The Social Economy Action Plan has been published!

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On December 9, the European Commission published the Social Economy Action Plan. After a long process of consultations with citizens and stakeholders the new framework policy is finally here!

While the EU has launched various initiatives over the last decade to support social enterprises and the social economy, this is a remarkable milestone event setting out the policy focus for the next 9 years. Considering the potential of social economy organisations to address societal challenges and contribute to sustainable and inclusive economic growth, the creation of the action plan is a very welcome development.

The communication is formally called “Building an economy that works for people: an action plan for the social economy”. It has been created to help the European social economy thrive, tapping into its economic and job-creation potential, as well as its contribution to a fair and inclusive recovery, and the green and digital transitions. This action plan seeks to enhance social innovation, support the development of the social economy and boost its social and economic transformative power. The action plan proposes various actions for the period 2021-2030, focusing on areas like state aid, legal frameworks, socially responsible public procurement, promotion of social economy, access to funding, etc.

The Action Plan is divided into three main sections:

  1. Creating the right conditions for the social economy to thrive – this section focuses on improving the legal and policy framework and promoting the social economy.
  2. Opening opportunities for social economy organisations to start up and scale up – this section focuses on supporting social businesses and innovation, increasing access to funding and creating linkages between the social economy and the green and digital transitions.
  3. Making sure the social economy and its potential are recognised – this section focuses on mapping, collecting and analysing data on the social economy and raising public awareness of the social economy.

Some notable developments

While there is a lot to untangle, there are a few things we would like to highlight that could be relevant for the Interreg Europe community. Notably, the Commission will launch a new EU Social Economy Gateway in 2023 to ensure social economy actors can find all the information they need in one place on EU funding, policies, training and initiatives. The Commission will also boost social innovation through a new approach to transnational cooperation under the ESF+. A new “European Competence Centre for Social Innovation” will be set up in 2022. Its purpose is to support mutual learning, provide capacity building and facilitate transfer of social innovation in Europe. Both the gateway and the competence centre will be promising support tools for regional authorities.

Social Economy has also been identified as one of the 14 industrial ecosystems in the update of the EU Industrial Strategy. The Action Plan has kicked off the sector´s “Transition Pathway” for a strengthened and more resilient social economy ecosystem in the green and digital transitions. This will be done in dialogue with public authorities and other interested parties. Interreg Europe community members can also have their voice heard through an EU survey that will be open until 28 February 2022.

According to the action plan, the EC will also “encourage the use of the Interreg Europe Programme and the Smart Specialisation partnership for social economy to foster cross-border and interregional exchanges.”

First reactions

Juan Antonio Pedreño, President of Social Economy Europe has said the following about the policy: "We warmly welcome and endorse the Social Economy Action Plan for which we have been working and advocating since 2014. The Social Economy Action Plan will provide concrete instruments for social economy actors to scale-up all over Europe and beyond our borders."

For more details

Join the launch event! The Commission launch event for the new action plan for the social economy will take place in-person in Brussels and online on 16 December 2021. Check out the agenda and register here.

Also, be sure to check out the Staff Working Document accompanying the Social Economy Action Plan. Among other things, the document provides an overview of relevant EU support programmes and funding fort the social economy in the period 2021-2027. The EC has also published its Staff Working Document on the transition pathway on social economy.

Other topical Interreg Europe resources

Image credit: Prostock Studio on Envato elements.
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Social enterprise
Action plan
European Commission