Social Entrepreneurship: Final report - After a year

Sobota, 5. maj 2012 | Sebastjan Pikl

1. INTRODUCTION

Generally, reports on conferences, congresses and other content/issue-oriented events reflect on speeches and discussions during or after the presentations. Our decision was not to take this route, but rather wait for a year before delivering our final report.

Why? Because we feel that the best practices, issue debates, presentations and critiques only have a meaning and prove worthy if the transformation they are advocating can be visible in actions and engagement after the event. Only if the messages trigger an aspiration to change, do the cost, networking and hours spent organizing and preparing the event make sense. The “Social Entrepreneurship: A Vector of Change in the EU” conference pointed out several matters, which are going to be highlighted in this report. Quite a lot has been done in the past year in Slovenia and at the level of the European Commission in the field of social economy. Streams of motivation, energy and good will resulted in concrete entrepreneurial start-ups and opened spaces for action. Nevertheless, several important cornerstones for efficient and effective development still lack and wait to be addressed and carefully taken into consideration in the forthcoming period.

2. SOME DATA ON THE CONFERENCE

The event, which was organized by the European Liberal Forum, asbl (ELF) and Institute Novum with the support of CatDem and funded by the European Parliament, hosted more than 170 individuals. The ”Social entrepreneurship: A Vector of Change in the EU” international conference took place between 15 and 16 April 2011, with guests and lecturers coming from 11 EU and SE European countries.

The international conference was organized under the auspices of the President of the Republic of Slovenia, dr. DaniloTürk. The keynote addresses were given first by European Commissioner responsible for Internal Market and Services, Mr. Michel Barnier (a personal letter), followed by a video address by Jamie Oliver (presented by Fifteen Foundation Ambassador Danny McCubbin) and speeches by Minister of the Economy, mag. Darja Radić, and dr. Jelica Minić (Regional Cooperation Council Sarajevo).

After the plenary presentation of “EU government practices in supporting social enterprises”, the conference was structured around 4 panel sessions covering the following topics: “Social enterprises as builders of socially cohesive and sustainable societies”, “Cooperatives and social enterprises as job creators and providers of specific products and services”, “The role of financial institutions supporting social enterprise development” and “The role of socially responsible for-profit entrepreneurs supporting social enterprise development”. All presentations allowed participants to enter into practical discussion.

A special symposium with speakers from SE Europe and Slovenia, which took place on 16 April, provided particularly interesting insights into how social entrepreneurial projects can be used in widely varying contexts to boost new types of cooperation between countries in SE Europe.

Please visit the “library” subpage of the event web page at http://www.inovum.si/social/en/library for photographs and full video coverage of the entire conference.

3. SELECTED ISSUES OF THE CONFERENCE and THE YEAR AFTER

Bringing together high-profile political decision-makers from Slovenia and the European Commission and the key representatives of the social economy sector from the EU and SE Europe unfolded some important issues concerning the future development of social entrepreneurship in Slovenia.

Specific highlights for further discussion in Slovenia

At this time, our aim is to highlight five issues which were mentioned several times during the conference and, in our opinion, present the most important cornerstones towards developing an efficient supportive environment for the development of this specific sector of social economy: how to notice and grasp good ideas, how to incubate and develop them, hot to give a chance to individuals with vision and enthusiasm, how to build social capital and the capacity for active cooperation.

Innovation:

  • Slovenia needs a sufficient number and an efficient network of “open spaces” (social incubators); places to host individuals with innovative ideas; places for promoting “co-working” and learning culture. The already established global brand “The Hub” offers infrastructure for discussion, dialogue and networking. With the upgrade towards innovative thinking, business planning and framing business models for addressing different socio-economic needs, we see organisations such as Ashoka, Schwab and Skoll Foundation as role models, which can offer a stable and well thought-out know-how.

