Open now for responses!
The European Social Enterprise Monitor (ESEM) is currently collecting responses from social enterprises across Europe – ! This year, the ESEM covers 31 countries across Europe including 25 EU Member States. The Monitor collects data on who social enterprises are, the challenges they are facing and the positive impact they are delivering for communities across the continent. The data collection period will close at the end of January 2024. This data will then be used to produce a comparative European Report on the state of social enterprises across Europe as well as detailed country reports on the countries participating in the project. You can find all the published ESEM reports on . Do not miss your opportunity to share your experiences and needs to help policymakers, finance providers and support organisations make better informed decisions that will shape our ecosystems.
Purpose and Background of the Study
Launched in 2020 with the support of the European Commission, the European Social Enterprise Monitor (ESEM) is the first and most comprehensive (inter)nationally comparative social enterprise monitor initiated on the European level. The project seeks to close the current gap on social enterprise data and inform decision makers in government, civil society and the economy, with the aim of communicating, supporting and promoting the needs and interests of enterprises in the social and solidarity economy across Europe. Based on social enterprise survey data analysed both in national reports and an extensive comparative European report, the project generates profound data and insights on the social enterprise ecosystem in Europe and highlights opportunities for the further development of the sector and its impact.
The 2021-2022 ESEM report, which covered 21 European countries, reinforced and elaborated upon the findings of the 8-country ESEM study in 2020-2021. ESEM social enterprises (SEs) were found to be highly diverse, active across all 22 standard economic sectors, as well as resilient, growing, ambitious and innovative. 44.0% experienced revenue growth in the year prior to the study and 91.0% plan to scale their organisations going forwards, while 85.5% were founded based on innovative approaches – primarily regarding their products/services and business/impact models. For at least 55.4% various technologies are perceived as important for their business/impact models, including advanced technologies such as AI and machine learning (relevant for 11.0% of the study sample).
Furthermore, ESEM SEs are also shown to be quite inclusive, with an average of 37.2% employing people with disabilities and women in the majority (on average) at all organisational levels, from workforce to board. 68.3% of ESEM SEs involve employees in organisational decision making to a (very) high extent, while 54.8% involve beneficiaries to a moderate or (very) high extent. Deeply committed, not only to inclusion and participation but also to impact, ESEM SEs collectively pursue all and the majority either currently measure or plan to measure the impact that they create. 86.0% also redistribute their profits ‘mainly’ or ‘mostly to exclusively’ for the social or environmental purpose of their organisation.
58.4% of ESEM SEs achieved revenues of up to €250,000 in the year prior to the study, which is unsurprising given the generally young age (a median of 7 years) and early development stage of most ESEM SEs, as well as the fact that 95.4% can be classified as SMEs (employing <250 FTE employees). However, notably, there are also a number of ESEM SEs making significant revenues – 14.3% exceeded €1 million and 4.9% exceeded €5 million. These revenues derive from a broad range of activities, most commonly trading with consumers, grants from the government/local authority/public sector and trading with profit-oriented companies. 61.0% of the sample currently sell to conventional firms, while another 18.7% hope to do so in future, demonstrating a significant interest and potential among ESEM SEs to engage (further) in social procurement (Buy Social) opportunities.
ESEM SEs also rely on a diverse array of external financing sources to create impact – most often public financing (44.2%), private donations (24.7%) and foundation funding (21.3%). With an average gap of 39.3% between their financial needs and level of financing accessed, financial barriers are the most prevalent impediment for ESEM SEs, hindering 76.7% of the sample. A plethora of other challenges also exist, though, including barriers related to market access, visibility, and political support. On average, ESEM SEs rank the level of political support for social entrepreneurship in their country at only 33.0% out of 100.
Taken together, data from the ESEM point to the incredible potential of European social enterprises, and to the need to continue researching their needs, challenges, and opportunities in order to design effective policies, financing instruments and supportive ecosystems to enable their further growth, development and impact.
Impact and Influence
The ESEM has already had significant influence in diverse contexts, ranging from policy making (both within various European countries and at the EU level) to social enterprise finance. Most notably, ESEM data informed the development of the EU’s Action Plan for the Social Economy (SEAP), and undergirded advocacy efforts by organisations such Social Entrepreneurship Netzwerk Deutschland (SEND Germany) to put social enterprise on the German policy agenda. It also supported the work of actors such as Social Enterprise Netherlands by providing valuable insights on the Dutch social enterprise ecosystem, for instance on challenges faced by entrepreneurs, and the translation of such insights into opportunities for stronger collaboration with government agencies. Furthermore, the insights from the ESEM contributed to the launch of a €20 million Google.org supporting: 1) underserved social entrepreneurs through capacity building and financial support, important barriers the ESEM identified, and 2) leading social enterprise ecosystem organisations, empowering their essential role in the development and strengthening of ecosystems for social entrepreneurs and underserved social innovators in their countries, as well as collaboration on a European level, in line with the SEAP.
The project and its findings have been featured, inter alia, in publications by Eurostat, the and the , as well as in OECD reports on and . The first academic paper based on ESEM data, “A typology and taxonomy of social business models in Europe,” won the award for best paper at the 2022 Lille , where it was presented by researchers Matthias Raith, Malte Bau and Nicole Siebold (members of the ESEM Research Board and Research Committee).
ESEM insights have also been presented in various mutual learning workshops with European public officials, at the kick-off of the and in sessions at the , , , the French Council Presidency’s 2022 conference in Strasbourg - , and the in Rome, amongst others.
Future of the Study
Building upon the success of the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 reports, the team at Euclid Network has launched the 2023-2024 ESEM survey at and . The survey for 2023-24 will close in January 2024 so make sure to respond before then! For this next cycle the project has been scaled up, with expert partners from Finland, Romania, The Ukraine and Greece joining the consortium of already nearly 50 universities and social enterprise networks. Another valuable addition is an enhanced focus on social procurement (both private and public) as well as on impact measurement and management – both crucial, prescient topics for the social enterprise sector. The ESEM survey is open until late January 2024, where after the results will then be analysed and published in autumn 2024.
How to Participate
If you are a social entrepreneur or social enterprise representative, and would like to share your perspectives on the needs, challenges, and impact of the sector:
This article is an updated version of a previously published article from June 13, 2023.
- Publication date
- 1 December 2023
- Euclid Network
- EU fundedNational levelPublicationResearchSocial Enterprises