Policies for social entrepreneurship.
Social enterprises contribute to addressing today’s key social challenges – including poverty, social exclusion and unemployment – as well as overcoming gaps in general-interest service delivery. They also promote sustainable development and new ways of doing business, drawing on local assets and supporting job creation while generating tax revenues and triggering more efficient government spending.
Social enterprise definition and development dynamics across European Union (EU) Member States No agreed definition exists at the international level (1) of what constitutes a social enterprise. However, a gradual convergence of understanding has occurred in Europe as a result of intensive research by a growing number of scholars and the adoption of numerous laws specific to this type of enterprise in different countries.
At the European level, the definition of a social enterprise is built along three dimensions (2):
• an entrepreneurial dimension (with earned income generated by the sale of goods/services on the market, including through public contracting);
• a social dimension (the pursuit of an explicit social aim and delivery of products/services with a social connotation);
• a governance dimension (accountability, participation and transparency).
The degree of development of social enterprises varies significantly across EU Member States. In some countries (e.g. Italy, France and the United Kingdom), social enterprises are well integrated in both the welfare system and market.
These countries are endowed with a fully enabling policy framework that acknowledges the different domains where social enterprises are likely to emerge and adequately recognises their social added value. From a systemic perspective, they also are distinguished by the mature stage of development of social enterprises. Other countries (e.g. Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Romania and Slovenia) are still at an early stage of development, where social enterprises are often invisible and rather isolated.
The different levels of understanding and maturity of the enabling ecosystem have a direct impact on the level of support policy makers are likely to provide to help social enterprises scale their impact.