Social economy at a glance
In Denmark, there are different forms of organisations considered as part of the social economy, including associations, foundations, limited liability companies.
Social enterprises can obtain official recognition by becoming "Registered Social Enterprises" which provides them with more visibility and some fiscal and financial benefits.
Since there is no official single database on social economy in Denmark, statistics on the number of social enterprises can be estimated based on the Social Enterprise Registration. In 2017, it was therefore estimated that there were 411 recognized Danish social enterprises employing around 4932 employees.
Source: Social Enterprises and their ecosystems in Europe, Country Reports, Denmark, 2019
* For this website we included this overall assessment of the level of development, it is based on the data and information about the social economy ecosystem currently available and therefore has some limitations. However, we still considered it useful to include this overall assessment.
** Source: EESC/CIRIEC (2016) Recent evolutions of the Social Economy in the European Union, please note that this estimate is on the high end as it is based on organisation type and did not apply a more narrow check for all elements in the social economy definition.
For more details on the data quality see our note on social economy data.
Tradition and origins
First social enterprises in Denmark appeared in the late 1800s with the creation of workers and farmers cooperatives. This movement was paralleled with the development of the non-profit sector, and of the charity and religious organisations.
During the 20th century, the influence of the social economy grew as it asserted itself more and more as a public service provider. Since the late 1960s, a new type of social enterprises has also emerged based on local and bottom-up activities especially in areas of education, leisure and childcare.
Since the 1990s - 2000s, the social economy has gained interest among the population, with a growing involvement of the public authority in defining, recognizing and developing the sector.
Framework conditions and social economy ecosystem
Policy and legal framework
The settling of a legal framework for the social economy in Denmark started in 2013 with the launching of a Committee of the Social Economy by the government. This committee paved the way to a more active policy in supporting the social economy, and official recognising it. In 2014, the Parliament indeed passed an "Act on Registered Enterprises".
There are other laws and strategies that support the development the social economy without specifically targeting it in Denmark (legislations on sheltered employment, on employment supportive measures), etc. The Danish Board of Business Development has included social inclusion as a focus for its 2020-2023 strategy.
A legal framework for cooperatives is being discussed in the context of an expert group. The government will follow its conclusion to build a more specific framework towards cooperatives in 2023.
Policymakers in the field of the social economy
Policy making is not managed by a selected ministry, but several ministries and agencies can intervene in the design of policies related to the social economy, such as the Ministry of Business and Growth, the Ministry of Employment, the Danish Agency for the Labour Market and Recruitment or the Danish Business Agency.
Regions and municipalities have had a growing interest and implication towards the social economy in the past decades. They can be involved in local and partnership-based projects supporting local development and social services delivery. To coordinate their actions, some municipalities can build their own municipal strategy on the social economy.
Networks, federation and representative entities
The social economy in Denmark is supported by an ecosystem of actors focusing on helping specific types of organisations :
- Kooperationen is an organisation representing the interests of cooperatives and social enterprises,
- Selveje Danmark is an organisation representing and supporting non-profit organizations within the health-care sector,
- Sociale Entreprenører Danmark is an association to support social entrepreneurs. It notably provides a directory to help social economy entities find relevant supportive organisations.
At national and local level, the government has developed some support schemes to help social economy entities via:
- Capacity building,
- Construction of partnerships,
- Support to business development,
- Providing of information via guides (on social inclusion, recruitment, capacity building, impact measurement, etc.)
For social entrepreneurs, a national guide on businesses has been made available by the government. It provides them with information on support schemes for businesses.
Some private organisations, but also universities, can intervene as well in support of the social economy through:
- Consultancy (SED; Cabi)
- Learning and mutual exchanges of good practices (Centre for Social Entrepreneurship of Roskilde University)
- Incubation (Kooperationen, Reach for Change, Greencubator)
Denmark finances the social economy by allocating funds every year and by mobilising EU funds. A national platform has been put in place to help all actors navigate available public funding options based on their forms and activities. For EU funds, social economy entities can visit the national platform on ESF+ and ERDF.
When it comes to private funding, some solutions are available to social economy entities:
Learn more about the social economy in Denmark
- Virksomhedsguiden is a digital guide to business management and development offered by the governement. Link : https://virks
- The Think tank Democratic Business pormotes "unite and democratic" businesses by developping knowledge and networking activities between danish enterprises. Link : https://demokratiskerhverv.dk/publikationer/
- Social Enterprises and their ecosystems in Europe, Country Reports, Denmark, 2019. Link: Document database - Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion - European Commission (europa.eu)
- Danish Social Enterprise Monitor, Euclid Knowledge Centre, 2021-2022: https://knowledgecentre.euclidnetwork.eu/2022/09/28/danish-social-enterprise-monitor-2021-2022/