15 key policy lessons – Extract from ‘Policy meets practice – enabling the growth of social enterprises: Results of the Social Entrepreneurship Network – an ESF learning network 2013-14’
EU Social Entrepreneurship Network
The Social Entrepreneurship Network brought together public authorities and social enterprise organisations with extensive experience of developing strategies to support social enterprises.
Their review of good practice across Europe leads to the following recommendations for policy-makers:
1. Social enterprises have an impact that transcends conventional policy pillars (economic, social, local development). Governments should ensure policy coherence by establishing a cross-departmental co-ordinating body;
2. Social enterprise policy should also be vertically coherent among the different levels of the public administration;
3. Governments should develop and implement policy for social enterprise through stakeholder partnerships with the representative organisations of social enterprises and with the ecosystem of support;
4. Governments should recognise the social added value of social enterprises by promoting their visibility and by sponsoring marks which define their characteristics and encourage good practice;
5. Linked with this, they should support the development of social impact measurement methods which provide an evidence base for this distinctive performance;
6. Legal and fiscal frameworks for non-profits and co-operatives should allow them to operate as social enterprises, and the development of new legal forms of social enterprise should be supported. Fiscal measures should support the social added value of their activities.
7. Social entrepreneurship is an invaluable part of entrepreneurship education in schools and universities;
8. Start-up support should be provided at two levels: mainstream business advisers should be capable of giving initial advice, and should signpost potential social entrepreneurs to a specialist support infrastructure, well linked to existing federal and support bodies of the social economy;
9. Various forms of tailored support should be provided that are appropriate to the different phases of the enterprise life cycle. Start-up support should cater not only for new business creations but also worker takeovers in cases of business succession and spin-offs from public services, while growth paths include diversification, replication, acquisition and stronger relationships with conventional enterprises;
10. Training for social entrepreneurs should focus on leadership, and should use peer learning;
11. The networking capacity of social enterprises should be geared up by supporting scaling and replication mechanisms such as consortia and social franchising;
12. Socially responsible public procurement policies, including smaller contract size and social clauses, should be developed to enable social enterprises to contribute to the delivery of public policies. Guidance and training is needed for procurement officials and to make social enterprise tender-ready;
13. Social enterprises are drivers and vehicles of social innovation;
14. Financial support should combine different types of tools (grant, loan, guarantee etc.) to meet different needs, and should be sourced from multiple sources (public, ESF, ERDF), with a growing emphasis on private and social economy financial institutions and resources. Financial support for new social enterprises should be accompanied by business support.
15. Research at European level is needed to develop consistent methodologies and statistics on social enterprises.