Near ten years after the “Social Business Initiative” was launched by the Commission, it is time to evaluate the progress made since then. On the 1st of October 2020, POUR LA SOLIDARITÉ – PLS had the chance to attend to a seminar organised by the contractors of the evaluation of the Commission’s 2011 Social Business Initiative (SBI) and its follow-up actions. The results of the study, which will be published in December 2020, are very important since a new social economy plan for Europe must be launched by the Commission in 2021.
When the Commission launched the SBI, three objectives were fixed to improve the situation on the ground for social enterprises:
• Improve the access to finance
• Give more visibility to social enterprises
• Optimise the legal environment
During the last two years, more than 300 interviews were made to build a complex study and evaluate the impacts of the SBI all across Europe. The first part of the seminar aims to present the results of the study and the policy options for both the Commission and member states. The purpose of the second part was to gather feedbacks on the study.
The study successively analyses the relevance and the coherence of the SBI but also the effectiveness and the efficiency of the follow up actions of SBI. We won’t be able to give you a complete report of the study, but here are some key elements.
Overview of the key findings of the study
The flexibility of SBI allowed for the tackling of a variety of issues. The study emphasizes that no action based on SBI was irrelevant, nonetheless, some had limited outreach because they were disconnected from local context. The SBI improved institutional frameworks, and policy strategies were launched in all member states. Higher effects were observed in countries with a developing social economy ecosystem but everybody agrees on the fact that SBI activities influenced mutual learning and good practice exchange. Furthermore, EU activities largely contributed to research on social economy and another huge positive aspect is that public funding is now more available all-around Europe.
The analysis of high-level EU documents showed a general coherence of SBI with other EU policies and priorities. However, most interviewees perceived the general coherence of SBI was lacking at operational level. Moreover, if the study stressed that the main contribution of SBI was on visibility of social economy in EU and national programmes, it is still insufficient. Most of the time, only the well-informed experts and insiders known about it. Another obstacle noted by interviewees is the confusion around the “Social Economy” concept.
Globally, most interviewees mentioned that they felt a European dynamic towards SBI at the beginning thanks to Michel Barnier’s commitment, but then, it stops and it was harder to find political support at national levels.
The study presents a few policy options so that the Commission and member states can strengthen their efforts to develop social economy. The study team identified three fields in which a lot of work still needs to be done:
• Promote of consistent use of concepts and definitions.
• Continue adopting an ecosystem perspective.
• Strengthen coherence between EU policy initiatives for the social economy and other EU instruments.
POUR LA SOLIDARITÉ-PLS invites you to read the complete study when it will be published and hope that the new social economy plan for Europe will be as ambitious as needed in order to continue developing social economy activities.