Real Ideas Organisation’s CEO Lindsey Hall attended one of five policy conferences which took place in March 2014, to discuss the future of social enterprise in Europe.
The conferences have shed light on the diverse national characteristics of social enterprise in each country, the opportunities for and challenges to development, and applicability of UK experience in continental Europe.
The first of these conferences was held Ljubljana, Slovenia on 5th March. Prominent political leaders, social entrepreneurs and representatives from the private sector, media and intermediary organisations from the UK and Slovenia were also amongst those in attendance.
Participants shared their experiences and formulated recommendations for policy makers on national and European social enterprise strategies. They reflected on the new EU Procurement Rules, announced in Strasbourg in January, which mandate that social and environmental factors be considered when evaluating bids for public service contracts.
In Slovenia, social enterprise is a relatively young concept: the first national forum for social entrepreneurs was only held in 2011. The next few years were quite challenging since there were – and still are – disagreements and misconceptions about the definition of social enterprise. Some Slovenes argue that social enterprises must not generate profits. Others believe that only co-ops are real social enterprises. The debate about definitions has limited public awareness.
Lindsey said of the conference, “A young Slovene described their challenge – what do you do when the socialist state breaks down, the economy nosedives, but capitalism is also failing? Discussing social enterprise in Llubjiana was a fascinating experience – real energy and determination, but also a realisation that nowhere offers a road map that fits Slovenia well. It was a privilege to share our experiences, brilliant to learn from the great work already underway and humbling to hear the challenges, particularly the numbers of young people leaving because of lack of jobs. Socially enterprising endeavours, in whatever form they take, are beginning to emerge – the next step is properly socially enterprising learning and education for children and young people.”
You can read the full press release in the Guardian here.
Image: Tomaz Stritar, a social entrepreneur and leader of a Slovenian incubator, speaking at one of the five policy conferences convened by the British Council in March across Europe to discuss the future of social enterprise. Photograph: British Council