Anna Kucinska
07 July 2014

Case: support infrastructure - “Enterprising together!” (S10658) and “Enterprise Finland” (S10360)

Cluster: Support infrastructures
Title: “Enterprising together!” (S10658) and “Enterprise Finland” (S10360)
Authors and organizational affiliations:

The Ministry of Employment and the Economy

  • Ulla Leppänen (Tampere Region Co-operative Centre)

  • Pertti Hämäläinen, Natalia Härkin and as a co-ordinator Lippe Koivuneva (Employment and Enterprise Department; “Enterprising together!”)

  • Jaana Lappi, Tarinka Ringvall and Hanna Riski (Knowledge Management Department; ”Enterprise Finland”)

  • Riikka-Maria Turkia (Regional Department; the Managing Authority of the ERDF and the ESF)

 

1. Context and history of how the good practice has been developed

Background

The Ministry of Employment and the Economy (MEE) is responsible for enterprise strategies and policies and also acts as the Managing Authority of the Structural Funds. MEE controls and manages the 15 regional Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY centres). These i.e. grant support measures and subsidies either from purely national budgetary resources or EU funds. The ELY Centres steer and supervise the 15 Employment and Economic Development Offices (TE Offices; “employment offices”).

No new organizations have been established for managing and implementing the Structural Funds but national authorities have taken care of these tasks according to their respective national competence. The ELY centres have been the most important Intermediate Bodies in the ESF, and in addition to them the Regional Councils (statutory federations of municipalities) play an important role in the ERDF.

During the previous programming period, also MEE could fund strategically important nationwide ESF actions: i.e. “Enterprising together!” and “Enterprise Finland”. Both of these were funded by the ESF Operational Programme for Continental Finland under the Priority, which aimed at developing working organizations, work force and enterprises as well as increasing entrepreneurship. Even though this case description is supposed to concentrate more on the former project, it cannot be separated from the latter. Mainstreaming of the results was considered to take place to a large extent in the framework of Enterprise Finland multichannel instruments.

Strategic objectives of Finland include promoting start-ups and growth and sustainability of the enterprises, especially SMEs, as an essential part of the Europe 2020 strategy. The Government is very committed to these objectives. All the support measures are available to the social enterprises as well. There are no special measures except those based on the special Act (1351/2003; modified 924/2012) applied to the “social enterprises” which in reality are work integration social enterprises (which can be of any legal form). The ESF has been used for i.e. developing multichannel or tailored services for entrepreneurs and their staff while the ERDF has given enterprise support. Various enterprise consultants/advisors at the ELY Centres, Enterprise Agencies, business incubators or other business services (often developed and maintained by the ERDF) and through the multichannel Enterprise Finland offer advisory services which are normally free of charge.

The ESF has been used for developing knowledge, services and service systems of the public sector according to the Government strategies (top-down) but also for developing social entrepreneurship according to its own interests (bottom-up), as is seen for example in “Living lab for social enterprises” (see “Comment paper from Finland). Also, an important part of Enterprising together! was aimed at strengthening the actors in social economy as described later on.   

In promoting entrepreneurship, an important tool has also been to reduce administrative burden. This has been done i.e. by revising legislation and procedures of incorporating an enterprise. The latter has been made as easy as possible by using only internet.

Before launching “Enterprising together!”, knowledge of enterprise advisors on co-operatives and social entrepreneurship did not seem to be sufficient in spite of the long and strong history of co-operatives in Finland (and perhaps partly because of that, due to their not-always-so-good image). This was seen i.e. from the fact that when incorporating an enterprise, in practice co-operative forms were not really acknowledged. Business name or private trader has been the most popular legal form for start-ups during last three years, since it does not require any particular institutions or procedures except registrations. Another almost as popular form has been the limited company (by shares). A great deal of enterprises has been incorporated by max two persons.

The need for enhancing knowledge about co-operatives and social entrepreneurship was recognized. There is a wide range of public and private enterprise counseling and advisory services so there was a kind of a need to get the key persons together and improve their knowledge on social economy and enterprises by starting with co-operatives which often have the general image of representing this sector. Also, the co-operative forms had advantages i.e. for start-up entrepreneurs that were not fully acknowledged.

