Social economy at a glance
Although there is no official definition or policy framework for social enterprises in Malta, a study commissioned by the Ministry of Finance, Economy, and Investment titled 'Social Enterprise Project' established a working definition for social enterprises. Therefore, enterprises with “primarily social objectives” and which reinvest “rather than being driven by the need to maximize profit for shareholders and owners” can be considered as de facto social enterprises in Malta. According to this study, around 750 organisations could operate as de facto social enterprises, including:
- 394 Voluntary Organisations (VOs)
- 57 cooperatives
- 299 cultural and sports clubs.
Source : Social Enterprises and their ecosystems in Europe, Country Reports, Malta, 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
Malta is a small market economy with a rich heritage built on voluntary associations and cooperatives. In fact, the origins of the country’s social enterprises date back many centuries and are interwoven with strong volunteering and humanitarian initiatives often led by religious institutions such as the Order of Malta.
The main roots and drivers of the social enterprise movement in Malta take three principal forms. Those are - the non-profit, and voluntary sector - the cooperative sector, and lastly groups associated with public policy lobbying. Yet social enterprise development is still in its early stages in Malta.
That said, the importance of the social economy movement in Malta continues to grow. Social enterprises throughout the country are now helping to combat social exclusion and promote local development, with the potential to support vulnerable groups like the disabled, long-term unemployed, young people, women, and immigrants. This has given the Maltese government impetus to develop a legal structure for the social economy of the country.
Framework conditions and social economy ecosystem
Policy and legal framework
Currently, no legislation or policy framework exists in Malta to address social enterprises. At present, NGOs, voluntary sector organisations, and cooperatives often fulfill social enterprise functions in Malta. Furthermore, there are two main policy frameworks at a national level, which enable the existence of such de facto social enterprises:
- The Voluntary Organisations Act of 2007 which created an authority responsible for the registration and monitoring of all voluntary organisations in the country.
- The Cooperative Societies Act of 2001, amended in 2007 currently caters for cooperatives in Malta.
The launch of the Social Enterprise Act White Paper (2015) is considered a milestone towards creating a specific legal framework for social enterprises; however, it is still to become law. In 2022 the Social Enterprise Act (SEA) has been published. It aims to regulate social enterprises organisation and administration, establishing a Regulator and a Register for Social Enterprise Organisations. It should accelerate the development of the sector, introducing a new legal form called a "Social Purpose Company."
Policymakers in the field of the social economy
In Malta, the ministries, public bodies and regulators in charge of dealing with social economy related topics and de facto social enterprises are:
- The Ministry for the Economy, Investment and Small Business,
- The Ministry for Family, Children’s Rights and Social Solidarity in particular through the Foundation for Social Welfare Services (FSWS) – both until 2022,
- The Malta Council for the Voluntary Sector (MCVS),
- The Commissioner for VOs (regulator) and the Board of Cooperatives (regulator).
Networks, federation and representative entities
Two main networks can be identified in Malta, both representing the interests and supporting cooperatives:
- The Malta Cooperative Federation (MCF)
- Koperattivi Malta
How to get involved in the social economy in Malta?
You are looking for a first experience / to discover the social economy?
Malta is becoming a more popular topic in universities and research institutes, providing more opportunities to the public to learn about it. The University of Malta, Take Off or else the Malta College of Arts Science and Technology have developed support and research program related that can involve social economy and social entrepreneurship.
Furthermore, the long-lasting voluntary work tradition in Malta holds a great potential for social economy to be a source of interest for its population. Young people especially are provided with new opportunities to get involved in initiatives such as DoSomethingGood or Say It!
Given the lack of a specific legal and policy framework for Maltese social enterprises, it is complicated to identify publicly funded support schemes that would be specifically designed for social enterprises. The sector therefore encounters multiple barriers linked to sustainability and scalability.
However social enterprises can turn to some schemes designed for VOs and entrepreneurship to access public support:
- The Malta Council for the Voluntary Sector (MCVS) supports the development of a more effective and efficient voluntary and community sector in Malta through the delivery of a range of support and capacity building services, including information, advice and training.
