Youth unemployment is one of the biggest challenges in Europe nowadays. More than 22% of under-25s are unemployed. The European Youth Forum has calculated that the cost of youth unemployment is at least 100 billion euro per year, based on social security and exclusion costs in 21 members states. In some countries the situation is much worse: in Spain, youth unemployment is over 50 percent, and it is continuously increasing. The way out of youth unemployment can be achieved by increasing the knowledge and skills of young persons as stated by the Erasmus + and by increasing young person entrepreneurship and creativity. Especially social entrepreneurship, as a combination of employment and on the same time a chance to fight against poverty and social exclusion, is seen as an important tool in combating unemployment. As stated by the EU initiative to promote social entrepreneurship:
"The fight against poverty and social exclusion is a major element of the Europe 2020 strategy: The EU wants to strengthen growth, employment and competitiveness, while creating a more inclusive society. "Social enterprises" and, more generally, all actors working for a social, inclusive economy have a fundamental role to play. Social enterprises apply business strategies to tackle goals such as bettering society or protecting the environment. They have close ties to their communities, promote social cohesion and help reduce economic and social disparities between EU regions and countries". http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/social_business/docs/SBI_citizen_en.pdf
What is social business and Why is it important for the European Union?
A social business/social enterprise is an undertaking:
•whose primary objective is to achieve social impact rather than generating profit for owners and shareholders;
•which uses its surpluses mainly to achieve these social goals;
•which is managed by social entrepreneurs in an accountable, transparent and innovative way, in particular by involving workers, customers and stakeholders affected by its business activity.
The main objective of social businesses is to generate a significant impact on society, the environment and the local community.
Social enterprises contribute to smart growth by responding with social innovation to needs that have not yet been met. For instance, many social enterprises take it for granted to encourage workers to learn and update their skills. They also create sustainable growth by taking into account their environmental impact and by their long-term vision. In addition, social enterprises are at the heart of inclusive growth due to their emphasis on people and social cohesion: they create sustainable jobs for women, young people and the elderly.
The growth and distribution potential of the social enterprise model in the internal market has still not been fully explored and it is coming up against obstacles identified by several reports, the most recent being the BEPA report in mid-2010.
Since Social enterprises face the same challenges as any SMEs, and therefore can benefit from the general initiatives propose by Europe. However, they also face their own particular problems. Social enterprises should be able to benefit from the advantages of the internal market just as much as other businesses. Nevertheless, small social enterprises, which mainly have their roots solely in local activities, are also directly affected by the rules of the internal market on bank regulation, access to structural or public funds.
Social Business Initiative, What has been achieved so far?
The Social Business Initiative launched in 2011, identified three strands of action to make a real difference and improve the situation on the ground for social enterprises:
1. Improve the access to finance
2. Give more visibility to social enterprises
3. Optimize the legal environment
1. IMPROVED ACCESS TO FINANCE FOR SOCIAL ENTERPRISES:
· Public money has been mobilized to help social enterprises.
· The Employment and Social Innovation program has been made available to social enterprises to support the development of the social investment market with €85m and to facilitate their access to finance.
But the sector also needs private investments. This is why Europe has established the instrument of a European Social Entrepreneurship Fund to help social enterprises get easier access finance and aid investors to identify investments in social business.
More details on all initiatives to improve access to finance:
2. MORE VISIBILITY FOR SOCIAL ENTERPRISES:
· In order to give social enterprises more visibility, the online platform Social Innovation Europe was set up. It also helps social entrepreneurs communicate and share information on the latest events happening in the field.
· Another enabling tool is funding provided via Youth in Action, Erasmus and other education programs, to educate and train social entrepreneurs in Europe. The SME Forum which was set up in 2010 achieves the same objective.
More details on all initiatives to enhance visibility:
3. OPTIMISED LEGAL ENVIRONMENT:
· To improve the legal environment, a first aspect is how authorities can take into account the specificities of social enterprises. The public procurement reform package to be adopted early 2014 will encourage and enable public authorities to consider fully the social enterprises.
· Another important aspect boost and improve the legal forms for social enterprises. In this respect, the Commission adopted a proposal for a European Foundation to facilitate cross-border activities of public benefit foundations.
More details on all initiatives to improve the legal environment:
Federico BonavitaI’m Tandem Social's intern, an Italian student from University of Bologna. I got this awesome opportunity thanks to a full scholarship “Erasmus Placement Program” promoted by my home University. During this internship period I’m improving my personal skills and specifically I’m widen my work expertise. My main tasks at Tandem Social are: analyze the European Union programs, particularly in the field of social business, and find possible projects that can fit with Tandem Social’s work. Moreover, I contribute to draw up European projects proposals, and I also participate in researching possible project partners.