Social economy at a glance
The Greek social economy landscape consists mainly of ex lege social cooperative enterprises (SCEs). Many de facto social economy activities are part of the social economy ecosystem, as they meet the EU definition but do not belong to the legal framework of the social economy.
It is estimated that there was a total number of 1,148 social enterprises in 2019. This figure must be seen in the light of measurement difficulties due to the mismatch between EU definitions and Greek legal entities and the nascent stage of the social economy compared to other EU Member States.
Education, leisure, and food services are the most popular sectorial economic activity.
Source: Social Enterprises and their ecosystems in Europe, Country Reports, Greece, 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
The social economy in Greece has its roots in the early development (19th century), and follows the path indicated by 5 early forms of cooperation in Greek society: local administrations; cooperatives; associations and non-profit organisations; charitable foundations, and the Orthodox Church.
The development of the social economy in Greece has also been marked by crucial events and periods, from the social turbulence related to the Second World War, the military junta of the 60s and 70s, to the multidimensional crises that Greece has been going through since 2010.
Since the last decade, the rise in numbers of social enterprise cannot be distinguished to the “movement of the squares” in 2011, its solidarity movement’s development, de-stigmatizing poverty and promoted social cooperation to combat devastating effects of the crisis.
Framework conditions and social economy ecosystem
Policy and legal framework
Two important moments can be highlighted in the structuration of a legal framework for social economy In Greece.
In 2011, Social economy begins to be legally recognized by the government for the first time (4019/2011). The 2011 law was a tipping point in Greek social enterprise development, tackling the identification of legislative omissions and new needs due to the multiplication of social enterprises, broader activities in almost all economic sectors. Emphasised by “social economy” and “social entrepreneurship”, the law institutionalized a vast range of both informal and formal activities.
In 2016, an amendment of this legal framework restructured the social enterprise framework by building around the concept of “social and solidarity economy”. This law aimed at introducing a series of operational criteria for differentiating social enterprises from conventional profit-oriented business organisations and ease the structuration the social economy ecosystem.
The 2016 law defines these types of entities as the main ex lege social enterprises in the country.
Social cooperative enterprise: they represent the majority of ex lege social entreprises in Greece. They can be divided in three categories:
- SCE for the integration of “vulnerable”groups in social and economic life. They integrate social groups such as people with disabilities, drug addicts, rehabilitated drug addicts, released prisoners, juvenile offenders, etc.
- SCEs for the integration of “special” groups in social and economic life. They refer to victims of domestic violence, victims of trafficking, the homeless, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers
- SCEs for collective and social benefit purposes. They are entities that undertake “sustainable development” activities or supply “services of general interest” (i.e., serving local and collective interests and promoting employment, social cohesion and local or regional development).
Greek government also recognized 2 types of ex lege social economy organizations less represented in the ecosystem:
- Limited liability social cooperatives (KoiSPEs) are at the same time productive/ commercial and mental health units, administered by the Mental Health Department of the Ministry of Health.
- Women’s agrotourism cooperatives met the need of upgrading social status of women in rural areas and economical opportunities related to agrotourism.
Apart from the organisations recognized by law 4430/2016, one can identify some social economy entities among civil cooperatives, limited liability companies, agricultural cooperatives.
In 2023, the government proposed an “Action Plan for the Social Economy and Social Innovation”. (Επικαιροποιημένο-Σχέδιο-Δράσης-ΚΟ_ΚΚ.pdf (ypergasias.gov.gr)). This strategy recognises the need to strengthen the Greek social economy ecosystem by investing action into five pillars : the development of the institutional framework, the development of financial instruments, capacity building, the strengthening of partnerships and awareness raising. The proposal is under consultation with the Regional Unions, the National Confederation of SSE and key stakeholders, as of May 2023.
Policymakers in the field of the social economy
At national level, Social and Solidarity Economy in Greece is coordinated by the Greek Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. SSE is also regulated by four other ministries: Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Economy and Development, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Rural Development and Food.
Law 4430/2016 led to the creation of the Special Secretariat for the Social and Solidarity Economy, an administrative body that identifies, supports, and monitors the SSE spectrum in the country.
The General Secretary for Trade and Consumer Protection belongs to the Ministry of Economy and Development and is responsible for regulating the market and minimising abusive trade practices. It also formulates, enforces, and monitors policies on all enterprises and participates in public procurement procedures.
Networks, federation and representative entities
In recent years, several networking efforts have been made among Greek social enterprises. In the last two years, the institutional representation of SSE bodies, is growing in strength and Secondary SSE Unions are rising up to their role after years of being sidelined. Eleven out of thirteen Regions of Greece have instituted SSE Unions in 2023 with a democratic approach.
There are 12 Secondary (regional) Unions, established under the provision of Law 4430/2016, article 9 and institutionally represent the interests of Social Enterprises and Social Economy actors in their respective Regions. In collaboration with key-stakeholders in the private and public sector, the Unions strive for the development of Social Entrepreneurship and Social Economy in general. They act as Support Centers, fostering and promoting Social Innovation, business support, advocacy as members of the Monitoring Commitees in their respective Regional Operational Programs. They also develop various incubator, Education and Lifelong Learning programs provided in collaboration with local Development Companies and Social Enterprises.