Co-operatives in Finland

The previous Co-operatives Act (1488/2001) was in force until 31 December 2013. The new Act (421/2013) has not modified the rule that a co-operative is an organization whose membership and capital have not been defined in advance. The purpose of a co-operative is to promote the economic and business interests of its members by the way of the pursuit of economic activity where the members use of the services provided or arranged by the co-operative. It may be stipulated in the rules of the co-operative that its main purpose is the common achievement of an ideological goal.  
If the purpose is wholly or partly something else than business for the benefit of the members, there must be a stipulation concerning this in the rules. Then the co-operative may promote public good as is required from a social enterprise, but in these cases there also has to be a stipulation how to use the equity of the co-operative. Also other criteria including the democracy in the decision making and transparency in the operations can be ensured in the rules. The rules of a co-operative can be set in quite a flexible manner. In practice, there is a wide range of various co-operatives in Finland.
Finland has a long and on-going history of strong co-operatives, especially in the sectors of primary production and retail trade. Looking at the annual revenue, almost half from 50 biggest co-operative enterprises were from the retail sector. In the end of 1980s, there were about 2 000 co-operatives. Lately, about 200 co-operatives have been incorporated annually. The total number of co-operatives in the Trade Register was over 4 400 by the end of 2012. The Finnish co-operatives have more than 4 million members while the population of the country is at the level of 5,3 million, and they employ more than 100 000 persons. The total turnover is more than 30 billion euro.

 Among the new cooperatives, there are worker co-operatives or co-operatives which deliver services. Worker cooperatives are established to create or maintain employment of its members. The members sell their expertise and skills by services and/or products they have made. Marketing cooperatives act as a channel for people or other entrepreneurs to market their products and/or services through mutual brand or trade name. They offer the economies of scale to their members. In the acquisition cooperatives, the benefit comes the other way round, since the members benefit from the purchasing power they create. They can buy services and/or products in bigger amounts and with lower prices than by themselves.

2. Summary of main characteristics of good practice approach

Enterprising together!

This ESF project, under the ESF programme/action “Entrepreneurship as a way to use work force and as a labour market engine”, was administrated and coordinated by MEE (Employment and Enterprise Department) and implemented by the Tampere Region Co-operative Centre (after procurement) between 1 July 2008 and 31 December 2013. Since it was basically a nationwide project, the Ministry had a strong role in integrating the project activities into other nationwide projects aiming to enhance entrepreneurship.

 The funding of the project was about 1,28 million euro in total (ESF and national public funding). In addition, the administrative expenses (like the staff) in MEE were paid merely form the national State budget.  

The project was designed to offer a comprehensive service package for developing knowledge and services of various entrepreneurship and career counseling organizations and to promote co-operative and social entrepreneurship. It was expected to develop and strengthen the network of entrepreneurship and career counseling actors in various organizations so that in each region one could find counselors who were deeper trained in co-operative entrepreneurship. Also, the aim was to enhance the co-operation inside this network.  

The target group was very open and wide starting from various kinds of counseling organizations (municipality, state, private sector) to i.e. authorities granting funds to co-operatives and projects and giving enterprise and other training. The common nominator was that they dealt with starting-up entrepreneurship. The idea was to have an influence on all the relevant stakeholders dealing with the counseling start-ups and indirectly on people who were thinking about their career possibilities incl. entrepreneurship. In this manner, the influence would be more permanent than i.e. creating a special temporary counseling structure with ESF funds which model had been already tested. The project also aimed at improving public awareness of the entire field of social economy and identifying its potential.

The comprehensive service package was to include:
- www –pages and a knowledge bank for enterprise and career counselors;
- the counseling model for co-operative entrepreneurship;
- establishing a nationwide network of entrepreneurship counselors;
- phone support services for enterprise and career counselors of Enterprise Finland (the material on co-operatives);
- the co-operative module of training of entrepreneurship counselors in Enterprise Finland;
- broad training events on social economy; and
- a survey on small co-operatives as an alternative for entrepreneurship and career and a way of action of social economy.

The last item on the list was not implemented since it was not considered appropriate anymore in 2012. Then, the Ministry of Justice was preparing revisions to the Co-operatives Act. However, during its implementation the project considered methodological issues, like measuring social impact of the social enterprises and co-operatives into local economy.

The objective was to support also other forms of social entrepreneurship and enterprise training in order to promote multifaceted new entrepreneurship. The project was to look after methods for finding and highlighting business ideas of social entrepreneurship. At the national level, the intention was to look into possibilities of supporting expert co-operatives, where experts could test their business ideas.  This is how the project was to increase the number of start-ups and the multifaceted nature of entrepreneurship and career alternatives.
 