- The Malta Council for VOs supports the development of a more effective and efficient voluntary and community sector in Malta and Gozo through the delivery of a range of support and capacity building services, including information, advice, and training. Support areas include financial regulation and accounts; management of EU funds; technical assistance; volunteers’ engagement; and fund raising, communication and campaigning.
- MCAST Entrepreneurship Centre supports young entrepreneurs to succeed in the Maltese market by providing tailor-made business training, business registration, enhanced access to markets and a space for the development of ideas and a working business model. Although it does not focus specifically on social enterprises, it can be an important actor once a regulatory framework is in place. It also works in partnership with non-profit, public and private sector organisations, while focusing on supporting start-ups to grow into enterprises.
- Take Off, is Malta’s first technology business incubator based within the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Business Incubation at the University of Malta (UM). It supports the creation of successful science, technology, engineering, creative media and knowledge-based start-up enterprises. Take-Off also supports community projects and charities and maintains a specific interest in setting up social enterprises.
Some private initiative can offer dedicated support to social economy entities:
- The Malta Cooperative Federation (MCF) was officially set up in November 2012. It was founded by co-operative societies operating in diverse and successful sectors of the Maltese economy. The Federation provides various services to its members, including visibility, support, education, training, and information. In addition, MFC acts as an important lobby for the recognition of Maltese social enterprises.
- Koperattivi Malta is federation of co-operatives in Malta mostly composed by agricultural, transport and fishing co-operatives. The organisation’s main aim of representing and promoting the cooperative movement and to provide vital services to its members in the fields of education, training and management consultancy.
- CORE platform promotes mutual learning on Corporate Social Reponsibility and can provide opportunities of partnership for actors of the social economy and civil society.
As for support schemes, there is no dedicated funding for social enterprises. However, a number of VOs and cooperatives can access grant schemes to further their social aims. VOs can notably access funding through public-private partnership with the government. VOs identify a social need and enter discussions with the government to become service providers on this specific topic. In general agreements between VOs and the relevant ministry last three years.
Furthermore, EU funding has played a significant role in developing social enterprise as both a concept and practice in Malta. EU programmes have spurred the development of projects linked to social economy through various budget lines. Within the 2021-2027 ESF+ Programme for Malta, EUR 0.6 million are earmarked to support the development of social economy and social enterprises. Support here will help individuals identify their own potential through training, mentoring, coaching, and upgrading of skills, knowledge, and competencies, amongst others. All information related to EU funds in Malta, including applications and calendar of upcoming calls, can be found at https://fondi.eu/.
Apart from public funding, finance can be supplied by:
- Banks: Some de facto social enterprises rely on traditional banks or the APS Bank, Malta’s ethical bank.
- Microfinance: Malta Microfinance Ltd. is a non-profit, financial institution founded in 2013 by the St. Andrew's Scots Church, licensed and regulated by the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA). It offers alternative financing for otherwise disadvantaged groups that cannot access bank services.)
- Crowdfunding: Crowdfunding has been gaining momentum since 2016 in Malta due to the establishment of the Foundation for the Promotion of Entrepreneurial Initiatives which created ZAAR—a donation/reward-based crowdfunding platform.
- Foundations attached to private enterprises cab support the social sector, offering grants on CSR-related initiatives.
- Network financing: Malta also displays a few examples of “bridge funding” or “network financing”.
In the case of social enterprises registered under the Cooperative Societies Act, access to finance is also ensured by the CCF, a funding agency, reserve and solidarity fund uniquely addressing the financing needs of Maltese cooperatives.
Learn more about the social economy in Malta
- Malta Cooperative Federation and Koperattivi Malta provide numerous documents and studies on the social economy sector, and more especially cooperatives.
- Social Enterprises and their ecosystems in Europe, Country Reports, Malta, 2019. Link: Document database - Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion - European Commission (europa.eu)