Hannover C1 strategies

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Hannover policy forum background paper


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Workshop objectives

  • To examine the ways that different Member States have developed strategies for reaching specific groups of entrepreneurs.
  • To address the question of whether specialist services are needed or whether mainstream services can adapt. Or is there a third ‘braided way’ of linking the specialists and the community based organisations to the mainstream?
  • To resolve the problem of how to improve the outreach to different groups while maintaining a central service.
  • To explore the ways that integrated strategies can be developed for enterprise development covering enterprise culture, business start up, consolidation and growth and access to finance.

What is the challenge?

Business support systems have grown up in a variety of different ways in the Member States. The general model is a system that gives some support to start-up businesses. Many support systems are better at supporting ‘conventional businesses’ than businesses led by groups such as migrants, women, young people and social entrepreneurs. Integrated strategies need to recognise the weaknesses of the existing systems and to find ways of working with an increasingly diverse client base.

What kinds of solutions are being tested?

A wide range of solutions has been tested within EQUAL. The earlier Round 1 DPs worked on smaller scale solutions.

A distinction needs to be drawn between more evolved policy environments such those where nearly everything has been tested – although not everything works – and regions where the support structures are grappling with diversity and inclusion relating to enterprise for the first time.

UK social enterprise strategy

The Social Enterprise Coalition has worked with the UK government at National and regional level to develop a Social Enterprise Strategy, in 2003, and a Social Enterprise Action plan, in late 2006. Work in the UK on social enterprise has spanned all areas of government and gone into issues around health provision and procurement. In addition social enterprise is embedded in government although the location of the Social Enterprise Unit has changed – whereas formerly it was in the Department of Trade and Industry, now it is in the Office of the Third Sector. But it was not always like this. In the 90s the UK’s social enterprises existed in a policy vacuum and as a result specialist support structures had evolved, often building on the local co-operative development agencies (CDAs) that had been set up earlier. The social economy has a long tradition of self-help and the creation of its own support structures. This is also true in other Member States including Italy where financial co-operatives, i.e. the ‘MAGs’ provide finance and advice services.

Busines Links

In the UK the development of a more strategic approach at national level has taken place during a time of significant restructuring in the business support architecture. In England this was the result of devolving to Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) the responsibility for managing the contracts for Business Link – the leading English structure for providing advice and information to business. Under this arrangement, the nine RDAs contract with providers in their regions to deliver the new service. At the same time the structure of the service in most regions has been moving towards an ‘Information Diagnosis and Brokerage’ service whereby the adviser’s role is to identify the needs of the enterprise and then broker them to solution providers. In Wales there has been restructuring following the abolition of the Welsh Development Agency and the absorption of its functions into the Welsh Assembly. For hard-to-reach groups and for social enterprises, the new systems are both an opportunity and a challenge.


The Community of Practice on Inclusive Entrepreneurship (COPIE) is testing an action planning approach to generating policy discourse on integrated strategies. The action plans use a tool based on a simple set of questions targeted at different stakeholders including entrepreneurs from the main target groups and social entrepreneurs. The tool identifies strengths and policy challenges and also offers a matrix of solutions based on good practices in EQUAL and beyond.

Questions for discussion

  • Are there any short cuts to achieving a fully evolved model?
  • Separate or mainstream? Specialist or generalist? Proliferation or simplification?
  • Who pays? How can the departments and levels of government that save money as a result of inclusive entrepreneurship be persuaded to invest their budgetary savings?
  • Even in mature regions and nations, inclusive entrepreneurship strategies are not entrenched and remain vulnerable to changing administrations – so how can they be defended?

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