The characteristics of social enterprises differ a lot from country to country concerning their number, size, legal forms and fields of activities. To create a clearer picture, the Commission has carried out a series of studies, mapping the reality of social enterprises in the 35 European countries using a common definition and approach. This EU level synthesis report collates and interprets the key findings from country reports and draws a European picture of social enterprises and the environments in which they operate, the “ecosystems”. The report brings together a comprehensive picture of different country traditions, salient trends and key challenges across Europe. The separate country reports provide key data on social enterprises and their eco-systems, including factors constraining their development. An executive summary is also available in English, French and German
In 2011, the European Commission presented the Social Business Initiative (SBI) which established an EU level action plan with concrete measures to establish a favourable environment for social enterprises (SE). This study analyses the impact of the SBI on the development of social enterprises/social economy and their operating environments at national and EU levels. The study also includes an analysis of current needs and concludes with options for future policy initiatives.
Reports (incl. joint work European Commission and OECD)
Building on many data sources and country examples on women’s employment in the social and solidarity economy (SSE) the report: i) analyses women’s employment in the SSE, ii) explores challenges to gender equality in the SSE and, iii) provides policy recommendations to recognise women’s work and leadership in the SSE and in the wider economy. It also suggests ways to foster their participation in high-growth sectors within the SSE, such as technology-intensive and green sectors. Published on March 20, 2023 In series: OECD Local Economic and Employment Development (LEED) Papers Link to OECD page
The Policy Guide on Legal Frameworks for the Social and Solidarity Economy aims to support countries, regions and cities wishing to use legal frameworks as an appropriate lever to develop conducive social and solidarity economy (SSE) ecosystems. Building on data and information as well as good practice examples from over 33 countries, it provides step-by-step guidance, success factors and "pitfalls to avoid" to help policy makers i) assess why and when legal frameworks for the SSE are needed; ii) select legal options and involve stakeholders; iii) evaluate the performance of laws, and, iv) foster international peer learning on this topic. The guide also capitalises on learnings from the scoping paper on Legal frameworks for the social and solidarity economy, prepared as part of the OECD Global Action “Promoting Social and Solidarity Economy Ecosystems”, funded by the European Union’s Foreign Partnership Instrument and Designing Legal Frameworks for Social Enterprises: Practical Guidance for Policy Makers. OECD publication details
The OECD Global Action “Promoting Social and Solidarity Economy Ecosystems”, funded by the European Union, through its work stream on legal frameworks, endeavours to: 1) increase knowledge and understanding on legal frameworks for the social and solidarity economy; 2) explore approaches and trends of legal frameworks to regulate the social and solidarity economy as a whole and social economy organisations; and 3) understand how legal frameworks can be used to promote and develop the social and solidarity economy in different contexts. This paper defines the legal notions, traditions and approaches to better understand legal frameworks that regulate the field. It presents and analyses the diversity, relevance and implications of legal frameworks that regulate the social economy; takes stock of the processes that lead to their design and implementation; identifies possible criteria for assessing their performance; and highlights the cross-cutting issues and policy examples that could inspire countries. OECD publication details
As social and solidarity economy (SSE) entities are increasingly requested to demonstrate their positive contribution to society, social impact measurement can help them understand the additional, net value generated by their activities, in the pursuit of their mission and beyond. Policy plays an important role to facilitate a conducive environment to unlock the uptake of social impact measurement among SSE actors. Drawing on a mapping exercise and good practice examples from over 33 countries, this international policy guide navigates how policy makers can support social impact measurement for the social and solidarity economy by: (i) improving the policy framework, (ii) delivering guidance, (iii) building evidence and (iv) supporting capacity. Building on the earlier publication Social Impact Measurement for the Social and Solidarity Economy released in 2021 the guide is published under the framework of the OECD Global Action “Promoting Social and Solidarity Economy Ecosystems”, funded by the European Union’s Foreign Partnership Instrument. OECD publication details
The OECD Global Action “Promoting Social and Solidarity Economy Ecosystems”, funded by the European Union, through its work stream on social impact measurement, endeavours to: 1) explore current social impact measurement practices among social and solidarity economy organisations; 2) identify the methodologies best suited to capture the social benefits of the social and solidarity economy; and 3) understand what policy initiatives can be used to foster a social impact measurement culture and practice in the social and solidarity economy. After discussing the origins and drivers of social impact measurement, this paper examines existing methodologies developed at the local, national and international level and finally reviews how these are being implemented in the social and solidarity economy. It takes stock of the policy mapping exercise conducted by the OECD, which draws on responses to an online survey and on the stakeholder consultations conducted in Brazil, Canada, India, Korea, Mexico and the United States. OECD publication details
Young people increasingly prioritise pursuing careers with positive social and environmental impacts. Social enterprises can help them fulfil this ambition. Youth-led social enterprises can address pressing social and environmental issues while providing young people with opportunities in the labour market. Despite these benefits, these entities often struggle due to the age of their founders and the specificities of their businesses. This paper analyses the drivers and potential benefits of youth-led social enterprises (section 1), assesses the challenges they face (section 2) and provides policy guidance to address them through tailored support programmes based on best practice examples and experiences from OECD countries and beyond (section 3). OECD document information
his policy brief on the social economy and its contribution to the circular economy was produced by the OECD and the European Commission. The brief defines concepts of both the circular and social economy and describes the potential of the social economy to support circular activities and related business models and to reinforce uptake of circularity in our economies and societies. It finally identifies policy orientations that build on the complementarity of the social and circular economies, and help the social economy support circularity and drive a green and inclusive transition. OECD publication details
Better Entrepreneurship Policy Tool (BEPT)
Assess the quality of your social entrepreneurship framework conditions with the Better Entrepreneurship Policy Tool (BEPT)
This online tool, developed by the European Commission and the OECD, allows policy makers and other stakeholders to assess the current state of their social economy framework. The assessment can be done alone or in a group.