Enterprise Finland

The project has been an answer to the Government principal decision on developing the Finnish enterprise services (2006).  Also, the project is in line with the present Government programme which requires developing a one-stop-shop for enterprise services as well as customer-oriented services.

Enterprise Finland is a part of a larger development work, ”the Action Programme for eServices and eDemocracy” (SADe -programme) of the Ministry of Finance, which has a remarkable input of about 70 million euro from the national budget funds during 2010 - 2015. MEE (Knowledge Management Department) itself is in charge of the enterprise part of this strategic e –administration development programme together with its branch of administration (“MEE corporate”) and other stakeholders. The enterprise part is around 10 million euro of SADe –programme.

Enterprise Finland serves all kinds of entrepreneurs for instance as an information source for all essential business activities: starting, developing and internationalizing a business. Public enterprise services are available all in one place (an electronic one-stop-shop complemented with phone services and an opportunity to tailor-made and face-to-face services through its “My Enterprise Finland” –work space, if needed) and in one format instead of fragmented business services. The electronic services do not exclude the personal face-to-face services.

The national funding is complemented with other funding sources incl. the ESF, which has been used for example for training the regional actors and “branding”. The period of ESF funding is from 1 June 2008 to 31 March 2015, so it is still running effectively. The ESF and national public funding is 7,6 million euro in total.
The Enterprise Finland network, which basically covers the whole country, comprises MEE, Finnvera plc (the financing company owned by the State), Finpro (trade, internationalization and investment development organization), the Finnish Patent and Registration Office (registration of juristic persons and enterprises), Finnish Industry Investment, Tekes – the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation, the ELY Centres, the TE Offices and the Tax Administration. In addition, the network includes regional corporate services around Finland.

The objective is to increase the customer-orientation, productivity and effectiveness of the public employment services and the entrepreneurship services of the MEE corporate at nationa. regional and local levels.  The objective is to gather scattered enterprise services into customer-orientated one-stop-shop of uniform quality nationwide under the brand of Enterprise Finland and to ensure multichannel implementation of the services. The key method has been to build common models of action and service concepts.
The service concept of Enterprise Finland (internet, face to face, phone service) promotes established companies as well as start-ups and persons planning to start their own businesses. Enterprise Finland portal supports each of the different service channels. Enterprisefinland.fi (yrityssuomi.fi) is an online service that is available to its users free of charge, offering information and services for starting, growing and developing a company and advice and guidance on internationalization. All the content exists in Finnish, Swedish and English. Enterprisefinland.fi contains various services and forms and includes approximately:
- 500 pages
- 1 000 service descriptions, both national and local
- 120 permit descriptions
- 1 000 links
- 60 regional sites
- 350 public organizations: from large nationwide agencies to small local level organizations (no private businesses)
- 800 000 visits annually.

“My Own Enterprise” –work space is:
- for managing matters related to establishing and running a business;
- collecting public and publicly funded enterprise services under the same address;
- as an electronic workspace, providing information services, tools and interactive transaction services;
- reducing the need for shuttling between different online services or offices;
- the content of which is based on user profile information -> enabling to take into account e.g. the business sector, the region, the life cycle stage of the enterprise and other areas of interest provides information that best suits the user’s needs.

The work space for starting-up:
The work space for an on-going entrepreneur:

3. Evidence/Justification for Good Practice

Enterprising together!

General

Nationwide large-scale training and counseling on co-operative entrepreneurship was offered for organizations which give enterprise and career counseling services and/or otherwise work with start-up entrepreneurs. Those Enterprise Finland advisors who were responsible for phone services were trained and prepared and given support material regarding co-operatives.

The objective was to arrange basic training 1 – 3 times annually and advanced training once/twice a year. In total, 25 basic and 10 advanced training events were given, as the demand for trainings was higher, than expected due to the increased interest towards co-operative entrepreneurship. The score in the feedback from the training events was 4,3 (max. 5,0) on average. Also, the project arranged four main seminars. Seven info videos were prepared as well as some other short-term training activities where 831 persons from 237 organizations participated.

Another important field of action was information and publicity (incl. i.e. a radio campaign, electric and paper newsletters 4-5 times a year with 2 000 recipients, brochures, press releases etc.). A unified visual and graphic look with a logo was set up as well as three basic messages and five main doctrines (“advertisement slogans”) about co-operatives. Various information events had 2 470 participants in total.

