The Case for Supporting Social Enterprise: The role of the social economy in promoting social investment

Social enterprises play a key role in delivering high quality and cost effective social services. Proper support for this sector would be the most effective way of allowing integrated social services to flourish.

The report by JRC Insights on the role of the social economy in promoting social investment provides more than an observation of motivations and best practices of ICT-enabled social innovation led by social enterprises – it also provides an astute analysis on the role social enterprises play in realising both national and EU policy goals.

This report is one of the key topics of the Final IESI Conference on ICT-Enabled Social Innovation to support the implementation of the EU Social Investment Package, hosted by the European Commission Joint Research Centre in Brussels March 14th and 15th. PlusValue’s Fiorenza Lipparini will be present to provide further analysis of the results, while Filippo Addarii moderating a panel discussion on innovative instruments for solving complex social problems.

Policy Context

The Social Investment Package (SIP) was launched by the European Commission in February 2013 to address economic and societal challenges faced by EU Member States. The SIP aims to guide EU countries in modernising their social protection systems and improving their long-term sustainability. In support of this, the JRC launched the multi-year research project “ICT-enabled Social Innovation to support the Implementation of the Social Investment Package” (IESI) to analyse such initiatives in EU Member States.

Evidence from the Study: Highlights

  • Implementing active inclusion strategies is a top priority for most social enterprises, with around 80% of initiatives led by social enterprises are engaged in promoting the active inclusion of their beneficiaries.
  • Initiatives which promote social inclusion, social participation and civic engagement rely heavily on social networking technologies, used in over 60% of the social enterprise-led initiatives
  • ICT-enabled social innovations where social enterprises play a key role have the potential to deliver high quality and cost effective social services by flexibly responding to public/private sector funding opportunities or challenges and adapting their business models to changing circumstances.
  • ICT-enabled social innovations led by social enterprises contribute to social investment policy by enhancing access to and take-up of social services, especially among marginalised groups and citizens who are not entitled to mainstream benefits.

Main Policy Points

Three main factors seem to enable or constrain ICT-enabled social innovations led by social enterprises. These therefore deserve further consideration:

  1. Levels of ICT infrastructure deployment and access/use of ICT (and particularly e-services) among the public sector and the general population.
  2. Presence of social enterprises and third sector organisations with a tradition of collaboration with the public sector to deliver social services.
  3. Levels of public social spending and service delivery models.

Full article here.

PlusValue’s Fiorenza Lipparini (Director of Research) and Joshua Phillips (Research & Innovation) are contributing authors on this work. They led on the identification of ICT-enabled social enterprise case studies, and the analysis of their potential contributions to the EU Social Investment Package.

Additional reading:

  1. European Commission, 2017. European Social Fund Article. JRC INSIGHTS 1: ROLE OF THE SOCIAL ECONOMY IN PROMOTING SOCIAL INVESTMENT
  2. European Commission, 2015. Mapping and analysis of ICT-Enabled Social Innovation initiatives promoting social investment through integrated approaches to the provision of social services (2015)
  3. European Commission, 2016. Mapping and Analysis of ICT-enabled Social Innovation initiatives promoting social investment in integrated approaches to the provision of social services: IESI Knowledge Map 2015.
  4. European Commission, 2014. A map of social enterprises and their eco-systems in Europe.
  5. European Parliament, IMCO Committee, 2016. Study on the Social Economy