Unlocking the potential of the social economy

Last week we participated in a conference organised by the Italian Presidency, ‘Unlocking the potential of the social economy for EU growth’. More than 190 speakers from 25 European countries – institutional representatives, social economy practitioners, stakeholders, policy-makers, scholars and experts – discussed the key issues affecting the development of the social economy in Europe.

Michel Mercadié, a member of Social Platform’s Management Committee, recalled some of the key messages we put forward last July on the occasion of the informal Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs (EPSCO) Council in Milan, where we were invited to contribute to the political discussions on social economy with EU Ministers for Employment and Social Affairs. He encouraged the European institutions and member states to continue the work launched with the Social Business Initiative (SBI) to support the recognition and development of social economy and social enterprises. The different competent DGs within the Commission (Employment, Markt, Enterprise) should continue working together and include other interested DGs (Research and Innovation, Regio, Education) to further promote the SBI. He also urged the new European Parliament to renew the Social Economy Intergroup. He added that the Commission and the Parliament should establish a forum for dialogue with representatives of social economy and member states, in order to fuel the political debate on social economy and exchange good practice.

He also emphasised the importance of clarifying the concepts of social economy and social enterprises, as there are too many different ways of interpreting them.

A concrete outcome of the conference was the so-called “Rome strategy” – a follow-up to the Strasbourg Declaration (January 2014) and the Milan Declaration (October 2014). The Rome strategy contains important recommendations:

  • To clearly identify the social economy interlocutors within the Commission (a clear political reference point among the Commissioners, a dedicated structure to social economy, an action plan for social economy), within the Parliament by renewing the Social Economy Intergroup, and within the Council by organising regular meetings with the Ministers competent for social economy.
  • In the context of the mid-term review of the Europe 2020 Strategy, to recognise the unique role and contribution of the social economy in attaining the objective of smart, inclusive and sustainable growth.
  • To devote a proportion of Commission President Juncker’s Investment Package to social investments involving social economy actors.
  • To improve the availability of funding options and financing solutions for the social economy.
  • To deepen exchange of information on the measurement of the social impact of social enterprises and social economy.
  • To increase the visibility of the social economy and strengthen managerial skills in the sector.
  • To respect women’s representation in the governance of social economy organisations.
  • To favour the process of innovation and experimentation.
  • To foster a culture of evaluation in the sector.