Toby Johnson
01 January 2014

Policy lessons in identity and visibility

Governments can help build the identity and visibility of social enterprises in a number of ways.

  • Policy co-ordination: Firstly, governments can adapt their own structures to avoid social enterprise falling into a void between the economic, employment and social policy silos. Identity and visibility at national level are greatly improved when governments designate specific ministries or departments with responsibility for the social economy;
  • Policy dialogue: At European level, national governments can play an active role in the Social Business Initiative through participating in the GECES advisory group. There is already evidence that this co-ordination mechanism is leading to a convergence in national policies. The European Parliament’s Social Economy Intergroup plays a valuable role in policy dialogue, and the social economy is formally represented in the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC);
    • Legal forms: They can support the continuing development of appropriate legislation for social enterprise across Europe and the modernisation of existing legal and fiscal frameworks for social economy structures (CMAFs);
    • Marks: They can support the development of social enterprise marks, as the Finnish Ministry of Employment and the Economy has done.
  • Social accounting: They can provide a facilitative framework such as guidelines for the social balance, which social co-operatives can use voluntarily. The Italian Social Balance is useful for public authorities in justifying their policies for social enterprise as well as to social enterprises in improving their performance, strengthening their visibility and improving relations with workers and users. The UK has promoted a different technique, and developed a manual to encourage the use of social return on investment (SROI).
    • Purchasing: Governments can maximise the potential contribution of social enterprises to public policy by implementing the possibilities for social procurement opened up by the revised public procurement directive adopted in February 2014. They can also support the development of purchasing databases such as the French www.socialement-responsable.org, which facilitate ethical procurement by public authorities;
  • Research: Governments can invest in European research to support the development of consistent methodologies for use nationally and regionally to provide comparable databases of the scale and characteristics of social enterprise;
  • Structural Funds: They can use the EU’s Structural Funds to address the above issues.