Development of www –pages and an intranet/extranet portal was of major importance and a factor to the success. The main channel i.e. for up-to-date news and the event calendar was www.yhteistoiminta.fi, which was maintained in a special CMS –system with monthly license fees. The system was registered into the ownership of the association developing co-operatives in Tampere Region (Tampere Region Co-operative Centre).

In addition to these, the project staff gave lectures, presentations and other kind of information. The staff was very active in participating in the events arranged by other actors or co-arranging them, i.e. several “super days on co-operatives and social enterprises” which were quite compact up-to-date events gathering various kinds of stakeholders in a creative manner.

Efficient training and various other events contributed to the creation of the network of (co-operative) enterprise advisors as well as their back-up support. In the end of the project, the network included 146 advisors all over the country covering the regions which were committed to Enterprise Finland.  Back-up support was given to 95 % to these regions. The support was given i.e. in checking and commenting the draft rules of a co-operative which was to be incorporated.

Expert services were given to authorities granting funding for projects dealing with co-operative and social entrepreneurship and economy. Expertise was used also by other projects and partners: more than 130 organizations including municipalities, training institutes, NGOs, enterprises and authorities. The project was i.e. involved in developing the guidance of MEE concerning unemployment benefits (the legal status of a person may sometimes be unclear in certain types of co-operatives - whether one is a worker or an entrepreneur - this may have an influence on the unemployment benefits of the person).  Also, the project was involved in drafting guidance on generation change in enterprises.

The project aimed at increasing research on small co-operatives and social economy and to enhance the adoption of the results of the research into practice. New innovative implementation models for co-operative entrepreneurship were to be developed and delivered nationwide as well as functional models and tools for promoting effectiveness of the business knowledge of co-operatives.
Since one objective of the project was to give attention to various co-operative pilot cases and to promote co-operatives in different kinds of business models, support was given to 14 different cases dealing with co-operative co-operation model structures, social entrepreneurship, learning environments of entrepreneurship and new business areas. Social franchising, which is a new issue in Finland, was taken up in a seminar of the project.

In 2011, a competition on small co-operatives in Finland was arranged as part of the project. Its objective was to offer visibility of well-functioning small co-operatives and make various business models of co-operatives known. In Finland, the co-operative sector is traditionally strong and diverse but the well-known established co-operatives are big, i.e. in the retail trade the biggest actor is a co-operative with millions of members.  

In 2010, Tampere Region Co-operative Centre won a prize in “Enterprising Europe Award” (by European Commission) for increasing 500 % the number of co-operatives in Tampere.   

Because of its objectives, the project had a wide range of co-operation and networking both at the national and European level incl. various international activities and an exchange of good practices. The project was i.e. active in participating UN Year of Co-operatives 2012, international seminars, peer review and mainstreaming networks (i.e. SEN) and events and research co-operation. For instance the project was initiating co-operation between the promoters of co-operative entrepreneurship in the Nordic countries.  

An outcome of the project is guidance and a chart describing the counseling process step-by-step. The extranet includes the presentations, brochures, guidance and all the other material prepared by the project. For integrating counseling on co-operative entrepreneurship into Enterprise Finland, the project produced a CD –ROM from its outcome for the benefit of Enterprise Finland to be used in the working space of the customers and working groups planning the learning environment of the enterprise counselors. Also, there is a proposal for contents of information for a space open to the public in Enterprisefinland.fi.
 
Evaluation results

An evaluation survey on the project was carried out in collaboration with Reaktor Innovations Oy and Deloitte Oy. The survey examined the success and impacts of the project and gave recommendations and ideas for the future implementation and development of the services provided by the project. The outcomes and impacts are examined with regard to the increase of the advisors´ competence and knowledge and the benefits received by their customers (enterprises). In addition, the success of the project as a whole was evaluated. The survey was conducted as an online questionnaire, directed to enterprise advisors and other partners.

According to the results of the survey, the know-how of the advisors and other partners about co-operative entrepreneurship increased significantly because of the project. This also meant that they were increasingly active in advising their clients in questions regarding co-operative entrepreneurship. 40 % of the respondents told that their competence about co-operatives increased either “much” or “very much”. 82 % indicated that they actively inform their clients about the possibilities of co-operative entrepreneurship. In addition, during the past year the respondents had assisted 140 cases in which co-operatives were established. The project also had a positive impact on the customers, as 78 % of the respondents considered that their clients´ interest towards co-operative entrepreneurship had increased due to the project.

