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Social Economy Europe: The future of the EU policies for the Social Economy: towards a European Action Plan

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Social Economy Europe produced recently a document on “The future of the EU policies for the Social Economy: towards a European ActionPlan“. This document defines a series of axes and actions that may serve as a basis for elaborating a European Action Plan for the social economy. The proposals included in this document take into account the very important work that has been carried out by all EU institutions and particularly by the European Commission in recent years to support the development of the social economy. Furthermore, these proposals are the result of a consultation process in which all Social Economy Europe members have actively participated.

What Social Economy can bring to the European Union

The Council of the European Union defined the social economy as a key driver of economic and social development in Europe. According to the European Economic and Social Committee’ study on the Recent evolutions of the Social Economy in the European Union there are 2.8 million social economy enterprises and organisations in the European Union, that employ 13.6 million people and represent 8% of the EU’s GDP. Therefore, the social economy is a crucial part of the EU socio-economic landscape. The social economy refers to a wide diversity of enterprises and organisations -cooperatives, mutuals, associations, foundations, social enterprises, paritarian institutions of social protection etc.- that share common values and features such as the primacy of the individual and the social objective over capital, a democratic governance, and the reinvestment of most of the profits/ surpluses to carry out sustainable development objectives, services of interest to members or of general interest.

The social economy is formed by enterprises and organisations of all sizes -ranging from SMEs to large companies and groups- that operate in all the economic sectors such as: industry, education, healthcare and social services of general interest, agri-food, ethical and cooperative banking, insurance, renewable energy, re-use and recycling, retail and consumption; housing, tourism, culture and leisure, building, professional services, digital economy, etc. Because of its strong social commitment, the social economy offers innovative solutions to the main economic, social and environmental challenges of our time.

In short, the social economy is an enterprise model for the future of Europe that, thanks to its defining values and principles, contributes to several key objectives of the EU.

The social economy is “a European success story” that has increasingly gained political visibility as a sector that constitutes an important pillar notably in terms of employment and social cohesion across Europe and as key actor for the achievement of the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, setting up the sustainable development goals. In this sense, the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union, the European Economic and Social Committee, Member States, the Commission Expert Group on Social Entrepreneurship and social economy representative organisations have consistently called for the development of an ambitious European policy for the social economy with adequate resources proportionate to its socio-economic weight in the European Union.

In 2016, the European Commission adopted the Start-up and Scale-up Initiative containing a section on social economy and social enterprises. On that basis, the Commission has set up and implemented (in 2017 and 2018) a series of actions for the social economy and social enterprises, structured in five pillars:

1. Access to funding;

2. Access to markets;

3. Improving framework conditions;

4. Social innovation, technologies and new business models;

5. International dimension

However, the implementation of these important actions will come to an end in 2018. In this context, social economy representative organisations, led by Social Economy Europe; the European Parliament’s Social Economy Intergroup, the European Economic and Social Committee and an important number of Member States are calling on the European Commission to take a step forward towards a European Action Plan for the social economy. This Action Plan shall serve to boost the visibility of social economy enterprises and organisations; support them to generate social and technological innovations; improve their access to finance and EU funding; remove the legal obstacles impeding their ability to grow and operate in the Single Market on an equal footing with other types of companies; as well as inspiring public authorities from the EU and its neighbouring countries to promote the growth of the social economy as a driver of economic and social progress for all.

Furthermore, this Action Plan should also serve to boost the uptake of new technologies in social economy enterprises and organisations. Digitalisation, blockchain, big data and artificial intelligence, among other emerging technologies, represent an enormous opportunity for the growth of social economy companies and for the creation of social economy start-ups in Europe. By adapting to this technological revolution, social economy enterprises will bring their values of solidarity, democracy and sustainability to the new economy.

A European Action Plan for the social economy, with a proposed duration of 5 years (2020-2025), shall be a key tool to systematically incorporate the social economy into the different socio-economic policies of the European Union, as well as into its actions to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

The objectives of this proposal for an Action Plan are the following:

Objective 1 Recognise the social economy as a transversal actor in the main socioeconomic policies of the European Union: Social economy enterprises and organisations operate in all the economic sectors and represent an important part of the European economic and corporate landscape (more than 10% of all EU business), demonstrating that the diversity of enterprise models enhances the competitiveness of our economies. Therefore, the social economy should be taken into account by the European institutions, Member States and all public authorities in the design of their socio-economic policies.

