Toby Johnson
20 January 2015

Policy lessons in support

Whilst recognising the different levels of institutional, policy and social enterprise development within Europe, the main policy implications on support infrastructure are as follows:

  • Governments should aim to provide a braided system of support for social enterprises, which comprises two strands:
  • The mainstreaming of competences to advise on social enterprises within the mainstream business support service, so as to guarantee the widest possible outreach
  • Dedicated support structures for social enterprises which have specialist knowledge and connections to social enterprise networks
  • Silos: interministerial governance arrangements should be in place which can coordinate labour market policy, entrepreneurship policy and social policy;
  • Capacity building within the public sector: The capacity of the mainstream business support services to deal competently with social enterprises can be built through schemes such as the Finnish cases of good practice, Enterprising Together! and Enterprise Finland.
  • Core funding: Core funding for representative organisations of social enterprises can be extremely good value for governments in terms of penetration of policies and programmes. Core funding should come from national funds, with an ESF add-on if possible;
  • Service funding: to fund day-to-day services, some sort of mixed financing is desirable, with affordable user fees as well as grant aid, volunteer mentoring and pro bono professional advice;
  • Asset-based structures, which repurpose unused buildings, can be a useful part of local regeneration strategies;
  • Pacts: Long-term pacts between the state and the social economy, such as that in Andalusia, bring great benefits in terms of policy co-ordination, and can also include capacity building for public officials.
  • Sustainability: The central issue of sustainability of support structures should be addressed by supporting the transition to more pluralistic and self-funding arrangements;
  • Social innovation: The leading role support structures play in developing social innovations to address problems of economic and social development of disadvantaged people and communities should be recognised;
  • Structural Funds: social enterprise should be written explicitly into operational programmes, rather than being ‘hidden’ inside strategic themes such as employment, entrepreneurship or active inclusion.
  • Part of an ecosystem: support organisations are only one part of the social enterprise ecosystem. A comprehensive strategy also needs to address public awareness (branding), interministerial co-ordination, finance, public procurement and networking;