Altogether, based especially on the results of the survey, the project can be deemed successful. The results also show that there has been a demand for this kind of services and similar services are needed in the future, too.  More than 2/3 of the respondents regarded the continuation of the services as either “useful” or “very useful”. Trainings, seminars, personal counseling and professional services related to co-operative entrepreneurship as well as the website of the project were considered the most useful. One of the most important themes raised by the evaluation is to consider how the services a can be provided nationwide and as a part of the Enterprise Finland network after the closure of Enterprising together!.

On the basis of evaluation, good practices created by the project were:
- the training and other events;
- the knowledge bank as a whole (www.yhteistoiminta.fi/extranet) and various other material and guidelines prepared by the project;
- the back-up support and material created and given on co-operative entrepreneurship;
- the publicity and information activities;
- the network of contact persons for promotion of co-operative entrepreneurship as well as making exchange of experts and expertise and co-operation possible with - the support of the network;
- the international peer contacts created; research knowledge adapted into the practical work of the project;
- activation of enterprise advisors in promoting co-operative entrepreneurship and increasing their knowledge in it.

In the final report of the project, in addition to evaluation results, the innovativeness of the project was taken up since 45 % of the respondents of the survey had regarded the course of action as innovative:
- availability of information, multichannel information, good seminars;
- training activity which was aimed at enterprise advisors, not at entrepreneurs (as usually);
- setting up peer contacts (network of contact persons) and the innovative ideas created by them;
- the training events, maintaining local networks and good information material.

The project was considered genuine and development-oriented action which made good efforts towards producing information and in this manner mainstreaming its activities. Positive feedback was also given from the success in bringing co-operative entrepreneurship to a new level and showing it as a modern and workable form of entrepreneurship. The project created public debate and media coverage.

Enterprise Finland

Enterprise Finland offers a nationwide one-stop-shop for multichannel enterprise services. Enterprise Finland brand is a good practice which has been created in the project as well as i.e.:

  • Enterprise service players in the administrative sector of MEE have adopted the service models of shared customer segmentation;
  • Customer planning is a key tool for regional  enterprise customer relationship management teams;
  • Development of the Enterprisefinland.fi  internet service and the Enterprise  Finland phone service; in general development of the e-services and also training connected with these issues ;
  • Training for business/entrepreneurship advisors who work at the organizations of the Enterprise Finland network.   

Enterprise Finland has reacted to the dissatisfaction of enterprises by making different organizations that provide business services operate in the framework of one brand (with loose integration). The organizations in the back-office are still separate entities, but all channels are provided centrally below one brand and the digital services are developed together. In order to (loosely) integrate the authorities, the organization models were updated and people were trained to know the services provided by the others and to be able to work with the system.

By loosely integrating business services, the original entities still remain to exist, but services are better aligned. For an entrepreneur, services become better accessible (through the one brand and one portal) and easier to use (as the services are designed in the same way). Customer-focused and interoperable services enhance the quality and cost-efficiency in the public sector. The main impact for businesses relies on the reduction of the need for face-to-face visits and the lowering of threshold for prospective entrepreneurs.

For the public sector, Enterprise Finland brings more streamlined background processes with consequent higher efficiency. The goal of developing enterprise services, to bring public enterprise services together, has also required that offices and institutions offering the services should develop their shared operational models. Enterprise service players in the administrative sector of MEE have adopted the service models of shared customer segmentation, among other things.

Some benefits for start-ups and established entrepreneurs:
- saving time and effort
- all information from one place 24/7  reducing the number of office visits
- lowering the threshold for prospective entrepreneurs
- streamlined start-up phase with guided processes
- improving the quality and viability of start-up businesses (e.g. through entrepreneur tests and business plans)
- helping entrepreneurs to prepare for meetings with business advisors
- reducing the administrative burden on existing enterprises
- helping to comply with regulations.

Some benefits for business advisors:
- improving the quality of customer meetings by helping the customer to get prepared in advance (the business planning tool etc.)
- more efficient advice for customers (e.g. giving comments on a business plan online)
- supporting and promoting quality consulting services and their impact
- facilitating reallocation of resources
- less basic consulting, more time for expert services which support business development.

Some benefits for public administration:
- solutions available to all public administration organizations
- standardized electronic notifications/registrations and applications for all authorities, ensuring better document quality and fewer mistakes
- streamlined background processes, higher productivity -> Less need to create different user interfaces for notifications, applications etc.

a. Enterprise Finland brand

Among the recognized good practices are  promoting uniform brand thinking in the public sector and
clarifying “the logo jungles” of the entrepreneurship services of the actors.