Objective 2 Promote the convergence and coordination of the different public authorities involved in the promotion of the social economy by defining strategic objectives and benchmarks at EU level: Various administrations at local, regional, national and EU level are directly involved in the regulation and promotion of the social economy. Therefore, it would be important to set-up a European policy framework for the social economy to enhance the coherence, complementarity and coordination of the different policies and regulations, remaining respectful of the principle of subsidiarity.

Objective 3 Foster a conducive ecosystem for the growth of the social economy in Europe, improving its contribution to key EU objectives and allowing social economy enterprises to take full advantage of the single market and of EU funds and financial instruments: The social economy has been one of the drivers of European integration, offering innovative solutions to address evolving socio-economic challenges. The EU institutions should initiate appropriate actions to foster the development of the social economy and to unlock all its potential for a smart, sustainable and inclusive growth at the service of European citizens.

In line with these three objectives, this policy proposal includes 20 policy measures and 64 actions structured in 7 pillars:

1. Establish a common understanding of social economy enterprises and organisations in Europe

2. Improve the visibility of social economy enterprises and organisations and of their values and characteristics

3. Measure and further document the weight of the social economy and its effective contribution to the socio-economic development of the European Union

4. Provide in the framework of the European Single Market a conducive ecosystem for the growth of social economy enterprises and organisations, supporting them to access to finance and scale up, and by establishing the necessary legal framework, allowing them to fully operate trans-nationally in the Single Market.

5. Further integrate the social economy in EU funds and programmes, such as the ERDF, ESF Plus and the cohesion funds

6. Foster the role of the social economy in the external action of the European Union

7. Consolidate and strengthen a permanent and structured dialogue between EU institutions and the Social Economy

About Social Economy Europe

Social Economy Europe (SEE) was created in November 2000 under the name of CEP-CMAF -the European Standing Conference of Cooperatives, Mutuals, Associations and Foundationswith the purpose of establishing a permanent dialogue between the social economy and the European Institutions. In 2008, CEP-CMAF changed its name and officially became the “Social Economy Europe”.

SEE members are the European organisations of mutual and cooperative insurers, non-profit healthcare players, health mutuals and health insurance funds; industrial and service cooperatives; foundations, associations of general interest, work integration social enterprises, paritarian institutions of social protection, ethical banks and financiers, and the European Cities and Regions for the social economy.

At national level, SEE represents the national social economy organisations of France (ESS-France), Italy (National Third Sector Forum), Portugal (CASES), Spain (CEPES) and Belgium (ConcertES). Social Economy Europe’s mission is to:

– Represent the interests of the social economy in the European Union so that the main EU policies promote and take into consideration this enterprise model;

– Promote the dialogue and the inter-cooperation between its members and develop new services of common interest;

– Boost the visibility of the economic and social impact of the social economy and of the values and principles that define this virtuous enterprise model;

– Support the Member States and the national organizations aiming to promote the development of the social economy.

SEE believes in a European Union that is determined to promote economic and social progress of its Member States, and that acknowledges its key role as global social economy leader. SEE believes in:

– A diverse economy at the service of people.

– A democratic, sustainable and inclusive economy, strongly committed to society;

– A more favourable ecosystem for the development of the European social economy, that will keep offering innovative solutions in response to societal demands.

– The social economy’s active participation in the development and implementation of the main socio-economic policies of the European Union.

Energy poverty in Greece; Social innovation proposals to tackle the phenomenon

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We would like to inform you of the publication of the study “Energy poverty in Greece; Social innovation proposals to tackle the phenomenon” which was concluded by the Heinrich Βöll Foundation Greece in collaboration with ΙΝΖΕΒ – Institute of Zero Energy Buildings and the social cooperative Wind of Renewal.

In this study, the factors comprising the multi-faceted problem of energy poverty are being introduced as well as its social, economic and environmental consequences. Policies and good examples for dealing with the phenomenon from various European countries are being presented. Also, we are putting forward a series of proposals to tackle the problem in Greece. More specifically, these proposals demonstrate the need for a holistic approach of green, social innovation that, in conjunction with the adequate documentation of the phenomenon, can provide viable solutions, with respect to the current circumstances of Greece. The proposals focus in four main areas: changes in policy, information and education, increase of the energy efficiency of buildings and the use of renewable energy sources.

