To boost social enterprise, 16 EU countries have adopted new legislation during the past decade and 11 countries have created explicit policies to support its development, according to a new synthesis report 'Social enterprises and their ecosystems in Europe'.
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Social enterprises, being part of the social economy, are a dynamic element of the European economic landscape. They
- create jobs,
- innovate in welfare provision,
- provide opportunities to participate in economic life and
- help demographic, green and digital transitions, without leaving anybody behind.
The number of social enterprises in Europe is growing and their business models and fields of activities are getting more diverse. This is a result of both bottom-up developments as well as of policy measures and programmes initiated by governments. In many countries, the European Social Fund has been crucial in boosting the development.
The report highlights that public support measures need to reflect the diversity of social enterprises and their needs. For example, social enterprises focusing on work integration need long lasting partnerships with public authorities, while those using new technologies to boost sustainable consumption might lack patient risk capital, whereas non-profit organisations engaging in commercial activities need support to develop their business plans and skills.
Country reports and a European synthesis
The new European level synthesis report collates and interprets the key findings from 35 country reports. It provides an overall picture of different traditions, salient trends and key challenges across Europe.
The separate country reports provide key data on social enterprises and their eco-systems in 28 EU countries as well as in Albania, Iceland, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Norway, Serbia and Turkey.
The reports place social enterprises in their societal and economic context, explaining their relation to different welfare state traditions in Europe. An important finding is that specific legal frameworks are effective in supporting social enterprise development, whenever they recognise and support their full spectrum and potential. Too narrow legal frameworks on the other hand limit the development and visibility of this segment of economy.
The research was coordinated by the EURICSE research centre and the EMES network and involved more than 70 individual academics and the institutions they represent. Altogether, the findings are backed by critical insights from more than 750 individuals engaged in this field.
The study was financed under the EU programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI), and they are feeding into the preparatory work for the forthcoming Action Plan on the Social Economy, which the European Commission plans to present during the year 2021.