Social economy at a glance
In Lithuania, not all social economy entities are defined by law. The law attributed the status of social enterprises mainly to WISES and people employing disabled people. Nonetheless several other organisations can still be considered as being part of the social economy including some associations, foundations and public enterprises.
In an extensive way, one can consider the social economy in Lithuania is formed by:
- 186 WISES (employing around 12 150 employees in total)
- 1694 public enterprises,
- 1712 associations,
- 70 foundations.
Source: Social Enterprises and their ecosystems in Europe, Country Reports, Lithuania, 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
Social economy in Lithuania can be traced back to the 16th century with the apparition of the first forms of charity organisations. It consolidated until WWII, with the progressive construction of the Welfare State, after Lithuania was re-established as an independent and democratic state in 1918. In that period, social economy was driven by the strong involvement of secular and catholic non-profits providing social services, but also by a rising civic engagement and the emergence of cooperatives which served economic but also cultural, educational and political interests at the time.
After the Soviet period, Lithuania started to support the establishment of non-profit organisations. This period enabled the restauration of many types of entities, including religious charities, consumers and farmers cooperatives. Later, Lithuania's accession to the EU strengthened opportunities for social enterprises to establish, especially WISES which where institutionalised thanks to a law in 2004.
Nowadays, the development of the social economy in Lithuania continues to be driven by the government's willingness to delegate some of its public service responsibilities to social economy actors.
Framework conditions and social economy ecosystem
Policy and legal framework
The legal recognition and legal evolution of social enterprises in Lithuania relies on two main stages and texts.
The 2004 law has institutionalised the work integration social enterprises, recognising their specificities. This law also permits the development of financial support matching the specificities of social enterprises models.
In 2015, the recognition of the social economy was accelerated through the release of a "Conception of Social Business" that provides a delimited political definition to social enterprises, and through the "Guidelines for Social Enterprise Projects" which provides operational conditions to be considered a social enterprise.
There is a project for a framework law on social business, but it has not been agreed on yet.
Policymakers in the field of the social economy
At national level, several authorities and ministries are involved in the development of the social economy. They notably intervene via national yearly programs which allocate budget to social economy and non-profit organisations. The Ministry of Social Security and Labour, the Ministry of National Defence, the Ministry of Internal Affairs are all involved in issuing tenders on social integration, support to culture, youth and employment and special support to non-governmental organisations.
Municipalities also play a key role in providing financial support to the social economy, mobilising part of their public-service provision budgets to provide grants to social economy actors as providers themselves. Furthermore, municipalities can support social enterprises lending them premises on a temporary basis to help them start out.
Another important actor supporting the social economy in Lithuania is the Innovation Agency, a public enterprise under the Ministry of Economy which was established to promote entrepreneurship. This organisation provides mentoring and consulting services to social enterprises via local agencies spread throughout the country. A second agency can intervene in support to social entrepreneurs: Invest Lithuanian which is dedicated to promoting investment in the country.
Networks, federation and representative entities
WISES umbrella organisations represent an important part of the Lithuanian social economy ecosystem. Their role is to represent the interest of WISES and their beneficiaries (Union of Social Enterprises for the Disabled, Associations of social enterprises (WISES)). Since 2015, new types of organizations, especially social enterprises, have been recognized as part of the social economy and they have organized their own ecosystem via the Association of Social Businesses and around other kinds of actors such as incubators, accelerators and hubs.
Beyond their representative and advocacy role, these organisations also constitute learning and networking platforms for social economy entities. They provide them with opportunities to connect with other actors of the ecosystems and open business opportunities by establishing connections with mainstream enterprises.
How to get involved in the social economy in Lithuania?
Many organisations in Lithuania are mobilised to promote social economy and increase its interest among the population.
Every year, two major festivals promoting the social economy in Lithuania are organized.
- BIZzZ is a social innovation festival inviting young leaders and social innovators to share their ideas.
- The Social Enterprise Summit brings together representatives from government ministries, municipalities and social economy stakeholders to explore future opportunities of the social economy in Lithuania.
In recent years, social economy and social entrepreneurship have started to enter the academic and education world, with the creation of bachelors on social economy, but also the development of educational programs in high school. The Junior Achievement Program and British Council have indeed launched social entrepreneurial projects for students in secondary education.
Social enterprises in Lithuania can be supported through:
- Guidance and mentoring,
- Consulting for social businesses (Geri Norai),
- Incubation and acceleration programs,
- Coworking spaces (Avilys).
These services are provided by private organisations but can also be offered by governmental bodies:
- Municipal business information centres,
- Enterprise Lithuania agencies.
Targeted support for social enterprises establishing their activities in a given sector:
- Education: Reach for Change supports social enterprises active in developing products and services to improve education and access to education.
- The European "LEADER program" 2014-2020 has also contributed to support social economy activities in in rural areas.
Different types of funding are accessible to social enterprises in Lithuania:
Learn more about the social economy in Lithuania
- Socialinis Verslas in an informational website on the social economy in Lithuania. Website : https://www.socialinisverslas.lt/en/
- Social Enterprises and their ecosystems in Europe, Country Reports, Lithuania, 2019. Link: Document database - Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion - European Commission (europa.eu)
- Boosting social entrepreneurship and social enterprises development in Lithuania: In-depht policy review, OECED LEED Papers, 2020: https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/docserver/502fc6ef-en.pdf?expires=1683205749&id=id&accname=oid031827&checksum=520AE453F9D0662B22F4BBC25E17D091