You may find the executive summary of the study on energy poverty in pdf format, which is available in English here. The whole study is also available in Greek here.

Social enterprises and the social economy going forward

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Social enterprises and the social economy going forward

A call for action from the Commission Expert Group on Social Entrepreneurship (GECES)

This report of the Commission Expert Group on Social Entrepreneurship (GECES) represents a call for action issued to the European Commission, Member States and social enterprises organisations. It argues for a European Action Plan for the Social Economy and Social Enterprises, which would provide new impetus to promote an enabling environment for social enterprises and the social economy to flourish, building on their core values such as democratic governance, social impact, innovation, profit reinvestment or the central place given to the human in the economy. Thus enabled, social enterprises and the social economy will have an even greater impact in addressing the challenges highlighted above and help to create a more socially equitable society in Europe. In accordance with the mandate given to GECES, the recommendations mainly focus on social enterprises. However in many cases, recommendations are relevant to social economy organisations more broadly. The report proposes a series of key recommendations for policy-makers to support the development of social enterprises and the social economy as a driver of inclusive and impactful economic growth. The report is structured according to four key thematic areas.

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Towards increased visibility, recognition and identity

Recommendation 1:  The European Commission, the Member States and social enterprise organisations shall gather stronger evidence on social enterprises’ added value and communicate it better. Actions should encompass:

  • Collecting systematic data and prioritising research on the economic and social importance, including the employment potential, as well as the dynamics of social enterprises (Member States, Commission);
  • Co-creating an EU-wide communication strategy (Commission together with the Member States and social enterprise organisations);
  • Sharing of know-how and tools on social added value, including tools on social impact management (Commission, the Member States, social enterprise organisations);
  • Building better capacity to report on the social value generated (social enterprise organisations).

Recommendation 2: The European Commission, the Member States, regional and local authorities, and social enterprise organisations should nurture a more assertive and coordinated social enterprise community. Actions should encompass:

  • Forging legitimate, diverse and inclusive representative networks that enable synergies, mutual learning and coordination (social enterprise organisations);
  • Supporting the representation of the social enterprise community at the EU level (Commission together with social enterprise organisations and the Member States);
  • Promoting a culture of policy co-creation with social enterprises and their representative organisations (Member States).

Recommendation 3: The European Commission and Member States, as well as their local and regional authorities, should mainstream the social enterprise dimension in relevant policies, programmes and practices. They should consult with and engage social enterprises as much as possible in the creation of new policies and actions. Social enterprise organisations should actively promote and use these opportunities. Actions should encompass:

  • Including social enterprises as eligible entities in all relevant European funding programmes and adding social enterprise dimensions in the implementation and follow up of EU-wide policy initiatives (European Commission);
  • Promoting the participation of social enterprises in relevant European mobility schemes (European Commission);
  • Promoting mutual learning and capacity building between regional/local authorities so as to develop integrated strategies supporting social enterprises (European Commission and Member States);
  • Applying social criteria to public procurement processes (European Commission);
  • Including social enterprise related topics in curricula from primary to university level and promoting career opportunities in social enterprises by public employment services and career guidance services (Member States and local and regional authorities);
  • Promoting mutual knowledge sharing and business relations between traditional business and social enterprises (European Commission, Member States, social enterprises).

Improving access to funding

Recommendation 4: The European Commission and Member States should provide increased resources to training programmes, incubators and intermediaries that provide tailored capacity building support to social enterprises, required to build their managerial skills and to encourage their financial sustainability. Actions should encompass:

  • Strengthening European-wide support for networks/platforms that connect individuals (including consultants and pro-bono experts) with social enterprises needing capacity building, and awards schemes for social enterprises (Commission);
  • Setting up a pan-European investment and capacity building funding programme to help social enterprises reach investment readiness by financing capacity building support from selected service providers (Commission);
  • Financing specialised social enterprise incubators/accelerators and intermediaries that offer training and capacity building to social enterprises (Member States);
  • Using ESIF to fund capacity building activities at MS level (Member States).

