The ESF is actively supporting the establishment of social enterprises as a source of jobs, in particular for groups of people who find it difficult to get work for a variety of reasons. These include young long-term unemployed, disabled people and people in rural communities.
As organisations, social enterprises sit between the public and private sectors. While they operate on a commercial basis, their primary purpose is to serve their communities in one or several ways. This includes the creation of job opportunities for people who otherwise might remain unemployed. An example is a second-hand clothes shop set up in a town. It employs disabled people to collect, sort, clean and resell second-hand clothes. Another example is a company established in a rural region which trains women in the skills local businesses need, or helps them set up as self-employed workers to serve the tourism sector, or the sale of local farm products. There are many variations of social enterprise and they can be quite innovative in their approaches.
The ESF supports a wide range of such social enterprises addressing groups facing particular obstacles to work: such as disabled people, those with mental health problems, ex-offenders, marginalised communities and numerous others.
This support takes many forms. It can involve management training for those who will run the enterprises, offering skills in human resources, employment law, health and safety, and so on. Or it can include the specific technical skills an enterprise needs: knowledge of the tourist trade, sales and marketing skills, or skills and know-how in advising local start-up companies. The ESF also supports social enterprises in finding financial support for their activities, and in ensuring these are sustainable for the long term.