In EU Policy


Year: 2020
Published in: EUPublications
Cited as: European Commission (2020) Social enterprises and their ecosystems in Europe. Comparative synthesis report. Authors: Carlo Borzaga, Giulia Galera, Barbara Franchini, Stefania Chiomento, Rocío Nogales and Chiara Carini. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union. Available at!Qq64ny


The understanding of the current size, scope and state of social enterprises in Europe lags behind their proliferation and the rising interest they generate among policymakers, researchers and practitioners. Aware of this gap, the European Commission launched two mapping studies as follow-ups to its 2011 communication on the Social Business Initiative (SBI). The first study was conducted in 2014 and mapped social enterprise activity and ecosystems in 29 countries using a common definition and approach. Following this initial effort, an update was launched in seven selected countries in 2016, until a complete update of the 28 Member States plus seven neighbouring countries participating in the Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI) Programme was carried out in 2018-2020. The resulting updated mapping study covers (i) the historical background and conditions of the emergence of social enterprises; (ii) the evolution of the concept and the existing national policy and legal framework for social enterprise; (iii) the scale and characteristics of social enterprise activity; (iv) networks and mutual support mechanisms; v) research, education and skills development; and (vi) the resources available to social enterprises. The study also provides insights on the factors constraining the development of social enterprise, a reflection on the debate currently at play in national contexts, and an overview of possible developmental trends. A stakeholders’ engagement strategy aimed at capturing insights and analysis stemming from various agents within the ecosystem was carried out as well as an indepth review of academic and grey literature and national policy documents regarding social enterprise. A specific comparative effort is reflected in the present synthesis report, which goes beyond the observation of social enterprise in each country to identify transnational trends with a view to generating solid knowledge to inform EU, national and local policies and social enterprises to stimulate mutual learning and to inspire common agendas.