Social Economy in Europe – situation, policies and its socio-economic impact

A seminar about „Social Economy in Europe – situation, policies and its socio-economic impact” took place in Lublin (when it comes to the organisational aspect) but generally it took online - which was caused by the current epidemic situation in Europe. It was organized by Europejski Dom Spotkań – Fundacja Nowy Staw, with the support of EZA and of the European Union.

The participants were members of worker’s organisations from: Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Portugal, Albania, Spain, Italy, and Latvia.

They focussed on the current situation of the social economy in Europe and also its role in the field of labour market, national economies and psychosocial activation of people who are struggling with long-term unemployment and various disabilities.

The aim of the seminar was a debate on social economy in Europe - its legal situation in various European countries, its scope and contribution to the economy at the national and international level, as well as its indisputable role in activating the long-term unemployed, the disabled, immigrants and people at risk of social exclusion.

Particular importance was attached to the discussion on the condition of the social economy and its future in a difficult situation for the entire European economy caused by COVID - 19 pandemic. A debate was undertaken on what legal regulations should be introduced to save this economic sphere, and thus save endangered jobs. The seminar was also a platform for exchanging experiences and good practices in running social enterprises, as well as sharing proposals for solutions to counteract the effects of coronavirus. 

An important aspect of the seminar was its practical and multidimensional character thanks to the substantive contribution of invited guests and moderators.

Among the speakers were representatives of workers' organizations, government and local government representatives, representatives of local state institutions, employees of Social Economy Support Centers, as well as representatives of management boards of selected social enterprises and representatives of workers' teams. 

The following issues were discussed during the seminar:

  • current situation of the social economy in selected European Union countries - opportunities and possibilities
  • role of the social economy in the local and national context - its impact on the economy and labour market
  • national legal and financial regulations supporting social economy in selected EU countries.
  • support for social economy entities during a pandemic - good practices
  • activation of people at risk of social exclusion by work in social enterprises
  • psychological and  sociological dimension of involvement in Social Economy (SE)
  • personal experiences of work in SE sector presented by the employees and employers – benefits, problems and challenges

The seminar was largely in the form of a debate, where the speakers could refer to the topic of discussion in their speech bringing a high substantive value. Despite the online formula, it was possible to exchange experiences and questions, which were asked directly or in written form using the chat function. It was also managed to "do" virtual study visits - ated 10 social enterprises across Poland. This was done in the form of showing films about selected social cooperatives with different profiles of activity. The films were continuously translated into the conference languages, thanks to which the participants could fully acquaint themselves with the content of statements made by people appearing in the films, as well as visually visit their places of work. The selected enterprises are the winners of the "Social and Solidarity Economy Quality Labels", competition conducted annually by the Polish Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Policy. 

  • the need to promote social economy and make its role known to both decision-makers and the society as an important field of economy with great economic potential and activating people at risk of social exclusion;
  • the need to provide multifaceted support: advisory and financial to persons undertaking the work of setting up and running a social enterprise; this should be done as part of long-term projects implemented by centers and social economy support centers that offer their knowledge, experience and help
  • the need to put in place remedial measures and measures to support the social economy in the various countries, since in many of them social enterprises have been badly affected by COVID - 19 and have not received adequate support; this support may enable numerous jobs to be maintained and the people employed there to be prevented from falling back into social exclusion again
  • promotion of openness to new forms of work and professions demanded by the labour market, taking into account the situation of people with disabilities and their positioning in the labour market; the need to educate and retrain people working in social enterprises, taking into account their resources but also their limitations; promotion of unattractive professions and improvement of teaching methods in order to increase the number of people interested in working in professions which are still nesessary but there is a lack of professionals
  • strengthening the role and promotion of NGOs, which play a huge role in economic activation of people at risk of social exclusion
  • it is very important to strengthen cooperation between NGOs and state, scientific and banking institutions, as well as decision-makers at the EU, central and local government levels in order to improve communication, build long-term strategies for the development of the social economy, and at the present time counteract the effects of COVID-19 by introducing properly developed tools
  • postulate the need to develop special laws to facilitate the establishment and operation of social businesses, reduce the number of regulations giving some privileges to social economy entities    
  •  Cooperation with local authorities plays a special role and making them aware of the role and benefits of engaging residents in work in social enterprises; an important issue is the exchange of good practices and promotion of social economy by local government units where there is resistance on the part of local authorities - mainly mental and psychological; dialogue and exchange of positive experiences is a very important issue, which can eliminate resistance by presenting to local decision-makers economic and social benefits (economic development, reduction of unemployment, improvement of health and well-being of residents) by representatives of local governments where the social economy operates in a resilient and effective manner; a postulate to encourage dialogue and study visits
  • developing anti-crisis programmes and financial instruments to save social economy entities in EU countries are currently crucial for preserving jobs - a very important task facing the EU and national governments