Social Economy and Entrepreneurship

6 hands holding a small plant in soil

Social Economy actors are economic and social players (associations, cooperatives, foundations and mutuals) active in all sectors of society to respond to people’s needs. They are characterized by a different way of doing business: a form of entrepreneurship which is driven by the general interest or by a social objective rather than by economic performance and which embodies the principles of solidarity and social justice, with a strong element of participation, co-decision (staff, users, members) and democratic governance.

Some social economy organisations (the so-called Work Integration Social Enterprises – WISE) work for the social inclusion and integration into the labour market of people who face discrimination or are at risk of social exclusion (e.g. a cooperative managed by migrant women active in clothes design and combining fair trade with indigenous design). Others provide services of general interest, including in the social and health sector (e.g. childcare facilities, day-centres for older people, social housing for the homeless).

Social enterprises include some social economy organisations and others legal forms that have a primary social objective, reinvest profits to achieve social objectives, and are run in a democratic, transparent and participatory way.

There is growing attention towards social economy and social enterprises by the EU as an inclusive and sustainable form of entrepreneurship which have proved in recent years to be more resilient to the economic crisis compared to traditional businesses: one of the reasons is that their activities by their very nature are usually locally rooted.

We fully support the initiatives aimed at promoting and developing social economy and social enterprises across Europe. However, we warn about the danger that member states could disengage themselves from their public tasks, as well as from the provision and funding of public services, in particular in the social and health sector. Therefore, we work to ensure that an adequate legal and financial framework is in place to support the development of social economy and social enterprises.