According to a recent report issued by the European Commission, social enterprises have become nowadays a constitutive element of the strategy set up by European Institutions for promoting inclusive growth. Following the last recognition of social enterprises as something that can combine economic activity with social mission, they reflect the necessity to align business and investment programs to more ethical and social principles. The feature of “social enterprise” has indeed become associated to development and growth, revealing a latent necessity to address the growing instability and inefficiency of typical business models.
The idea of social enterprises is that they can provide innovative responses to the current economic, social and environmental challenges by developing social inclusion, social services, territorial cohesion and so forth.
Nonetheless, if social economy and social innovation are recognized to be at the heart of Europe’s concern, there is no such clarity in identifying which actors are supposed to “operate” within the novel ecosystem. By the way, the process of identification reveals another controversial problem, which is the one of defining what a social enterprise is.
For this reason, the European Commission launched a Mapping Study in April 2013 as a follow-up to Action 5 of the Social Business Initiative (SBI) to help fill this gap in knowledge. In particular, the objective is to converge toward a common operational definition of social enterprises. The relevance of the action is related to the dynamic evolution of such enterprises and to the fact that political arenas are constantly dominated by discourses on social innovation.
Finally, the study highlights another important aspect related to the process of mapping social enterprises: the family of those enterprises is incredibly diverse, encompassing a range of legal and organizational forms and it remains mainly unsupported in overcoming main barriers to development (poor visibility and recognition of the sector, the constraints of current legal and regulatory frameworks, limited financial resources, difficult access to markets)
So, acknowledging the role of such enterprises in tackling societal challenges, we should also understand how much is important to provide a supportive environment. In so doing, the preliminary step should consist in enabling supportive policy framework, by reinforcing for example the interconnections between stakeholders, or creating virtuous partnerships with diverse societal actors. Again, it would be nonsense talking about innovation without any regard to social stakeholders.
Recently Iris Network, the Italian network of Institutes for the research on the social enterpreises, published an interesting and comprehensive Report on the situation of the social enterprises in Italy.
The future is about collaboration.
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Il tema di imprese sociali in Europa rappresenta la nuova frontiera in termini di sviluppo economico e di crescita sostenibile. Legare tradizionali sistemi di business a dinamiche etiche e sociali riproduce i tratti di una strategia Europea sempre più mirata a investire sull’ inclusione sociale e sul valore economico aggiunto che se ne può trarre. Tuttavia, non sempre appare semplice definire quali siano le caratteristiche di queste imprese sociali, né tantomeno appare immediato costruire una mappatura per identificare i poli d’innovazione sociale.
Per questi motivi, la Commissione Europea affronta il tema delle imprese sociali e delle barriere allo sviluppo, identificando tra i maggiori limiti la mancanza di un sistema di policy per il supporto, nonché la difficoltà di accedere ai mercati ed ai finanziamenti.
Pertanto, nel ricercare una soluzione alle barriere strutturali che incontrano le imprese sociali nel promuovere il loro sviluppo, è evidente quanto la collaborazione tra i diversi attori sociali rappresenti in realtà la prima fonte di progresso.
Interessante anche il Report pubblicato recentemente da Iris Network sull’impresa sociale in Italia.
Image credit to: www.cnm.org