The brand promise of Enterprise Finland: "Inspiration toward Success - Public Enterprise Services Together" encapsulates the core of Enterprise Finland services. The brand promise is carried out by numerous different players, such as Finnvera plc, Finpro, the Finnish Patent and Registration Office, Finnish Industry Investment, Tekes – the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation, the ELY Centres, the TE Offices, the Tax Administration, as well as regional Enterprise Finland service players and the Customs Service. 

The goal of the brand is to bring all public enterprise services together behind a single brand and to raise awareness of the services. Behind the building of the brand is the brand strategy drafted for Enterprise Finland, involving a large number of its players. The result of the collaboration was the Enterprise Finland brand handbook which was updated in the spring of 2013. The brand strategy defines the central elements of a brand and the principles in fulfilling the brand promise. The handbook also defines the vision, mission, pitch speech, and concepts of the Enterprise Finland brand which describe Enterprise Finland.
A unified visual look has been set up for the Enterprise Finland services, as well as a graphic set of instructions for the use of the look, which have been upgraded in the spring of 2013. A communication strategy has also been drafted. To increase familiarity with Enterprise Finland services, communications and marketing measures are implemented in line with the communication strategy.

The brand has started to become genuinely national, as more and more players who have attained certain criteria and signed the regional collaboration agreement have been given access to a regional Enterprise Finland logo. After logos been granted to regional enterprise services since the autumn of 2010, the logo is now in use in numerous areas around the country. The development of the Enterprise Finland brand as well as communications and marketing measures receive funding from the European Social Fund.

b. Developing and adopting common concepts and models of action

For adopting customer segmentation, a model for segmentation has been prepared as well as the guidelines. “The quintet players” of each ELY Centre region (the ELY Centre, the TE office, Finnvera plc, Finpro and Tekes, which all also act at the regional level) have been trained. Service models by segments have been prepared for the MEE corporate actors. These models describe how the customers defined to belong to the segment are to be served. The segments and services have been collected into to Enterprisefinland.fi. According to the self-evaluation of the project, more customer-orientation and efficiency have been brought to the services by actors themselves while gathering service supply and ensuring synergy.

The common models of action influence all the Enterprise Finland actors and their individual models of action and practices, especially Tekes, Finnvera plc, Finpro, ELY Centres and TE offices. An actor which is involved in the network has to change its course of action so that it facilitates the common models (like customer segmentation, service models etc.). Therefore, a remarkable input has been made by arranging comprehensive training for the network of enterprise advisors covering various organizations (the co-operative part of which was taken care of by Enterprising together!).  

Lessons learned can be put into practice to a larger extent by other partners, too. Good examples may be found especially from Enterprisefinland.fi (“Oma Yritys-Suomi” of Enterprisefinland.fi: the working space of a logged-in user/entrepreneur). This tool is expected to have great influence in the future.  

c. Enterprise customer relationship management teams

Co-operation in managing customer relationships and services has required establishing common management groups between the management and the key experts of the quintet players in the regions. A new co-operation forum for actors has been launched in each ELY Centre region. Regional enterprise customer relationship management teams consist of the representatives from the quintet players. These teams are responsible for implementing common models of action in the region. The key tool of the team is common customer planning. It forms a part of result planning of the MEE corporate which applies management-by-the-results under MEE.

d. Developing internet and phone services and electric services; arranging training connected with the services; and training for enterprise advisors

Training has been given in order to promote using electric services and developing phone services.
For instance during 2013, about 200 enterprise advisors participated in training about using electric services.

For managing the change of the models of action, tools have been developed and experts in the regions trained.  During 2009 - 2011, a large comprehensive training package (about 12 days/person) with 730 participants was implemented. In 2013 – 2014 the emphasis is on versatile training and on the concept of developing knowledge by electric learning. During 2009 – 2011 and 2013, in total 918 enterprise advisors have been trained, of which 558 are women.

e. Revising legislation

The Act on data system for customers of enterprise services (240/2007) has been modified from the beginning of the year 2010 in order to meet the data exchange needs and the needs of exchanging documents in Enterprise Finland.  From 1 January 2013, the Act was again modified for taking account of the organizational changes in the TE Offices.  At the moment, there are again considerations to revise legislation on the basis of MEE corporate needs.

f. Other information and publicity measures

A crucial important field of action has been the publicity and information activities aimed to the common public, (possible) entrepreneurs, authorities and other actors. In this way, the service has gained large familiarity and i.e. the entrepreneurs learn to know about the available services and take effectively use of them.  Two marketing campaigns have been implemented.