The Tertiary Panhellenic Confederation of Social and Solidarity Economy Unions (PASE KALO) is the social partner and national umbrella organization of the recognized bodies that institutionally represent the SSE ecosystem in Greece, under which eight of the twelve Secondary Unions are incorporated.
The Social Network for Social Solidarity and Regional Development (KAPA Network), promotes Greek social enterprises. Its main activities include cooperative education, the promotion of cooperatives and the development of new legal frameworks.
Please note that this list is not exhaustive, and you may find many networks working at regional levels.
Social economy actors are also supported by a number of institutions promoting learning and education related to social enterprise in Greece. Some offer academic education, others are mainly focused on training and, another group is more informal and politically oriented. The Social Economy Institute, The British Council, The P2P Lab, and The Heinrich Böll Research Foundation, among many others, can be relevant examples of this activity.
How to get involved in the social economy in Greece?
In the recent years, Greece has witnessed a strong development of the social economy ecosystem : advisory entities, consultancies, accelerators and network associations have flourished.
Eleven of the thirteen Regions of Greece have active institutional, secondary Unions from which you can contact and get support if you want to be involved in Social Economy as a volunteer, become a member of a Social Enterprise or as a group create your Social Economy entity. You can also refer to one of the regional Unions, for more information.
The growing interest of the population towards this sector also led to the development of university programs, as an example one post-graduate (MSc) program in the Greek Open University. In addition, one can find Lifelong Learning programs for social economy workers, as this Lifelong Learning under the supervision of the University of Crete, for Mentors in Social Economy.
A part from the academic world, in 2013, the People’s University of Social and Solidarity Economy (Λαϊκό Πανεπιστήμιο Κοινωνικής Αλληλέγγυας Οικονομίας (univsse.gr)) was created as a way to disseminate knowledge on the social economy and encourage active involvment from the citizens.
The governement also tries to raise on the social economy through the organisation of promotion events and opening of markets and shops where citizens can directly purchase goods from the social economy. The Arcade Emporon which reopened vacant shops for social enterprises to temporary promote their products.
Beyond the governement, local actors, regions, chambers of commerce and industry can support social economy via the development of innovation centers and incubators
- SSE Union of Central Greece "STEREA DESMOS"
- SSE Union of Western Greece "SYMPOLITEIA"
- SSE Union of Attica "DYNAMIKI" - https://socialcoop.gr
- SSE Union of Peloponnese "PELOPAS"
- SSE Union of Crete - "CretanS.C.ENT." - https://cretanscent.gr
- SSE Union of Epirus "Koino KALO" - https://koinokalo.gr
- SSE Union of Thessaly "KOINON THESSALON"
- SSE Union of Western Macedonia
- SSE Union of Southern Aegean
- SSE Union of Northern Aegean
- SSE Union “Sintonismos”
- SSE Union of Central Macedonia
Some don't exclusively target social economy entities but can still be relevant:
- The Athens Business Inbubator is managed bu the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry with support of Athens municipality : ATHENS BUSINESS INCUBATOR (theathensincube.gr)
- The Municipality of Athens also manages an accelerator: http://www.innovathens.gr/en
Many foundations, NGOs and networks offer support to initiatives of Civil Society and may support social economy entities, including :
- Incubation and acceleration programs (for start-ups):
- Capacity building and access to funding:
Greece supports the development of the social economy through the mobilisation of European Funds, especially ESF+ and ERDF. Social Enterprises can especially access it through:
- The Human Resource Development Education and Lifelong Learning (HRDELL)
- The 13 Greek Regional Operational Programmes (ROP)
- The Operational Programmes Competitiveness Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
On the private side, social enterprises can finance themselves through:
- Traditional banking products provided by ethical banks: Cooperative Bank of Karditsa (for Thessaly);
- Microfinance: The Law for Microfinancing institutions (Law 4701/2020) was passed in 2020. The microfinance institutions have to be granted by the Bank of greece to operate.
- Crowdfunding: About Praksis - Praksis
- Grants and awards from private foundations : BODOSSAKI FOUNDATION;Stavros Niarchos Foundation (snf.org);Κοινωφελές Ίδρυμα Ιωάννη Σ. Λάτση (latsis-foundation.org);https://www.timafoundation.org
Learn more about the social economy in Greece
"S.S.E. Strategic Plan: A request from Greek Social Enterprises'' is an initiative to formulate a coherent and holistic Strategic Plan for the Social Economy in Greece.
“Employment in the field of social sconomy : trends and prospects”, Iphigenia Duvitsa, January 2023 Link : (uvitsa.pdf (imegsevee.gr))
Social Enterprises and their ecosystems in Europe, Country Reports, Greece, 2019. Link: Document database - Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion - European Commission (europa.eu)
Social and solidarity Economy report, Greece, British Council, 2017. Link : greece_social_and_solidarity_economy_report_english_british_council_0.pdf (britishcouncil.org)
A summary of the current status of SSE entities inGreece 2023, Katomeris, S., (2023), link: https://thesocialeconomyreview.blogspot.com/2023/06/a-summary-of-current-status-of-sse.html
Annual SSE Report, (2019-2020): Link: https://kalo.gov.gr/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/ΕΤΗΣΙΑ-ΕΚΘΕΣΗ-ΚΑΛΟ-2019-2020-TELIKO-docx.pdf