Finance:

  • Social projects that are currently being developed in Slovenia are mainly or predominantly funded through the European Social Fund (ESF), with the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Affairs being the granting institution. The problem to be addressed is the way the financial flow is currently arranged.
  • We encourage the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Affairs as the granting institution for ESF and other state and municipal actors to consider a partial pre-financing of the funded projects. As non-for-profit entities, social enterprises usually do not have surpluses with which they could pre-finance their projects. Now, the funds are reimbursed only after project completion (which sometimes takes up to a year).
  • We also encourage the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food to take a more active role in making the state aid support, which is currently available to SME in Slovenia, accessible also to social enterprises. This should include grant support and fair loan instruments accessible through public investment funds. In general, the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology should play a key role, thus promoting social economy as an important part of the economic sector.
  • An open discussion should be staged between the banking sector and the emerging social enterprise sector to start developing financial instruments adjusted to the specifics of social projects. Grants, prizes or low interest loans all count as the first step towards developing a financial backbone for emerging social enterprises. The promotion of new ethical banking and social banking financial business models, should become a common strategy of the government and banking sectors in Slovenia.

Marketing

  • In general, marketing in Slovenia is not well-developed, even in the for-profit sector. There is a shortage of competent educators and the know-how combining theory and practice in this regard. A spectrum of holistic approaches from market research, needs analysis, product design, product innovation, promotion and establishment of sales channels should combine classical channels as media with personal attitude. Developed and efficient web strategies are even more needed for specific fields and products related to social enterprises.
  • Social goods and services need first-class design, an innovative approach and international networking to become competitive in the globalized market.

Management skills for social enterprises

  • Build new values, entrepreneurial and innovation management skills as the key success factors among CSO-s and emerging social enterprises;
  • Promote cooperative business models, strategic planning, social marketing, social capital and human resources development capacity, which are the key competences to be developed in each social enterprise, topped up with social integration skills when managing social integration type of social enterprises
  • Build policy design skills to boost social entrepreneurship within national and local economies.

Parallel support and engagement of the private sector to develop projects

  • Slovenia needs a group of high-ranking private investors and entrepreneurs to support the emerging sector of socially oriented projects. Mostly to offer know-how and establish national and international connections. We believe that a private foundation should be established parallel to the public sector with the initial grants from socially responsible companies and private firms. Its aim should be to offer education and grants or scholarships to social projects with an already quite stable economic balance.
  • Promote new “social venture” types of investments in social enterprises as an act of corporate social responsibility to replace classic philanthropy among entrepreneurs; it could be applied in the form of business mentoring, social venture or opening the market for social enterprise products and services.

Situation a Year After

1. After the successful adoption of the Social Entrepreneurship Act in March 2011 in Slovenia, the law came into force on 1 January 2012. To achieve its full implementation, one of the first tasks should be to appoint the Social Entrepreneurship Council, consisting of high governmental officials, NGO-representatives and the academic community with a specific mission to prepare the Development Strategy for Social Entrepreneurship (2012-2015). At the beginning of April 2012, the mentioned strategy has still not been adopted and the implementing regulations are still not in place.

2. Positioning social entrepreneurship as a prospective field for future job creation and local development in the EU resulted in the adoption of a new Social Business Initiative in 2011 following the specific regulation of the new Single Market Act. The initiative covers 11 measures in three areas: improving access to financing, increasing visibility for social entrepreneurs and helping them to build capacity, additionally improving the legal and regulatory environment. Some highlights include:

  • A 90-million-euro fund to develop and expand social enterprises
  • New regulations for impact investment funds to work across the single market
  • Comprehensive mapping and a multi-language database of social enterprises in Europe to facilitate their growth across national borders
  • Adding criteria to public procurement guidelines to make social enterprises more likely to win contracts
  • Simplification of state aid rules so that national support for a social enterprise does not risk infringing EU competition rules.

A direct follow-up to the successful completion of the “Social Entrepreneurship: A Vector of Change in the EU” conference is the Slovenian Social Enterprise Forum (www.fsp.si) established in December 2011. With more than 100 individuals and legal persons from all over the country becoming its constitutional members, the forum’s main mission is to combine the promotion and development of the social enterprise sector and eventually become an umbrella organisation for advocating social economy, to strive for the improvement of the supportive environment and develop expert knowledge. It will serve as a hub for local and regional organising with a strong emphasis on national and international cooperation.

