Supporting entrepreneurs and the self-employed - Social entrepreneurship A social enterprise combines entrepreneurial activity with a social purpose. Its main aim is to have a social impact, rather than maximise profit for owners or shareholders. Businesses providing social services and/or goods and services to vulnerable persons are a typical example of social enterprise. Challenges and policy responses Access to finance Access to finance is one of the main obstacles to the growth of social enterprises, as identified in the Social Business Initiative (SBI) adopted by the Commission in 2011. Therefore, the Commission: helps social enterprises access investments of up to EUR 500,000 via public and private investors at national and regional level, as part of the EU Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI). supports social enterprises through pilot equity investments under the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) Equity instrument, namely via funds linked to incubators/accelerators and co-investments with social Business Angels. complements equity investments with grants aimed at covering part of the transaction costs of intermediaries. The grant serves as an incentive for making investments of below EUR 500,000 in social enterprises. A call for proposals was launched in 2017. co-funds projects focussing on boosting the development of the demand and supply side of social finance markets in Europe: 21 pilot projects were selected under a call for proposals in 2013 and further 20 projects were selected under a call for proposals in 2016. The projects journey and experience served as basis for developing a practical guide on designing and implementing initiatives to develop social finance instruments and markets entitled A recipe book for social finance. The Commission also supports social enterprise via the European Social Fund. Measuring the social impact Social enterprises aim to make a positive impact on society. One of their challenges is to make this impact visible and tangible and to measure it. There are plenty of measuring tools available, but the approaches are diverse and comparability is compromised. Therefore the Commission's expert group on social entrepreneurship (GECES) produced a report proposing key principles to be followed when measuring social impact: Proposed Approaches to Social Impact Measurement Mapping social enterprises in the EU The characteristics of social enterprises differ a lot from country to country concerning their number, size, legal forms and fields of activities. To create a clearer picture, the Commission has carried out a series of studies, mapping the reality of social enterprises in the 35 European countries using a common definition and approach. The separate country reports provide key data on social enterprises and their eco-systems, including factors constraining their development, in 28 EU countries, as well as in Albania, Iceland, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Norway, Serbia and Turkey. The EU level synthesis report collates and interprets the key findings from the separate country reports and draws a European picture of social enterprises and the environments in which they operate, the “ecosystems”. The report brings together a comprehensive picture of different country traditions, salient trends and key challenges across Europe. European level synthesis report: Social Enterprises and their Ecosystems in Europe Executive summary in English, French, and German Country reports Towards an enabling ecosystem The Social Business Initiative invites EU countries to develop an environment which enables social enterprises to start and develop. In cooperation with the OECD, the Commission has published policy briefs, a compendium of good practices and in-depth country reviews, with policy pointers for those engaged in improving their national policy environments: Policy brief on Social Entrepreneurship Policy brief on Social Impact Measurement Policy brief on Scaling the Impact of Social Enterprises Compendium of good practices Country review: Croatia Country review: Czech Republic Country review: Estonia Country review: Netherlands Country review: Lithuania Policy paper: Regional Strategies for the Social Economy The European Commission and the OECD have also jointly developed a Better entrepreneurship policy tool, which can act as a catalyst to improve entrepreneurship policies in a city, region or EU country. The tool covers the policies supporting entrepreneurship by people from vulnerable groups, as well as social entrepreneurship.