Recently, the attention for Social Enterprises as providers for solutions to the most pressing societal and environmental challenges has grown continuously. Social enterprises are businesses which combine societal goals with an entrepreneurial spirit. These organisations focus on achieving wider social, environmental or community objectives, therefore, combining a social with an entrepreneurial element.
Social Enterprsies have shown the ability to foster inclusive growth, address societal needs and build social cohesion and inclusion. They also bear the potential to promote more and better jobs counteracting high unemployment and youth unemployment rates that several regions in Europe are facing. Regardless of the great potential of Social Enterprises, the landscape of policy and legal frameworks tailored for Social Enterprises, as well as suitable business support Instruments are still very fragmented and rare among European countries. Moreover, Social Enterprises do not play a big role on the agenda of policy makers or the public yet..
Regarding the Social Enterprises' capacities, they are highly concruent with the objectives tackled by a variety of Structual Funds Programmes in Europe, such as cross-border programmes and regional operational programmes. Based on the different preconditions exisiting for Social Enterprises in the different European regions, the consortium of this project has been put together to engage in an interregional learning process. The BRESE project aims to make use of the different regional policy instruments and frameworks by exchanging good practices with each other in order to deconstruct barriers, raise awareness and improve business support schemes for Social Enterpries. Considering the strong fragmentation in tailored support schemes for Social Enterprises, there is much potential for interregional learning!
The INTERREG V A-programme Germany-Netherlands has become the main policy instrument for CBC between the two countries. Approved by the Commission 2014 as the first CBC-programme in Europe, the INTERREG V programme focuses on economic development invovling SME (65% of the budget).
At the DE-NL border, the CBC INTERREG–programme has a 25-year long tradition. Having mainly focused on strengthening economic growth and innovation, there is a groundswell of opinion among relevant policy makers in the region working with the CBC programme that also social enterprises and their potential to tackle the challenges of the border region should receive greater attention.
Regardless of the undeniable societal need for social enterprises and their proven ability to foster inclusive growth and social cohesion, they have not received any attention within previous INTERREG A programmes. Although SME funding is available within the INTERREG A Germany-Netherlands programme, social enterprises cannot reach these schemes in practice and their particular needs are not paid attention to. Having now become aware of the importance of social enterprises, their potential and their need for tailored policy instruments, the ERW and its local stakeholders are seeking an integrated approach and new measures that can foster social enterprises, raise awareness and ultimately, be implemented in the programme. Best practices from other European regions can be used to improve the programme in the future.
Main objective of the Priority axis 4. is to enhance institutional infrastructure and services in order to accelerate the competitiveness and development of business environment in the programme area. The Programme focuses on providing the opportunity to strengthen business support sector by supporting cooperation and further development. In that respect, the Programme support creation and networking of business support organizations and clusters, increase in the range of their activities as regards to the use of innovation, new technologies and ICT solutions.
Creating supportive environment for social entrepreneurship by extending the scope and level of services of above mentioned organizations would contribute to decreasing regional disparities, combating poverty, increasing employment, creating new products and services and increasing competitiveness of the enterprises in the programme area. Improving policy instrument would address unique specificities and needs of the emerging social entrepreneurship sector in the programme area.
The programme is developed by both countries (LV and LT) aiming to contribute to the sustainable and cohesive socio-economic development of the Programme region.
This is done through the four priority areas:
(i) Sustainable and clean environment
(ii) Support to labour mobility and employment – a
(iii) Social inclusion as a precondition of territorial development with two specific objectives –
(iv) Improved quality of living through efficient public services and administration with one specific objective
The programme is implemented in a period of several years in a real-life environment. The successful implementation inevitably demands the assessment and improvement of existing measures in order to tackle the programme's problematics in a more result-oriented manner. This goes hand in hand with identifying successful measures which could be continued or extended in the post 2020 period.
One of Programme’s current priority fields is social inclusion and as figures of persons living at risk of poverty or social exclusion in both countries have remained relatively high it is necessary to evaluate the existing measures and find new ways of tackling the issue. Since social entreprises present an innovative way to both stimulate economic development and promote social inclusion, they offer great potential for the region which has been unused in the past. Thus, the region will benefit from interregional cooperation and they experience of other regions in this matter.
The Strategy of the Operational Programme Human Resources (the “OP HR”) is based on the National Reform Programme of the Slovak Republic which defines measures strengthening economic growth and employment in the Slovak Republic. One of the main challenges for the sustainable economic growth in Slovakia is high level of long-term unemployment and social inclusion of marginalized groups. Therefore, the strong focus of OP HR is paid on the measures increasing the employment rate of marginalized group and implementation of the measures improving the social inclusion of excluded groups, with the main focus on the people from marginalized Roma communities. As such measure is considered also social entrepreneurship and support of work integration social enterprises, which attracts the strong interest of policy makers same as politicians. Activities supporting establishment of new social enterprises and operation of already existing social enterprises are considered to be eligible under 4 investment priorities of OP HR. Despite the recent focus on the social entrepreneurship related activities, the social entrepreneurship is still new phenomena within the priorities of the financial schemes and OP HR as such. Finetuning of the adequate and tailored supporting schemes combining refundable and non-refundable financial assistance effectively promoting social entrepreneurship in Slovakia is a challenge, which meant to be addressed by this project.
Under the Priority 8 of the Podkarpackie Region Operational Programme 2014- 2020, the policy instrument tackles Promoting social entrepreneurship and vocational integration in social enterprises and social economy and solidarity in order to facilitate access to employment is addressed. The specific objective of the policy instrument is to strengthen the role of social economy entities in the activation of disadvantaged people and in providing social services of general interest in the region. Until 2020, it is expected that the number of jobs created in social enterprises will increase from 377 (2013) to 1079. Similarly, the number of jobs existing for at least 30 months, created in social enterprises will be increased by 25 per cent. Currently, the main bottleneck of running policy initiatives at regional level is the lack of coordination that leads to activities being carried out by municipalities, districts or provinces solely, but without exploiting synergies. Improvements will be primarily addressed to not only increase the number of social enterprises that generate jobs for people who have experienced social exclusion, but to also foster their competitiveness on the market, while pursuing a social mission by 2020. Moreover, an improvement of the assessment of the efficient allocation of resources is needed.