The Conference also had an evident positive impact in South-East Europe (SEE), where, after leading a specific roundtable discussion at the conference, the Regional Cooperation Council, as the key SE Hub networking for change, started an active promotion of Social Enterprise Development as the key catalyst of positive change in SEE.

And, in conclusion, here are four real-life examples inspired by the event and encouraged by the speakers at the conference; they found their passion in the innovative sphere of social economy.


Marko Orel (Event Manager at The HUB, Prague)

Where did you first hear of social entrepreneurship?

My first encounter with social entrepreneurship was during my B.A. studies at the University of Warsaw in Poland – I took a class on social innovations.

Did the "Social Entrepreneurship: A Vector of Change in the EU" conference offer you any new interesting insights and good examples in the field of social entrepreneurship?

Regarding this question, I can offer only a short answer: yes! The "Social Entrepreneurship: A Vector of Change in the EU" conference was well structured and offered an insight into good social innovation practices around the globe. It was also my first encounter with the concept of the Hub, which is a milestone in my career.

What is your job now and your vision for the future?

At the moment, I work as an event manager in The Hub Prague. Mainly, I organize conferences and similar events, which are aimed at freelancers who work in our co-working space here in Prague. And as for the future, my goal is to establish a Hub or a similar co-working space in Slovenia.


Matevž Slokar (Project S)

Matevž Slokar has been developing the S project since last spring when, after meeting the representatives of Jamie Oliver's Foundation at our conference, he got the idea of ​​linking his restaurant The Lady with social entrepreneurship. Jamie Oliver’s Foundation is an eager supporter of his project, to which he attracted also Institute Ypsilon, culinary enthusiast Jade van Baar, some Slovenian faculties and many other experts and partner companies.

Following the example of Oliver's Fifteen restaurant in London, Matevž Slokar began to train seven young people aged between 18 and 25, who could not get a job.

The project is based on an academy model. The academy program is produced jointly with the Institute Ypsilon. The young people are trained at the restaurant for six months. In addition to cooking, they also learn about marketing, sales and personal growth in order to help them enter the job market and become (self-)employed.

The text is adapted from the newspaper Finance (13 March 2012)


Tadej Slapnik (Slovenian Social Enterprise Forum)

Where did you first hear of social entrepreneurship?

It was in 2004, at the Youth Centre of Dravinja Valley. I was its director at the time and the Slovenian Minister for Regional Development Zdenka Kovač paid us a visit. She was one of the pioneers in promoting social enterprise in Slovenia and when she saw how we were running our youth centre, she explained that we were a typical social enterprise.

Did the "Social Entrepreneurship: A Vector of Change in the EU" conference offer you any new interesting insights and good examples in the field of social entrepreneurship?

Of course, learning about the best practices of the Mondragon cooperative cooperation, The Hub, Jamie Oliver's Fifteen Foundation, Ashoka Foundation, Schwab Foundation, and establishing contact with the San Patrignano Foundation opened a totally new perspective and understanding of social economy as development and change driver.

What is your job now and your vision for the future?

I'm the Secretary-General of the Slovenian Social Entrepreneurship Forum. My vision is to work in the field of developing social entrepreneurship in Slovenia and South East Europe in order to reach the average level of development in the EU.

We are currently working on promoting several types of cooperatives as a new self-sustainable model in order to address evident local issues, food self-sufficiency, unemployment, etc., as well as strengthening cross-border cooperation in SE Europe, which emerged as a direct result of the Conference.


Beni Kračun (Pension Kračun, pizza school for the unemployed)

Beni Kračun is an owner of a classical restaurant, who was inspired by Jamie Oliver and therefore established close contacts with his team already before the conference. He was looking for a potential new market niche to assist unemployed young people in developing new skills attractive to the labour market. He started cooperating with a specialised pizza school in Italy and, under their mentorship, he now provides certified training for the first pizza bakers in Slovenia. He intends to continue with providing new possibilities for youngsters.


The Organising Team of the conference.

Director Sebastjan Pikl