribe to the RTC or by choosing the best ideas? Who chooses then? And do we accept exclusion from neighbourhoods where there are fewer social innovators joining the RTC?


The Dutch National SEiSMIC Network provided Katia with the following answers to her questions (additional input from readers is welcome, and should be send to

  1. (Local) governments often fear that social enterprises or communities cannot live up to the quality standards asked for. But one has to realise that even private companies that have agreed to these standards often fail to meet them. The same argument can be used in the case of (financial) continuity; too often commercial service providers exceed budgets, whether it involves building infrastructure or providing some sort of care. A solution can be to go for a realistic but rough business case, while putting some trust in the social enterprise and then monitoring performance from both a quantitative and qualitative point of view. Another monitoring tool that can be used is reputation management. Let people post reviews on the website of the social entrepreneur who has won the challenge and accept those reviews as supplementary feedback.
  2. One of the main needs of social innovators is visibility and being taken seriously by local governments and other stakeholders challenging specific tasks. These governments and stakeholders usually work with partners from their own established networks. The challenge is to find ‘fresh blood’ and for this to happen, social innovators have to make themselves noticed.
    This can be done using different platforms. A local authority shouldn’t only use the regular channels to announce a right to challenge but also try, for example, so-called “street ambassadors”. These ambassadors (who are paid) work in the Dutch city of Amersfoort and bring together people, knowledge and ideas while literally going from door to door visiting with people and learning about their ideas and competences. In this way, the ambassador can play an important role in connecting potential social entrepreneurs to the right to challenge.
    By contrast, community organisers in the UK only do their job for a year and visit already existing, known initiatives.
    Social innovators also benefit from easy, open access to information on, for example, ownership and financial information or (conflicting) legislation. Larger organisations have the staff and money to access this information while local initiatives and social innovators don’t.
  3. The question of how and who does the choosing, was not really answered by the Dutch National Network.

Join the conversation!
If you have some answers for Katia’s questions about the right to challenge, or if you have your own questions to put to the SEiSMiC network, send them to: