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Social entrepreneurship in the EU: more than ever, a must

The. European Union (EU) and the rest of the world are today facing the dramatic consequences of Covid-19. The result of this health crisis could be the most important economic crisis ever seen in Europe since the Great Depression of the 1930s. This pandemic thus reminds us of the need for a global and united response, in the current context and its aftermath. The place of the social economy will be essential in order to tackle the post-crisis period in a way that respects the values of mutual aid and social cohesion of the European construction process

Since the European Commission’s 2011 Communication on the Social Entrepreneurship Initiative, several EU programmes and financial instruments target the development of social entrepreneurship and its local and transnational ecosystem.

At the regional and interregional level, the structural funds support social innovation and the social and solidarity economy (SSE), as illustrated, for example, by the INTERREG EUROPE Social Seeds project, financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) or the Dispositif local d’accompagnement (DLA) supported by the European Social Fund (ESF) in France.

At EU level, the 2 million SSE enterprises and their civic and institutional stakeholders can find support and funding, through the Employment and Social Innovation Programme (EASI) and the Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, in particular via the SME instrument and the societal challenge “Inclusive, innovative and reflexive societies“.

The COSME programme for the competitiveness of enterprises and SMEs is not to be outdone, with a recent call for proposals targeting the SSE sector, COSME – Missions linked to the social economy – 2020. This scheme is designed to support consortia working to develop interregional collaboration through the sharing and replication of best practices and interregional learning in the social economy. It also aims to create opportunities and incentives for future interregional partnerships on a number of priorities such as socially responsible public procurement, social and ecological innovation clusters or local policies to combat unemployment.  With a total budget of €1.9 million, local and regional authorities targeted by the scheme to develop projects will be able to expect a grant covering all eligible costs up to 100,000 euros per project. More information can be found on the funding and tenders portal.

This call is a variation of the European Social Economy Regions (ESER) initiative, an annual non-financial scheme launched in 2018 and aimed at building effective networks of social economy and social innovation actors and raising awareness of the social economy at regional and local level through the organisation of local events. Thanks to its success, the initiative has been renewed in 2019 and 2020 and today federates around 100 regional and local territories in Europe by networking SSE enterprises, social innovators and policy makers to promote the added value and benefits of social economy on the ground.

The COSME call for proposals will be closed on 9 June 2020 but it is hoped that many calls for projects oriented towards the development of the social economy will follow during the programming period 2021-2027. The priorities and the budget for this period are still under negotiation within the European Commission for the time being.


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