BFSE conference summaries

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Salient points from BFSE conferences

Milan seminar, 5 December 2011

Social Business Initiative (SBI)

Gerhard Bräunling, Employment DG

Why is the SBI happening now?

  • The deep crisis calls for reshaping economic and social fabric. “Business as usual” is not the way forward. We need solutions which are both economically viable and socially acceptable;
  • Meeting the challenge requires new partnerships. Mutual learning can strengthen what regions are doing.
  • “Social market economy” is in the treaty; it is a pluralistic economy which uses social policy to ensure social justice.
  • SB is based on a humanist conception of business, and includes a set of values and ethics, which internalises the potential bad effects of enterprises
  • There is the example of Mondragón which has created an ecosystem where 250 companies provide 80,000 jobs, supported by technical college, bank, insurance, design & innovation departments
  • The Commission has now recognised that social enterprises are a key part of the European social model.

Value of social impact measurement

It is important because it will enable us to: (a) at macro level:

    • raise awareness and change mindsets to increase support for SEs
    • benchmark regions: compare one region with another
    • assess effectiveness of actions: before-and-after comparison

(b) at micro level: assist decision-making by social investors through social reporting on the outcomes and on the processes that create them (e.g. EFQM). This can also be applied to the ecosystem: do we have advice, incubators, finance etc.?

The aim is to converge the hundreds of tools and come out with a few core indicators.

We should use the huge pool of talent we have to solve social problems – and attract talented people away from the financial sector.

Evaluation of Lombardy's ESF JEREMIE scheme

Andrea Naldini, ISMERI

Lombardy has an ESF Jeremie scheme managed by Finlombarda whereby members of co-operatives can borrow €4,000 to invest in the shares of their co-operative. Half is paid back and the other half is written off after 5 years. Analysis was “difference of differences”. Conclusions:

  • flexibility is prised
  • no deadweight
  • it was spent not saved
  • it had a positive effect but this is not analysed yet.


  • should be repeated to ensure sustainability
  • crucial to integrate different data sources
  • counterfactual method
  • robustness
  • could be used on social-economic indicators e.g. SROI

Lombardy's tool for measuring social added value

Floriana Nappini & Daniela Gatti

  • Tool builds on previous experience. It is modular – can use either of both parts. Has 11 dimensions, divided into sub-dimensions, with indicators some core, others optional – so it can be used in shallow or deep ways.
  • A weighting scheme has been drawn up for Lombardy – other regions could weight differently. Benchmarking is based on the weighted average of the social co-ops surveyed
  • They are building the software which will be an important product as currently most information comes from the social reporting, which is on paper. So it will improve the data.
  • The pilot asked 80 co-ops and got 25 responses. They calculated a weighted average score for each indicator. Are now doing a reality check and have adjusted some indicators. On the SROI they have collected the data and are now monitoring and creating proxies. The next step is to check with stakeholders.
  • Will it be used? The questionnaire is stable. May be too rigorous – there has to be an incentive to improve. Could be used bottom-up or top-down. It will be built into the software the region already uses, so that it is easy to use. however there is doubt that the politicians want the evidence, even in today’s context of severe cuts.
  • Renato Pirola: As a region with 10m people, Lombardy has personal budgets and the tool helps them to define standard costs. It would like to use it with other policies.
  • Adrianna Cheber: Will test tool to measure added value in next Jeremie call for €10m, with Finlombarda & Banca Etica involved.
  • Paolo Rossi: the 2006 law that created piani di zona did not aim to save money through outsourcing, but to give social co-operatives a change to be aid. SEs are complex which makes measuring social added value hard.

Kraków tool

Jakub Glowacki

Started work at beginning of 2011 on a tool which has 4 dimensions. In each area, indicators are aggregated into one index. Data is collected by questionnaire. Each organisation is benchmarked against the average. It has 4 dimensions:

  • social and work inclusion
  • social capital (confidence, co-operation with other institutions etc.)
  • local community – the economic relation is hardest to measure)
  • financial performance – from P&L account & balance sheet

It is online at (PL only at present.)

The pilot surveyed 73 co-ops for (1) willingness to measure social value and (2) quality of questionnaire (many respondents did not complete questionnaire). Conclusion: most organisations did not want to measure social value. They need an incentive. Therefore uch a tool should be obligatory.


  • Marco di Giacomo: Banca Etica (Milan) has a social evaluator for each ‘circumscription’.
  • Pierluca Castelnuovo: Jeremie helped social co-operatives to become more bankable.
  • Sabine Bellione: Poland’s data collection problem shows how hard it is to do an ex ante evaluation: the abstract data is there, but it needs supplementing. This qnr is harder than a bilancio sociale.
  • Karl Richter: RBS is interested, and Morgan Stanley vaguer. It could be piloted with the EIF.
  • Rita Porru: In 2000-2006, 12 regions carried out a global grant project “Networks for social innovation – the global grant instrument for small grants”. Outputs included public-private collaboration and generating local development opportunities.
  • An example in Tuscany: promote entrepreneurship & self-employment, target disadvantage, create integrated services for SE development. Did an evaluation, carries on into 2007-13 period.
  • SE is in 4 networks:
    • ESF CoNet: Empowerment & Inclusion, ENYE
    • Ultre le Confine (Beyond the Borders) (SaviAV): IT (11 regions) + Ro
    • ExoCoP: Lombardy leads 14 regions)
    • CSR dissemination (8 regions)
  • Andrea Birch (WEA): DAIN – Digital Activist Inclusion Network ( is an ESF ITM project that is applying SROI to one aspect of its work – transnationality. It has made a film on EYV website – critical friend is John Bell. They recorded a study visit to Belgium in Oct 11 and aim to create a robust model. WEA has done SROI voluntarily but in general it needs an incentive.
  • Sandra Turner: the tool is vital because while commissioners do think soft outcomes are important, they can’t translate them in to tender specifications.
  • Erik, SERUS: Camden did an SROI tool on social outcomes. Sweden has trained 200 people and carried out a number of SROI analyses.
  • Monika Andrzejewska: In Poland it is not obligatory. The answer is to do some pilots among co-ops that show interest, and create a snowball effect.
  • Adrianna Cheber: SE should dialogue more with other parts of society.

Final learning seminar, Warsaw, 2-3 April 2012

Stakeholders’ forum

The 75 participants divided into four tables focusing on:

  • finance
  • social franchising
  • measuring social added value
  • social clauses in public procurement

They scrutinised the strand messages according to the following guidance:

  • Do the recommendations make sense? Are there any major missing recommendations?
  • Do they answer to the main challenges and needs at European level?
  • Could they work in different countries?
  • How can they be improved?
  • Have we identified the relevant stakeholders? Are there any other important stakeholders?
  • Do participants know other good examples (namely in countries which are not members of the BFSE Network)?
  • How to disseminate the recommendations and communicate the message at EU and national level?
  • What could be the role and the contribution of each category of stakeholders?
  • What are the ESF conditions/rules to implement the recommendations?

At the end, participants were asked to weight the recommendations by their importance. This method was successful in eliciting new evidence a well as clarifying the previous argumentation.

Panel discussion

The two rounds of table work occupied the first half-day. The second half-day was given over to an extremely inspiring presentation by the Stowarzyszenie Siemacha on the Com-Com Zone, a social enterprise in Kraków.

Report-backs from the 4 tables were followed by a panel discussion chaired by Paweł Chorąży.

This was notable for the enthusiasm to take part in the network that was expressed by both Carlos Tortuero Martin (Spanish MA) and Jan Olsson (REVES). The social economy makes up nearly 10% of Spain’s economy and 35,000 SE enterprises provide 364,000 jobs. The public budget spends a considerable amount supporting the SE, but very little comes from the ESF. Magdalena Zawodny Barabanow from the regional social policy office in Kraków recounted how the Małopolska region had been inspired by Andalusia to construct its social economy pact, which now includes 40 member organisations. The pact was ready-made to compile a long-term strategic plan.

Jan Olsson of REVES gave examples of successful fund management at regional and local level – the anti-discrimination OP managed by ONCE in Spain is an excellent model. Community Initiatives in social innovation and local development should be established.

Gerhard Bräunling of the Employment DG mentioned that the SBI asks Member States to come up with an integrated strategy to promote social enterprises. Some MSs have plans while others do not. At the minimum these would include:

  • long-term objectives: how to achieve the Europe 2020 targets
  • what partnership arrangements
  • system to monitor social, impact
  • peer learning
  • good programming of ESF

Final conference, Brussels, 26 June 2012

The event conveyed the content of the work of the five strands to some 75 interested participants, and held a debate on the role of the social economy in the forthcoming structural funds programming period.

After opening speeches from Flanders and Poland, the day comprised:

  • a ‘European café’ session during which participants could learn more about any 3 out of the 5 strands;
  • 2 round tables, one comprising representatives of social economy institutions and the other representatives of European institutions.

Some key points were:

Opening speeches

  • Paweł Orłowski, Secretary of State at the Polish Ministry of Regional Development (pictured right) noted the relevance of BFSE’s work on public procurement, SSGIs, visibility and standards to the themes of the SBI. He was delighted with them innovative role of more importantly it had built a support system including incentives to create social co-ops plus advice and support services. In 2014-20 Poland will focus more on social enterprises, strengthening the support system, and new business models such as social franchising and clusters.
  • Dorotea Daniele traced the history of BFSE since the Gdansk social economy conference, held by an amazing coincidence 4 years ago to the day, on 26 Jun 2008. Things moved slowly at the start, but sped up and achieved a well-balanced range of products. Some suggestions for the future:
    • coherence, both vertical & horizontal, between different programmes
    • knowledge and information
    • strong stakeholder involvement and the need for evidence
    • capacity both of institutions and of social economy organisations
    • measurement and assessment
    • transnational learning

Reflections on the social, economy in the new programming period 2014-20

Panel 1 – social economy organisations

  • Karol Sachs, Crédit Coopératif: What is needed is mixed public/private/social economy investment funds such as FEBEA is setting up. It wants to invest above all in jobs, especially for young people, and in mitigating climate change, and can match ESF investments. The EU must play an important catalytic role. FEBEA’s experience is that investing in the social economy, including in the new Member States, is very viable. The evidence can be seen in the good practice atlas.
  • Karin Pflüger, Social Economy Europe: to ensure a level playing field, we need to be vigilant that the specificities of the social economy – especially democracy – are taken into account. In the ESF, ex ante conditionalities and the 20% earmarking for inclusion should stay.
  • Vincent Caron, EAPN: to fight poverty, access to the ESF should be easier, e.g. through global grants and technical assistance. Programmes need to be longer-term, and ERDF & ESF need to work together.
  • Valentina Caimi, Social Platform: the problem with macroeconomic conditionalities is that funds might be denied to countries with large deficits, exacerbating the problems of the poor. The social economy is key to social innovation.
  • Jan Olsson, REVES: to make the CLLD priority work, partnership is needed, and the social economy should be on OP monitoring committees etc. Or maybe there should be a specific partnership for the social economy. There should be benchmarking of how partnership is implemented. Global grants managed by intermediary bodies are a good way to decentralise fund management. The multifund approach is a brilliant idea and allows funds to be set up at regional level.

It is clear that the social economy is eligible in all ESF priorities. Capacity building should be in all ESF OPs – not just for the social economy but for administrations.

Panel 2 – EU institutions

  • Jens Nilsson MEP, S&D: You need to discuss definitions, or the risk is that the private sector will kidnap the social business sector. The partnership principle should never be skipped.
  • Jean-Claude Mizzi, MARKT: In the SBI, work has gone fastest in finance and legislation. On visibility, they are working on a methodology for social impact measurement. The BFSE tool would be a good contribution to a sub-group on social impact.
  • Marie-Anne Paraskevas, EMPL: EMPL did consider a separate initiative on social enterprise, but decided to combine forces with the SBI. EU/MS actions should include capacity building, support structures, direct support, high-quality business development services and finance.
  • Louis Vervloet, BEnl: The EU package is good “if we do it ourselves”. Is happy that everyone agrees we should involve all stakeholders. The social economy has to be active to ensure that MSs do things well.
  • Keith Richardson, CORE: Simplification in the ESF has a long way to go; the Intelligent Energy programme, which targets private firms, allows for overheads by simply adding 50% to salary costs.
  • Paweł Chorąży, PL: On the risk of kidnapping, the SBI, like BFSE, has the virtue of concreteness: we should not ghettoise the social economy, but ‘social economise’ everything!

Paweł Orłowski, PL: one of the answers to the crisis is the social economy and mutual learning, so he wants to continue BFSE.