Cohesion Policy meets Social Enterprises
This session reached out to a wide variety of development practitioners and stakeholders of the social economy, both Brussels-based as well as active in over 25 European cities and regions. The event allowed to exchange and transfer knowledge on social economy. The purpose is to support actors of the quadruple helix to combine the economic and social dimensions of (economic) development in a more coherent way.
Concretely participating organisations and institutions discussed and learnt about: i) ecosystem for social innovation; ii) financing structures and tools; iii) market access and internationalisation and iv) skills and competences development.
The social enterprise landscape in Europe and the existing support mechanisms were explained and discussed by speakers from EASME, institutions supporting entrepreneurship and policy makers. Social entrepreneurs from various EU regions presented their businesses. We learnt for example how La Città Verde Social Cooperative from Emilia-Romagna created jobs for disadvantaged individuals by tackling an environmental issue at the same time: waste management. Futhermore, we were happily surprised to hear that Barcelona is one of 5 cities worldwide that can call itself a "Social Business City", while Kainuu is tackling the issue of Finlands's fastest ageing population by actively re-attracting former inhabitants of the region.
Chairwoman Roberta Dall'Olio summarised the main learnings of each session with the help of the moderators. It was mentioned that relying on grants is not a way to go if a social business is to survive in the long run. On the other hand, loans and other innovative financial instruments are still needed, especially since 450 billion € is the estimate of the market for social enterprises in the future. Another speaker highlighted that when social enterprises go abroad, they need to adapt to different cultural norms. It's very important to balance this with the core values of the social business concerned. Upskilling is also a vital aspect for a social business. Futhermore, citizens involvement is crucial and we need to be more inclusive: disabled, disadvantaged, young, old, refugees, migrants...all have a role to play for the future of Europe and its social businesses.
Take away message
There is a clear need for people working on social innovation, social business and social entrepreneurship, to emphasize and explain the benefits of social businesses to the citizens of different EU regions, because many people do not clearly undertand it yet. By doing so, one main obstacle to social innovation would be overcome and the market development for social enterprises could be become better supported.
Lorenza Badiello: "Cohesion Policy and social innovation are cross-cutting topics relevant for ALL Europeans, both at local and regional level."