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Social enterprise needs an inclusive definition and a transversal approach

Jul 9, 2015 | News

(09 July 2015) – In the wake of the Social Business Initiative (2011-2014), national governments as well as the European institutions are taking the social economy increasingly seriously. The European Parliament’s Social Economy Intergroup has been reconstituted in this session, and is holding a regular programme of thematic hearings. Toby Johnson, a member of AEIDL, wrote a report on the Social Entrepreneurship Network website.

At its meeting on 25th June the topic was finance. Hugues Sibille, president of the Fondation Crédit Coopératif, gave a particularly penetrating analysis of the issues that need to be addressed.

The question of definitions always underlies discussions of social enterprise. The European definition consists of three criteria: a primary social objective, limited profit distribution and participative management. Yet this definition is broader than that of the social economy, which insists on full democratic ownership and management. Many of the new-style ‘social enterprises’ are controlled by investors, and such national definitions as the British one ignore the dimension of participation.

Mr Sibille argued that the best path is to continue with an inclusive definition, such as has been done in France, rather than risk a north-south split in Europe. Social impact measurement alone is not a sufficient criterion.

The new Commission shows no signs of renewing the SBI as such, but has made space for coherent policy-making within its new unit GROW/F/2 for “Clusters, Social economy and Entrepreneurship”.

Mr Sibille points to the importance of the social economy being taken into account in the internal market strategy to be adopted this autumn. He also pleads for an enhanced role for the expert group on social entrepreneurship (GECES), and a transversal approach by the Commission.

Toby Johnson’s report

Official report