One outcome of the project has been common surveys on the image of the brand and services of MEE corporate incl. the internet and phone services of Enterprise Finland. Instead of each quintet player making its own survey separately, the players combine their efforts and resources by participating into a common survey (2012). The random sample is 3 000 Finnish enterprises. The next survey in 2014 will offer comparative data and information on the development of the image from 2012 and how well the brand is known.

4. The outcomes of “Enterprising together!”
    
More than half of the 140 respondents from different organizations gave the grade 9 or 10 (“excellent”, “alpha”, in the scale of 4 -10 at school) in the evaluation survey:
6 % 10
46 % 9
36 % 8
9 % 7
1 % 6 and zero 5 - 4

   
5. Strengths and Weaknesses
    
Enterprising together!

Strenghts

In Finland, social entrepreneurship is somewhat invisible in spite of i.e. Social Entrepreneurship Mark, work integration social enterprises etc.  However, there are quite many enterprises which do not consider themselves a part of social economy or enterprises even though their juridical form and business idea are based on social entrepreneurship. They are not recognized as social enterprises.  These enterprises operate in the market according to the same conditions and prerequisites as any  other enterprise. The Government programme puts an emphasis on entrepreneurship, but it does not mention social entrepreneurship or economy as such. However, there is a reference to sustainability. The Government has made a principal decision on responsible entrepreneurship.

Enterprising together! filled in the gap by giving co-operatives wide visibility and showing them as a possibility and  a new refreshed alternative for entrepreneurship. New models of entrepreneurship were examined and supported for promoting (self-)employment, also in practice. The input in training, information and publicity and other expert services was effective, and the influence was spread nationwide. A large network of contact persons with good knowledge was established and strengthened. The cost-effectiveness of the project was thus good. The knowledge and activity of the project staff was good.

The project also acted as an essential part of Enterprise Finland. Enterprise Finland covers the public support structure for all kinds of entrepreneurs. Therefore it has been crucial that the business advisors have knowledge and are able to support also social entrepreneurship. This can take place for instance when a future entrepreneur asks for advice and alternatives through on-line service.  Especially in the present economical situation, the public sector cannot afford developing and maintaining parallel service systems (one for “traditional” and one for social enterprises).

Challenges

Afterwards, there is still prevails the problem of mainstreaming its results and i.e. updating and developing the information and other material produced by the project. The intention has been to take use of the material in Enterprise Finland and its multichannel activities. However, when starting Enterprising together!, www.yhteistoiminta.fi was build not on the same technical system as Enterprisefinland.fi but on an outside system. This causes some difficulties in the continuity of the temporary action. One factor may have been that the unit and civil servants responsible for managing and coordinating the project changed after launching it, and there was some confusion before it found its new home.

Probably the assumption of the project promoters was that they could continue to get ESF or other grant funding also in the new programming period. However, now the ESF and the ERDF are in the same Operational Programme, and since the ESF funding of Finland has decreased remarkably, by about one third, there has been a share of work between the Funds. Also, the EU regulations demand thematic concentration. Entrepreneurship, including social entrepreneurship, will be promoted with the ERDF. The framework for ESF nationwide actions has decreased prominently, and their strategy does not include this kind of activities that should be funded with purely national funds (like this, since it is not to be considered a social innovation anymore).

Enterprise Finland

Strenghts

The project has had a strong commitment from the political level and the management of MEE and its corporate. It has also been well connected with a nationally funded important project, of which the ESF funding is a clearly defined part. Commonly used electric solutions of Enterprisefinland.fi have been funded with national resources while the ESF has concentrated on supporting (training, branding etc.) adoption of new services and models of action instead of developing the internet service.  

The added value to the nationally funded actions is the development of good practices and their implementation by publicity and information and training. Various stakeholders have participated in the activities. Uniform quality of the services has been ensured with the support of the ESF because of the nearly nationwide implementation of the project. The ESF funding has complemented other funding well, so that i.e. adoption of enterprise services developed by national funding has gained leverage support from EU funding. Also, the part implemented by Enterprising together! gave concrete added value to Enterprise Finland support system.

The key target groups have been regional actors dealing with enterprise service: their management, key experts and enterprise advisors working with the customers. Common models of enterprise service models have been developed and trained in 11 ELY Centre regions.  The national State budget could not allocate resources for this kind of multi-sectoral action. The project excluded the Eastern Finland as also was the case in Enterprising together!, but in both cases the Eastern Finland has participated in the action with its own ESF and national funding, since it has had a financial frame of its own in the Structural Funds.