Recommendation 5: The European Commission, the Member States and organisations from the social enterprise funding community should implement concrete measures to unlock and attract more funding that is better suited to social enterprises. Actions should encompass:

  • Promotion, training, guidance and awareness building among the broader funding community (private and public) about how to finance social enterprises (organisations from the social enterprise funding community to collect best practices and Commission to disseminate);
  • Building capacity within the “impact community” that understands and actively finances social enterprises, to enable social economy-based financial intermediaries to meet the needs of social enterprises;
  • Enhancing the suitability criteria of investment in social enterprise, thereby increasing the flow of funds into social enterprise (Commission and Member States);
  • Removing or alleviating regulatory hurdles faced by private funders of social enterprise and social enterprises themselves (Commission);
  • Mapping existing, diverse tax incentives associated with the funding of social enterprise, to disseminate best practice (Commission and Member States).

Recommendation 6: The European Commission and the Member States should continue to direct public funding to social enterprise and to use public funding to mobilise private capital, through investment in and de-risking of social enterprise funders, as well as by putting proper governance structures in place. Actions should encompass:

  • Enabling public financial instruments (e.g. EaSI, EFSI, InnovFin under Horizon 2020, COSME and other instruments under development) to enhance funding volumes and raise the quality of social enterprise funding (Commission) and to invest in social enterprise and specialised intermediaries (Member States);
  • Programming the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) to improve service provision and investment in high-quality social infrastructure. ESIF should have a transformative role and should be used to complement – not replace – Member States’ national budgets (Commission and Member States);
  • Recommend to Member States to promote social investment namely through public funding in a coordinated, holistic manner in the areas of social, health and education services;
  • Developing complementarities between public and private funding of social enterprise through the use of hybrid instruments (Commission and Member States);
  • Representing key stakeholders from the social enterprise ecosystem in the governance of schemes supported by public funding, such as EFSI, and mainstreaming the use of impact measurement (Commission).

Improving the legal environment

Recommendation 7: The Commission should propose a soft legal measure which could help Member States design an adequate framework to support the flourishing and expansion of social enterprises. Actions should encompass:

  • Preparing a legal recommendation, in the sense of the Treaties, that lays down minimum principles to encourage and support Member States in establishing a dedicated national framework to develop social enterprises (Commission);
  • Monitoring social enterprise policies in the Commission’s exercise on the European Semester, in order to follow the implementation of the above legal recommendation (Commission).

Recommendation 8: The Commission and the Member States should stimulate cross-border operations for mutuals and cooperatives to enable them to use the full potential of the Internal Market in order to expand their activities. Actions should encompass:

  • Financially supporting cross-border operations via programmes such as INTERREG (Commission);
  • Collecting best practices regarding incentives to stimulate their growth in the Internal Market and widely diffusing them (Commission and Member States).

Recommendation 9: Public buyers should make the best use of the new public procurement rules and insert social considerations, including reserved contracts for the social and professional integration of disabled and disadvantaged persons (art. 20) as well as health, social and cultural services (art.77), in their tendering procedures. Actions should include:

  • Updating the Commission’s “Buying Social” guide published in 2011 and monitoring best practices (Commission);
  • Developing dedicated capacity building programmes and communication campaigns (Commission and Member States);
  • Conducting/developing specific training for European civil servants, to take social aspects into consideration when drafting tendering specifications (Commission);
  • Creating networks to stimulate the commitment of various stakeholders in this process (Member States, contracting authorities, social enterprise organisations).

Recommendation 10: The Commission and the Member States should increase awareness of state aid rules and their impact on social enterprises providing an SGEI. Actions should encompass:

  • Preparing or, where appropriate, updating guidelines, especially the guide to the application of EU rules regarding services of general economic interest from 2013 (Commission and Member States);
  • Launching further training on how to apply state aid rules (Commission and Member States).

Driving international development and growth

Recommendation 11: The European Commission/EEAS should contribute, through the next cycle of its international development programmes, to a significant and ongoing increase in open source intelligence about the social economy and social enterprises, and support ecosystems globally. Actions should encompass:

  • Launching a major ongoing research initiative together with other interested donors and partners such as the OECD and its Development Assistance Committee members, the UNRISD, the World Bank, EU national development agencies and other public and private donors;
  • Allocating a specific budget for impact evaluation for new support programmes for the social economy and social enterprises to bridge the lack of robust and clear evidence about the impact of this enterprise support on SDGs. This action should also be taken by Member States.