In addition to the social economy questionnaire, the website also offers assessments on inclusive entrepreneurship (for various groups).
Competence Centres for Social Innovation
Funded in part through the 2014-2020 European Social Fund and the Employment and Social Innovation programme (EaSI), a series of six consortia were selected to set up national competence centres and drive social innovation – locally, regionally, nationally and transnationally. Covering 25 countries and mobilising 148 organisations, the consortia aim to cultivate networks, build capacities and synergies, spotlight efficiencies and develop the tools and methods that will be essential to growing social innovation across the EU.
Under the ESF Social Innovation + initiative, a European Competence Centre for social innovation has been established that will collect, assess, develop, validate and disseminate suitable tools and methods for social innovation. The initiative will offer mutual learning, capacity building and networking for ESF Managing Authorities and other relevant stakeholders. The initiative will include EU-wide, multi-national projects to develop, replicate and scale up innovative solutions.
European Social Innovation Competition (EUSIC)
The European Social Innovation Competition is a yearly competition run by the European Commission since 2013. It calls on participants to come up with solutions to specific problems affecting our society, each year with focus on a different topic.
The 2023 edition focuses on fighting energy poverty, while previous editions have covered various topics such as the future of living, skills for a green and digital future, reimagining fashion, and challenging plastic waste.
Participants are typically start-ups, young social entrepreneurs and innovators as well as NGOs and other organisations committed to social innovation.
Each year, the selected finalists benefit from networking, mentoring and coaching support. The three winners are awarded a monetary prize of EUR 50.000 each.
Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs
The Commission has been supporting entrepreneurial education and youth entrepreneurship in Europe through the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs programme (EYE). The EYE is a cross-border business exchange programme for entrepreneurs from the EU members states and 12 additional countries. It allows new entrepreneurs to go on an exchange with a host entrepreneur in another country for up to 6 months. By doing so, the EYE fosters the exchange of knowledge, business ideas, contacts and experiences and it also helps fight unemployment.
Until now, around 11.000 business exchanges have been concluded, involving more than 20.000 entrepreneurs. The EYE is open to entrepreneurs active in any sector including the social economy. More than 10% of the business exchanges established under the programme involved social entrepreneurs.
Other EU websites
The following websites may be of interest for social economy stakeholders. This list is not exhaustive, but aims to highlight a number of useful platforms.
- The European Circular Economy Stakeholder Platform, a joint initiative by the European Commission and the European Economic and Social Committee.
- The Invest EU portal
- Fi-compass, a platform for advisory services on financial instruments.
- Social Innovation Match, which aims to promote the transfer and/or scaling-up of social innovation across Europe
- EISMEA's examples/practices in the field of social economy
- The social services helpdesk
- Capacity4dev, the EU Commission's platform for international cooperation and development
- The New European Bauhaus
- Your Europe portal
- Rural Pact community platform
Mapping of social economy stakeholders
Find out more about key social economy stakeholders in Europe
See below a list of research institutions working on the social economy:
International Centre of Information and Research on Public, Social and Cooperative Economy (CIRIEC) (Liége, Belgium)
CIRIEC is a non-governmental international scientific organization. Its objectives are to undertake and promote the collection of information, scientific research, and the publication of works on economic sectors and activities oriented towards the service of the general and collective interest:
- action by the State and the local and regional public authorities in economic fields (economic policy, regulation);
- public utilities;
- public and mixed enterprises at the national, regional and municipal levels;
- the so-called “social economy” (not-for-profit economy, cooperatives, mutuals, and non-profit organizations); etc.
In these fields CIRIEC develops activities of interest for both managers and researchers, offering opportunities for mutual enrichment.
EURICSE – European Research Institute on Cooperative and Social Enterprises (Trento, Italy)
EURICSE does research, training and consulting regarding cooperative and social enterprises and other nonprofit organizations.
Euclid Network (The Hague, Netherlands)
Euclid Network, the European Social Enterprise Network, brings together organisations that support social enterprises and social entrepreneurs across Europe.
Euclid Network's activities include conducting research and developing thought leadership on social enterprises and the organisations that support them, their needs, opportunities and impact, such as through “The European Social Enterprise Monitor (ESEM)” and “The State of Social Enterprise Support in Europe and Neighbouring Countries” research projects.
European Social Enterprise Monitor by Euclid Network
Launched in 2020, the European Social Enterprise Monitor (ESEM) is the first and most comprehensive social enterprise monitor conducted 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 data analysed both in national reports and a comparative European report, the project generates profound insights on the social enterprise ecosystem in Europe and highlights opportunities for further development of the sector and its impact.
Resources about work integration social enterprises (WISEs) by ENSIE
In 2017, ENSIE started the mapping of European work integration social enterprises (WISEs) and created its online WISEs database. This tool showcases all WISEs reunited on one online platform, to foster collaboration amongst them but also to show third parties what WISEs are operating in their are. This database also allows to increase the visibility on WISEs’ work and activities and foster a more responsible consumption and production.
ENSIE is also regularly updating its “Impact WISE study”, where it showcases the positive effects of WISEs.
socioeco.org by RIPESS
Socioeco.org is an online library dedicated to the social and solidarity economy and its associated concepts. It contains documents and 25 000 references in 5 main languages: French, English, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese.
OECD website on Social Economy and Innovation
Find all OECD publications on social economy and access information about past events.
Social and Solidarity Economy Knowledge Hub by the UN Interagency Task Force on Social and Solidarity Economy
The Social and Solidarity Economy Knowledge Hub of the UNTFSSE collects relevant resources related to social economy and the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.