Social economy learning network ideas

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Ideas for a social economy learning network

See also Social economy transnational workplan, SE learning network themes

Collected by: Toby Johnson & Dorotea Daniele, 16 July 2008

Contents

Activities & objectives

Overall objectives of Learning for Change:

  • Contribute to employment policy
  • Modernise institutions
  • Learn from other countries
  • Bring together people, knowledge and practice
  • Activities, networks and fora in employment, inclusion & training
  • Share good practice
  • Work together towards common solutions in multicultural environment
  • Multiplier effect

This learning network is relevant to the ESF/Lisbon objectives of:

  • labour market – increasing entrepreneurship
  • social inclusion – by opening policy delivery to a wider range of suppliers, and through ensuring the users’ voice is listened to – both of which improve quality
  • strengthening public administration – through improving ability to assess social impact of interventions, thus improving value for money
  • stimulating social innovation
  • involving a wide range of stakeholders:
    • public authorities/funders/commissioners
    • service deliverers/practitioners
    • users/beneficiaries/representative NGOs
    • researchers

Structure of the learning network

The network has two levels:

Exchange of good practice in support to the social economy

The overall aims are to (i) contribute to the Lisbon objectives by raising the activity rate, by empowering a wider range of the population to engage in entrepreneurship; (ii) reduce social exclusion by (a) improving access of disadvantaged people (minority ethnic communities, disabled, LTU etc.) to running their own businesses; (b) improving delivery of social services to disadvantaged groups.

Strands of this work applicable among different member countries include:

  • Build capacity for service delivery to address social problems of exclusion and unemployment, by:
    • improving support infrastructure for business creation (braided provision through regional development agencies + specialist agencies)
    • improving techniques of human resource management, especially coaching and mentoring, in the social economy
  • Enable the growth and consolidation of inclusive and social enterprises by improving access to larger markets, through:
    • improving awareness and skills on public procurement – both among public sector commissioners and among social enterprises
    • improving strategies of price-setting by social economy enterprises in the context of state aid regulations
    • developing techniques for cost-effective and accessible trade-sector based expansion such as social franchising
  • Improve availability of appropriate loan finance from specialist CDFIs and mainstream banks, to provide working capital and ensure viability of social enterprises

These good practices in various participating countries are complementary and the transnational exchange will raise the overall level of practice in the EU.

Many aspects are complementary with the activities of COPIE2 and will be shared. In particular it is planned to hold a joint summer school in 2009.

Development of a common assessment methodology

A 2nd-level tool to develop a common social return on investment (SROI) methodology to enable better ex-ante and ex-post assessment of the social impact of interventions in the social economy. This tool would be developed through piloting it on the first-level actions. This would be a robust piloting process as it would involve a number of support actions of different types in a number of countries with diverse socio-economic and institutional conditions.

The process of developing the tool would build an understanding of how social value is created, in particular through ESF interventions. It would therefore enable more sophisticated and insightful arguments to be out forward when programming the ESF.

The tool would be published on the web for further use and improvement (open source). The methodological knowledge gained would be shared and developed using a wiki and capitalised through a network of investors, practitioners, users and researchers.

Project phases

1. Preparatory phase (6 months)

Consolidate network and learning strategy leading to 1st milestone: capacity & roles of each partner, baseline study (covering diagnosis, relevance, EU-wide stakeholder mapping); expected results incl. relevance for partners’ OPs; activities; how stakeholders involved; detailed work programme (incl. learning strategy, logframe & budget); signed legal agreements, esp. with experts (NB must be tendered).

2. Implementation phase (up to 3 years, with annual reports)

Expected results

  • Involve key stakeholders
  • Establish discussion fora (COPIE/Wikipreneurship.eu ...)
  • Demonstrate language, cultural & institutional barriers overcome
  • Demonstrate mutual trust, understanding
  • Create a process of continuous sharing and accumulation of knowledge and expertise around key ESF issues
  • Create interest in joint learning among a broader community of peers across Europe
  • Provide evidence for good practice identified
  • Impact on ESF programmes: strengthen capacity to innovate / modernise institutions to meet new challenges / identify issues and solutions to meet Lisbon targets / improve governance
  • Professional development

Possible content modules

The following ideas have been proposed so far. It is a non-exclusive list and ESF Managing Authorities are free to propose other topics as well as to signal interest in those listed.

Human resources, including coaching & mentoring

Support structures & loan finance

To exchange on the different models of support structures, in the context that Poland is establishing eight regional social economy development agencies. Some bilateral work between Italy and Poland has already gone on. Direct beneficiaries would be regional development practitioners in development agencies and promoting bodies.

Possible activities:

  • study visits to possible models: local CDA, consortium, community development finance institution (CDFI), business and employment co-operative (BEC), incubator/hub, specialist federal body such as Social Firms UK etc.
  • seminars on development methods
  • documentation of issues to be resolved, good practice cases aand SROI pilot via a wiki

Social firms quality standard

Adaptation of the world’s first quality standard for social firms (work integration social enterprises) – the star system created by SFUK. SFUK have ESF support in UK and would supervise piloting in other countries. Possible ancillary support of networking, e.g. via CEFEC conferences.

Social franchising

Possible activities:

  • establishment of web portal
  • exchanges of staff
  • extension of existing social franchises to new countries
  • support through workshops and annual conference

SROI

SROI has been a constant theme within EQUAL and during EQUAL a European network has frown up. The first SROI Exchange was held on 30 May 2008 in Manchester and attracted over 100 people, from as far away as Canada and the Ukraine. The approach has been converging around:

  • stakeholder involvement
  • a theory of change (cf. logical framework analysis)
  • management systems to support indicators of change

SROI UK has been developing approaches to accreditation of practitioners and quality assurance. Both the UK and the Scottish governments are on the point of publishing calls for tender to develop practice in this field.

Process for each strand of work:

  • prepare SROI projection
  • develop action plan
  • at end of strand, compare actual with projected SROI
  • develop consistent standards

Results:

  • ESF managers with increased capacity to design and implement in terms of indicators of social added value
  • organisational learning and change, including among commissioners and investors
  • more developed partnerships with key stakeholders identified
  • higher impact of ESF interventions on social problems addressed
  • more rational public purchasing procedures
  • increase value for money from public spending
  • a model procedure for SROI and a set of standards that can be applied across a wide range of interventions centring on the social economy

The SROI assessment methodology and guidelines developed in each strand of work would be capitalised through a number of events to:

  • share ideas and knowledge
  • develop the methods being used to validate and assess result and impacts
  • enable mutual learning among practitioners, commissioners and organisations delivering services
  • support networking through professional community
  • transfer good practice and lessons learnt on new ways of policy delivery

These would be staged as follows:

  • exchange events – initially following the SROI projections and again following the comparison of actual with projected returns
  • learning seminars – on specific topics such as (i) quality assurance, accreditation and reporting; and (ii) the structure and content of indicator databases
  • policy fora – to mainstream techniques of SROI-based cost-benefit analysis among the public investment decision-making community

See also Social economy transnational workplan