Recommendation 12: The European Commission should take a leading role in fostering global cooperation to support the social economy and social enterprises by acting as a market convener and harnessing knowledge exchange. Actions should encompass:

  • Undertaking in 2017 a process of internal learning, coordination and cooperation between the various departments of the Commission and EEAS, whose work touches on the 10 development of infrastructure and support for the social economy and social enterprises;
  • Starting in 2017, initiating a series of regular exchange and action-oriented meetings with other global donors and investors (private and public) active on a transnational basis in supporting the social economy and social enterprises (irrespective of local designation);
  • Making the case, together with the German Government, which holds the G20 Presidency from Autumn 2016, for promoting specific policies to support inclusive businesses/activities and social enterprises (as discussed in the G20 Inclusive Business Framework) to better reflect the differences in the set of values, principles and raison d’être between these organisations.

Recommendation 13: The European Union and the EEAS should mainstream tailored support in all its existing and future policies and initiatives and international negotiations promoting social and economic development (cooperation and development, foreign policy, trade policy, neighbourhood policy etc.) and embed social enterprises and the social economy more broadly in strategic thinking in order to build supportive ecosystems as reflected by the pillars of the SBI. Actions should encompass:

  • Earmarking, in the next programming cycle, dedicated direct and indirect funding for social economy organisations, including social enterprises, in third countries, along with governments and support and social finance organisations; and starting concrete collaborations with other global partners to leverage EU funding and boost the impact of the respective programmes;
  • Raising awareness, in particular with third country governments, of the role the social economy and social enterprises play in achieving the SDGs, as well as on the potential of North-South, South-North or South-South exchange of learning, innovation and collaboration, providing cases of successful replication of innovative social economy and social enterprise solutions and models as well as their impact;
  • Embedding the social economy and social enterprises in Europe’s revised Consensus on Development and in Europe’s voice in international negotiations, trade agreements and at the United Nations;
  • Organising marketplace events to connect social enterprises with the international financial ecosystem and facilitate major investments in developing countries, as well as engage other social economy organisations in defining financial instruments to meet their needs

http://ec.europa.eu/DocsRoom/documents/19941/

“WELCOMMON” Labour Integration of refugees in Greece: a Cooperative Hostel to Spread Solidarity

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“Welcommon” stands for “Welcome in common”. This is the name that four well-established organisations, the social cooperative Wind of Renewal, the Greek Forum of Refugees, the Greek Forum of Migrants and ANASA Cultural Centre, have chosen for a project seeking to offer much more than emergency accommodation. Social inclusion, empowerment and refugee integration are key aims of the initiative.

María Ruiz Nievas

The main objective is to provide quality housing for up to 120-150 asylum seekers for six-month periods or longer. “The personnel of the Hostel will be both migrants/refugees and Greek nationals. That means that through hosting we try to create job opportunities,” explains Nikos Chrysogelos, President of Wind of Renewal and one of the founders of the project. Refugees will also be put in contact with local initiatives looking for workers as technicians, nurses or doctors, artists and social entrepreneurs.

Refugees will receive food, clothing and health care to cover their basic needs, as well as information and various training opportunities, such as language instruction, to develop their abilities and skills.

Active participation of asylum seekers

Although Greek citizens have expressed solidarity to refugees and there are a lot of initiatives to provide food, clothes and first aid equipment, there is a lack of organized policy and good practices for social inclusion, empowerment and integration for those refugees willing to stay in Greece or who at least want to stay longer.

“We are starting by providing housing in apartments, but there is no experience of integrating and developing the entrepreneurship of refugees and migrants in Greece, especially in a cooperative way,” claims Nikos Chrysogelos.

Funding

Last December, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras committed to housing 50,000 refugees by the end of 2016 and this year Greece has already received 61,746 people who arrived by sea, according to UNHCR. “Welcommon” could not be happening at a better time.

“We would like to be operational by June,” said Chrysogelos, who recognizes that the project’s success is dependent upon funding. Foundations in Greece, private donors and a crowd funding campaign are the most immediate options. “We have already developed good cooperation with the Municipality of Athens and we hope to do the same with the regional authorities in Attica. We are looking for a (closed) hotel or clinic (there are some in Athens, because of the crisis), which would also be suitable for hosting activities related to social entrepreneurship.”

Chrysogelos does not close the door, however, on support from the EU’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF), but admits that “it takes time and it is something for the future”.

If you want to know more about our project or you would like to support it, please contact: windofrenewal@gmail.com

The four organisations:

www.anemosananeosis.gr
www.refugees.gr
www.migrant.gr
www.anasa.org.gr

Published by European Confederation CECOP – CICOPA Europe here