The AER Committees are a space for experience exchange, which enable mutual learning and regional policy innovation. During the 2018 Spring plenary of the AER Committee on Social Policy and Public Health, members identified social entrepreneurship as a topic of high interest. This is why the President of the Committee on Social Policy & Public Health, Mihai Ritivoiu invited Umbria (IT) and Maramures (RO) to share their experience on social entrpreneurship and initiate a discussion among members.
Pioneering social change
A social entrepreneurship does business focusing on a social purpose trying to bring a social change in the society. The Business encyclopedia says that the “social entrepreneurs combine commerce and social issues in a way that improves the lives of people connected to the cause. They don’t measure their success in terms of profit alone – success to social entrepreneurs means that they have improved the world, however they define that.” Indeed, the main aim of social entrepreneurship is to bring a positive change in the society. After recognizing the social problems, the entrepreneurs achieve their objectives by using market-based strategies. At the European level, the definition of a social enterprise is built along three dimensions: an entrepreneurial dimension (with earned income generated by the sale of goods and services on the market, including through public contracting); a social dimension (the pursuit of an explicit social aim and delivery of products and services with a social connotation); a governance dimension (accountability, participation and transparency).
A diverse reality
Many commercial businesses would consider themselves to have social objectives, but social enterprises are distinctive because their social or environmental purpose remains central to their operation. The following examples show the wide spectrum covered by social entreprises:
- Meet My Mama is a French foodtech startup that helps women with different cultural backgrounds to share their traditional dishes by cooking in events, organizing caterings or delivering food;
- Soma Water creates a home water filtration solution that use the proceeds of the sales to bring safe drinking water to over 663 million people who don’t have access to water;
- CO2 online is a German social enterprise focused on the environmental benefits. This enterprise assists private households in decreasing their consumption of energy and with this lower their CO2 emissions. At the same time, consumers benefit from lower energy bills;
- Le Mat is a social franchise system of social entrepreneurs operating in tourism, hospitality and local development through the creation of hotels, hostels, and bed and breakfasts, as well as other tourism services. A specific feature of this social franchise is that it allows social franchisees to adapt their model to the local context, in terms of culture, geography, architecture, production of goods and social aspects.
In these examples is highlighted the rich variety of missions carried out by social entrepreneurs. Moreover, companies could have as goal to solve problems, hire people in need or both, open schools in far-flung areas, educate women in need, allow farmers and poor individuals to access low-interest credits, establish plants for waste treatment, plant trees and so on.
Social entrepreneurship: the driving force of regional development
According to OECD European Commission, Social entrepreneurship plays an important role in addressing social, economic, and environmental challenges while fostering inclusive growth, shared prosperity, and social inclusion. In response to the crisis and austerity, social enterprise demonstrates the ability to address societal needs and build social cohesion. Moreover, social entrepreneurship contributes to job creation, especially at local level, as well as to democratic participation and improvement of welfare services delivery.
Discussion at AER plenaries: Umbria and Maramures example of good practices
Nowadays, many questions have risen around social enterprises. Are they efficient? What is their social impact at a regional level? How can a region measure the social impact of a social enterprise? Last but not least, the most common argument is: how do you find the balance between social purpose and the economic success of the enterprise?
These and many other questions will be discussed in Vojvodina thanks to the experience that will be shared by Umbria region (IT) and Maramures (RO). Ms. Anna Ascani -dirigent of the department on social affairs and international relations at Umbria region- will present good practices developed in the last years in her region. She will show the different successes and obstacles that Umbria region is facing. While Mr. Florian Sălăjeanu -president of Asociația Profesională Neguvernamentală de Asistență Socială ASSOC Baia Mare in Maramures (RO)– will deepen the link between the scope of social enterprises and the meaning of social inclusion.
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