New Europen Commisson Report on the Social Economy

New Europen Commisson Report on the Social Economy
Letter from Michael Roy

Dear Laurence,

New report published by the European Commission called ‘Social Economy in the European Union’:

This is the Executive Summary for the main report and in itself is over 60 pages long(!) but it has quite a nice potted history of the social economy and thus of the pre-history of the social enterprise movement.

On page 17 the report interestingly proposes a new ‘working definition’ for the social economy:

“The set of private, formally-organised enterprises, with autonomy of decision and freedom of membership, created to meet their members’ needs through the market by producing goods and providing services, insurance and finance, where decision-making and any distribution of profits or surpluses among the members are not directly linked to the capital or fees contributed by each member, each of whom has one vote, or at all events take place through democratic and participatory decision-making processes. The social economy also includes private, formally organised organisations with autonomy of decision and freedom of membership that produce non-market services for households and whose surpluses, if any, cannot be appropriated by the economic agents that create, control or finance them.” (p17)

At the foot of the page it says that they are “organisations of people who conduct an activity with the main purpose of meeting the needs of people rather than remunerating capitalist investors.” (p17) and page 18 provides further detail.

The upshot is that I think this is broadly consistent with the SENSCOT criteria for a social enterprise (okay, it has a larger focus on democratic decision-making but that has never been emphasised in the UK as much as it has been  on mainland Europe) It’s also very similar to the EMES definition, but Roger Spear from the Open University, who’s been involved in EMES from the start, was one of the advisors, so that’s to be expected.

But it might cause some difficulty for our chums down south though! How, for instance, does it chime with the “social investment” movement (I put it in quotes because I think it’s actually straightforward financial investment (i.e. “remunerating capitalist investors”) into the social economy, rather than helping to meet the needs of people.)

Just thought I’d throw it in as the latest example of where Europe is heading seems not to be the same direction that Cameron (and his new pals SEUK, ACEVO, NCVO and all the other organisations that signed up to support the Government’s policies to reduce the deficit and promote welfare reform) seem to be heading down.

Michael Roy MSc
PhD Candidate

Yunus Centre for Social Business & Health
Institutes for Applied Health Research and Society & Social Justice Research
3rd Floor, Buchanan House
Glasgow Caledonian University
Cowcaddens Road
Glasgow, G4 0BA