The Social Business Initiative of the European Commission

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I was just reading The Social Value Act: A Quick Guide, produced for Unity Trust Bank by Bates Wells & Braithwaite and saw reference to the European Commission’s Social Business Initiative.

Launched in 2011 under the slogan “There is no economic growth and jobs creation without social entrepreneurship” (yes, it stirs the blood, doesn’t it), this initiative has the potential to put social enterprise at the heart of EU  economic policy.

An expert working group on social business and social entrepreneurship has been established and will run for six years (to 2017), with a major consultation/conference event in Strasbourg in January 2014.

Perhaps more importantly, from 2014 EU member states will also be able to make social enterprise a special priority of their EU structural funds investment — if they feel motivated to do so. And that’s the rub. Henrik Morch, head of the single market policy unit has said, “You, as stakeholders, have an important role to play. You have to go to your authorities and make them aware of this priority. It has to come from grassroots.” (Reported here in The Guardian.)

There’s lots more information around about this initiative:

Social enterprise is at the core of EU economic strategy, The Guardian

Social entrepreneurship — EU Commission

EU Commission — social business: expert group

Maybe this is old news to those who hang on the words of the EU Commission’s policy wonks, but it was news to me.

If others in the sector are already working to use this policy initiative as leverage (e.g. with LEPs) then perhaps they would comment here. Given that we recently had a major consultation event with the Greater Birmingham & Solihull LEP specifically about ERDF and ESF and this initiative wasn’t mentioned once (not even by the  social enterprise supporters there), I do wonder whether we are missing a trick.




Birmingham UK. Freelance research, evaluation and policy consultant specialising in social enterprise and the third sector. I maintain the BSSEC blog and website

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