Challenges

The encountered challenges were as follows:

  • time: for instance bringing a large number of actors together and unifying their services for the benefit of the users is a very challenging process which needs time
  • strengthening the change management of the Enterprise Finland network: support is needed for the internal communication
  • setting measurable goals and developing monitoring system
  • temporary project financing as a risk to continuity – what happens when the funding ends?

At this point, the developed models of action are in use. The decrease of (project) funding influences the volume of the development work.

6. Comparisons with other experiences (alternative or complementary ones - in the same territory or elsewhere)

Enterprising together! - this project took an innovative approach to promoting co-operative entrepreneurship, as the emphasis was to integrate the support for co-operatives and social enterprises into the existing, publicly funded start-up support system of Finland. Previous experience from the end of 1990’s had shown, that a separate/parallel support system for co-operative enterprises had not been sustainable model, as it has vanished after the ESF funding had run out.

7. Overall assessment and transferability

The model of Enterprising together! is easily transferrable, as the basic idea of the project is quite straight-forward and the project has been documented profoundly.

The approach of integrated support has proved to be the most cost-effective way to offer services for co-operatives and social enterprises alike, as it makes use of the existing structures already available. Tampere Region Co-operative Centre had only two full-time members of personnel running this project with the addition of the part-time administrative support provided by the Ministry.

The approach might be seen very government-oriented. However, as the sector of Social Enterprises has not been well-organized yet, it is not seen strong enough to build and maintain its own support system. The network of business advisors, who were committed to give advice also to co-operatives, had members representing various actors in the entrepreneurship support system. Although many of the advisors in the network were working directly in a regional government body (like ELY Centres and Employment Offices), the network also included advisors of regional business development centres and educational institutions.

To avoid any opportunism, the trainings and the materials were offered only to those business advisors, who offered business advisory for their clients for free and who had some public funding from another source to cover the costs of advisory. Fully private business advisors were not supported by the project.

Enterprising together! is likely to have a sustainable impact, as it focused on changing the attitudes of business advisors and inspiring them to give support also to Social Enterprises as a part of their normal activities. As the advisors in the regions were not paid separately for giving this support, we believe that this inspiration will last, even when the ESF funding is not used anymore.

However, as the Co-Operative Act of Finland has been recently modified thoroughly, there is actually a huge need among business advisors for re-training and training about the new legislation. In fact, a training session was arranged by MEE and Pellervo Society, which is a service organization for Finnish co-operatives (almost 300 members) and a forum of co-operative activities. However, since this is not a final answer to the needs we hope that this issue will be addressed in the very near future.

In the comments, Finnish eco-system was in general considered very Government driven. Also sustainability of Government funding was doubted. However, solutions like Enterprise Finland are exactly among the endeavors to use the decreasing resources more wisely. The ESF strategies and programmes of Finland (for instance EQUAL) have funded and contributed to initiatives and innovations from the sector and its actors. After lessons learnt, Finland has aimed at influencing the more permanent structures instead of setting up temporary support systems which are dependent on grants and are inclined to disappear when the EU funding ends. When applying for the ESF Funds, the project applicant has had to describe how the innovations or the “products” created by the project will be mainstreamed into “normal” structures or service systems before the project ends.

Social enterprises will hopefully gain more visibility, recognition and strength (for instance with the help of their umbrella organization and transnational influence), which would make more room also for sector driven bottom-up support systems, probably using private funding - thus ensuring their independence - and perhaps innovative ways of financing.  In the new period, under the pressure of focusing the decreased Structural Funds in Finland, the ERDF can be used as a seed fund or leverage, since promoting whatever entrepreneurship and/or structures of support for entrepreneurship/enterprises will be the work of the ERDF and also the rural and fishery/maritime Funds.

These good practices are transferrable, if they suit the situation and the needs of the Member State. Regardless of those, perhaps an idea worth considering is how to complement wisely various kinds of funding (for example EU Funds and purely national) and actions/projects, as was done in and by these two cases.

References:

Weblinks and bibliography

MEE: www.tem.fi
ELY-centres: www.ely-keskus.fi

Enterprising together!: http://www.yhteistoiminta.fi

Enterprise Finland: www.yrityssuomi.fi

“My Enterprise Finland”:

Photos/Youtube videos, etc.

See the pages of the projects for more information.

Flaga: