Social Entrepreneurship Network

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The Social Entrepreneurship Network] is learning network of ESF managing authorities led by Poland that operates through 2013 and 2014. Though a cycle of five peer reviews, it aims to acquaint its members with the building blocks of a comprehensive support environment for social enterprises.



Presentation on SEN delivered at the E3M conference in Kettering, UK on 4 Mar 13: File:SEN Kettering.ppt

Project description




The partners comprise ESF Managing Authorities and intermediate bodies from nine EU Member States and regions, together with representative or service organisations from the social economy.


The combination of the examination of good practice, the formulation of recommendations for a comprehensive support environment and the partnership-building process will enable ESF Managing Authorities to develop more effective operational programmes and will enable social economy organisations to make a larger contribution to the realisation of their objectives.


The results will comprise: (1) detailed recommendations on how to use the Structural Funds to ensure a comprehensive support environment for social enterprises, targeted primarily at ESF MAs but also at policy-makers responsible for the social economy; supported by (2) a matrix of good practice examples spread across Member States, showing how different aspects of a comprehensive support environment for social enterprises can be implemented under various economic, social and institutional circumstances. Examples might include stakeholder involvement, co-planning tools, outreach to disadvantaged communities, the bridge from welfare dependence, training and coaching, microfinance, public procurement, measuring social added value and social franchising.


The work programme starts with a phase of methodology development and training together with the identification and selection of good practices. This is followed by a series of five cycles of peer reviews, with meetings held in different participating Member States, covering respectively the domains of governance and policy co-ordination, outreach and accessibility, start-up support, finance, and consolidation & growth. The results will be summarised and presented on paper, as a clickable online matrix and at a dissemination conference in Brussels, where they can be accessed by all Structural Fund bodies and by others.


Support for social enterprises and the social economy is identified as an investment priority for the Structural Funds in the 2014-20 period. Social enterprises create jobs and economic activity, in a socially inclusive manner, and provide high-quality social welfare services. They are an effective tool for the work integration of disadvantaged groups at risk of social exclusion.


The range of territories involved, which cover around 28% of the EU’s population, contains sufficient variety of conditions to give a good experimental base of social enterprise support activity. The structural involvement of partners from the social economy sector gives good access to experiences on the ground. The time period of two years is sufficient to carry out the activities in due order. A budget of some €500,000 will be required.


The presence of social economy actors as associate partners binds them into the development of a common understanding of what a good comprehensive support environment or social enterprise is, and how the Structural Funds can help to build it. The process of working in partnership, over the two years 2013-14, will enable ESF authorities to develop feasible operational programmes which can readily be implemented.


The Social Entrepreneurship Network (SEN) project seeks to build the capacity of the actors who form part of the ESF system to achieve the objectives of the ESF and of the Europe 2020 strategy. More specifically it seeks to equip them to promote and implement projects involving social entrepreneurship, social enterprises and the social economy.

The potential of these fields has been explicitly recognised by the inclusion of investment priorities in the Structural Funds. Under the common thematic objective of promoting social inclusion and combating poverty the subsequent draft regulations include an investment priority on support for social enterprises in the ERDF and one on promoting the social economy and social enterprises in the ESF.[1]

The investment priorities on entrepreneurship are also relevant: self-employment, entrepreneurship and business creation (ESF) and promoting entrepreneurship, in particular by facilitating the economic exploitation of new ideas and fostering the creation of new firms as well as development of business incubators and investment support for self-employment and business creation (ERDF).

The role of social enterprises is accordingly taken up within the European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion flagship initiative, one of whose actions is Working in partnership to harness the potential of the social economy.

It is also a task of the ESF to promote social innovation, and social enterprises are one of the chief vehicles through which social innovation is achieved. This was made very evident during the launch of the Social Innovation Europe platform in March 2011 and in the Commission’s preparatory research, which finds that:

One of the most rapid growth areas within the social economy over the last decade has been in the growth of social enterprises which have developed from and within the social economy sector. Social enterprises often develop innovative solutions which increase productivity while delivering better services in social, health, and education services, the new growth markets for innovative companies.

Speaking to a social enterprise audience, Commissioner Andor recently set out the valuable role social enterprises are called upon to play:

The economic crisis in Europe, and in particular the employment crisis, is reaching new heights. All Governments have been asked to strengthen their employment, social inclusion and enterprise policies. In order to lift itself out of the crisis, Europe has to make important decisions. The EU needs to mobilise its workforce and put as many people as possible to useful and productive work. One of the things the Commission has emphasised in its recent Communication Towards a job-rich recovery is the potential of social economy and social enterprises to do precisely that.

He goes on to support the creation of a stakeholder partnership:

The Commission has emphasised that identification of priorities and design of operational prog-rammes for the period ahead should be undertaken in partnership with the key stakeholders at national and regional levels. And I want to encourage all Member States and all stakeholders to make use of the newly introduced investment priorities on social economy and social enterprises under the ESF and ERDF.

He concludes:

The Commission is prepared to help Member States and regions in developing integrating strategies and setting up support schemes for social entrepreneurs also through technical assistance measures.

This indicates that SEN’s work to articulate the nature of good practice in ensuring a comprehensive support environment for social enterprises will fall on fertile ground.

Benefits for partners

Participation in the network aims to bring the partners the following benefits:

  • an understanding of the objectives, capacities and constraints of their institutional partners in their home territories
  • experience of working in a cross-institutional partnership to improve Structural Fund effectiveness
  • a deep understanding of how the best initiatives for the support of social enterprises function in a good cross-section of European countries and regions
  • an understanding of how these initiatives fit together to form a comprehensive support environment
  • an understanding of needs and gaps in terms of support according to their own context and regulatory framework
  • visibility in the European employment policy innovation community
  • an opportunity to innovate and to contribute to the Social Business Initiative
  • an active role in a partnership to obtain the highest possible value from future Structural fund investments
  • an opportunity to improve policy measures for social enterprises
  • an increased knowledge to influence the drafting of new OPs


Many of the terms in use in this domain are not legally of clearly defined, and in a field where organisational forms are in constant evolution, it is difficult to lay down fixed definitions. Nevertheless it may be helpful to try to distinguish some of the key terms. All are variations on the underlying concept of using business means – producing goods or services and selling them in the market – to achieve social objectives.

  • Social entrepreneurship: this is the process of undertaking a business venture in order to achieve social goals. It uses the same methods as conventional entrepreneurship, and aims to trade profitably (otherwise it would go bankrupt), but its profits are applied not to enrich the principals or reward financial investors, but to solve societal problems. The term emphasises the role of inspired individuals in achieving social progress.
  • Social economy: this term is usually used to denote four families of organisations which have legal structures specifically designed to encapsulate business carried out for social ends: co-operatives, mutuals, associations and foundations. The first three emphasise democratic control by members, and all four of them place limits on profit distribution. The first pair trade for the benefit of their members, while the latter pair, if they trade, trade for the benefit of the community at large (the general interest). The advantage of these legal forms is that they entrench the principles of non-profit distribution, ensuring that profit is applied to the enterprise’s social objectives. Co-operatives do have the power to distribute a dividend to members, but this is not a return to capital; rather it is a rebate related to the trade members do with the co-operative. The Enterprise DG has a webpage defining the social economy.
  • Solidarity economy: this term denotes more ‘grassroots’ economic activity that respects the principles of meeting social needs through participation and economic democracy, as a reaction against the institutionalised nature of the mainstream social economy.
  • Social enterprise: This term was coined to describe businesses which are created to meet social needs, but do not take one of the established social economy forms: for instance they may be sole proprietorships, partnerships or share companies. In this sense, their profits belong to their owners and can in theory be distributed to them. In the UK, the specific form of a community interest company (CIC) was invented in 2005 to avoid this by capping dividend distribution and imposing an asset lock. Latterly some commentators have sought to dilute the principle of non-profit distribution by for instance insisting that up to half of profits may be distributed. The Enterprise DG also has a webpage defining social enterprises, based on the EMES definition.
  • Social business: this term has arisen most recently, and is in practice the same as ‘social enterprise’. In its leaflet promoting the Social Business Initiative, the European Commission offers the following joint definition:
A social business/social enterprise is an undertaking:
  • whose primary objective is to achieve a 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.

It thus emphasises the innovative and governance aspects rather than non-profit distribution.

  • Social business enterprise: this term is used by Mohammad Yunus of the Grameen Bank, who has founded a number of enterprises which follow the principle of ‘no loss, no dividends’ – i.e. they apply their profit to return capital invested, but do not go beyond that to pay a return on investment. There is thus no essential difference from ‘social enterprise’.
  • Corporate social responsibility: this means the voluntary contribution to social objectives that some companies make, without challenging their fundamental purpose of making profits to reward capital. These contributions may take various forms: not only cash donations but staff volunteering, matching staff’s individual donations, donating goods, loaning premises etc.
  • Social co-operative: a family of co-operatives that has grown up since the 1980s under Italian leadership. Social co-operatives have two special characteristics. Firstly they address the issues of health and social welfare and/or unemployment and exclusion, and secondly they have multiple stakeholders, for instance unemployed ex-offenders, professional hoteliers, carers and volunteers.
  • Social exclusion: processes in which individuals and entire communities of people are systematically blocked from rights, opportunities and resources (e.g. housing, employment, healthcare, civic engagement, democratic participation and due process) that are normally available to members of society and which are key to social integration. The outcome of multiple deprivations that prevent individuals or groups from participating fully in the economic, social, and political life of the society in which they live.


Content: The work programme has been developed in a participative fashion among the partners of the initial BFSE network during the summer of 2012. At a meeting held on 20 July 2012, network members prioritised three learning areas:

Learning areas prioritised on 20 July 2012

  1. Social enterprise support - analysis of the existing models (Coompanion in SE, consortia in IT, support centres in PL, social innovation incubators, social franchising) and description of competencies of social and financial intermediaries; interest expressed by: EN, SE, PL, CZ, VL, EL
  2. Finance for social enterprise and social investment - analysis of efficient instruments and professional services, analysis of demands and supply, connecting with the support system for SMEs, piloting instruments including social added value, PR; interest expressed by: EN, EL, PL, CZ, SE
  3. Local development / co-planning tools - analysis of some existing successful models (development trusts in UK, piani di zona in IT, régies de quartier in FR, public-social partnerships); interest expressed by: EN, PL, CZ

In order to create a coherent framework for these three learning areas, they have been placed within the framework of a comprehensive support environment for social enterprises (see below).

Partnership: The SEN network has been designed following the recommendations of the first BFSE network:

The BFSE overall recommendations

European Social Fund support for the social economy should form part of an integrated strategic approach which is designed, implemented and assessed through partnerships.
1. A partnership framework
These partnerships should suit the local context and should include the relevant actors in the territory concerned: the public authorities, social entrepreneurs themselves (directly or through umbrella bodies), and also researchers, funders, businesses, support organisations and advisers. The governance system should be based on transparency, a pluralistic approach and respect for the role of every actor.
2. An integrated strategic approach
The policy framework should be comprehensive, covering the following issues:

  • Institutions: legal forms, recognition of social economy actors, administrative bodies and procedures
  • Knowledge: research, education, awareness raising, etc.
  • Business development: advice, training, mentoring, management development, access to larger markets etc.
  • Finance: a sound financial ecosystem covering tax, grants, loans, guarantees, impact investment, financial engineering etc.

Whenever possible they should be organised into thematic programmes on issues such as socially responsible public procurement. Coherence of approach should be ensured through a dedicated department or structures for interdepartmental collaboration.
3. Use of the Structural Funds
The social economy can contribute to many of the 11 Structural Fund thematic objectives and to all 18 of the European Social Fund investment priorities. It is well known for its innovative, well-targeted and sustainable approach. The examples given in this book show how its potential can be maximised. In particular, two aspects of these recommendations have been taken on board – regarding network composition and content.


The members come from a wide spread of EU Member States, which represent contrasting styles of social enterprise development, within contrasting social and economic contexts. There is thus a rich fund of experiences to draw on, enabling a high value-added from transnational learning and transfer. This is aided by the presence of European-level members which have a good appreciation of the existing panorama.

In contradistinction to the first BFSE network, but following the partnership principle set out in its final recommendations, the members of the network are of two distinct types:

  • Core members: on the one hand ESF Managing Authorities and Intermediary Bodies, which are responsible for designing and implementing operational programmes, and will benefit from understanding how the involvement of social enterprises can improve their impact;
  • Associate members: on the other hand federal representative and service organisations belonging to the social economy, which have two functions: their role is both:
    • to contribute an expert knowledge of the capacities and needs of the social economy sectors in their respective countries and regions; and
    • to spread the know-how and learning on how to improve the impact of ESF measures within their membership and the sector more broadly.

The list of members is as follows:

PL: Ministry of Regional Development (LEAD), Ministry of Labour, FISE – Fundacja Inicjatyw Społeczno-Ekonomicznych (assoc)
BE: ESF Agentschap
SE: ESF Rådet, Tillväxtverket, Coompanion Sweden (assoc)
CZ: Ministry of Labour & Social Affairs, P3, People, Planet, Profit (assoc)
IT: AG Lavoro, Trentino, ESF Lombardia, Consorzio Light (assoc)
EL: ESF Greece, POKOISPE (assoc)
CY: ESF Cyprus
UK: ESF England & Gibraltar, Scottish Government, Social Firms Scotland (assoc)
FI: Ministry of Employment and the Economy, Tampere Region Cooperative Centre (assoc)
EU: DIESIS (assoc), REVES – European Networks of Cities & Regions for the Social Economy (assoc)

Moreover the Italian Ministry of Labour communicated its willingness to provide a solid contribution to the network by participating in meetings, disseminating the results of the network and using the results of the network to improve the quality of ESF operational programmes in Italy. But it will be able to formalise its commitment only after defining collaboration arrangements with its internal partners (Formez and Isfol – intermediate bodies) and that requires a slightly longer time.

Bringing the social economy organisations on board from the start in the form of a structural partnership is a solid way to ensure synergy with the key stakeholders on the ground, and thus to increase the likelihood that policy measures adopted will meet users’ needs, and that Structural Fund measures will be taken up productively.

A majority of the public-sector partners have already worked together in the first BFSE network and have thus proved that they are willing and able to work together. Some of the social economy partners have also been involved (notably DIESIS, which facilitated BFSE, Coompanion, the co-operative support network in Sweden and Consorzio Light, a consortium of social co-operatives from Lombardy).

However other of the partners do not yet know each other, and it is therefore proposed to pay special attention to ‘warming up’ the interactions among the partners, so that they have a mutual insight into each other’s objectives, capacities and constraints.

Warm-up/kick-off event

In the third month of the network’s life, a warm-up/kick-off event will therefore be held in Warsaw. This will comprise the following components:

  • individual introductions
  • brief ‘elevator pitches’ by each of the partners, succinctly presenting (in less than 5 minutes) each organisation’s objectives, stakeholders to whom it is responsible (government, social enterprises etc.), activities/services provided, what it wishes to gain from participation in the network, what it can contribute. These pitches should be prepared beforehand and summarised on 1-2 pages of A4. These profiles will be used to create profiles of the partners on the network’s website
  • small group work using Metaplan visualisation aids on different aspects of the comprehensive support environment: what can be achieved, what the main obstacles are (problem analysis), salient cases of good practice
  • training session on “how to be peer reviewer” (with methodological handout)
  • accompanied by a social event/dinner


Leader: The network will be led by the Polish Ministry for Regional Development, which benefits from the experience of leading the first BFSE network.

Facilitator: the co-ordinator will be assisted by an experienced facilitator with high-level transnational experience. This post will be able to keep a close eye on the implementation of the work programme by the partners, and ensure that the relevant knowledge is circulated in a timely fashion among them. Also the facilitator benefits from the experience of facilitating the first BFSE network.

Steering committee: Its direction will be guided by a steering committee with representation from each partner. This is expected to meet physically at least four times (every six months). In practice, to minimise travel costs, it will probably meet to coincide with each of the peer review seminars and other network events. Intervening communication will be by e-mail and telephone/Skype, with shared documents posted on the network’s website and on Wikipreneurship.

In addition there will be an initial meeting of the Managing Authorities at the very start of the project, to plan the three-month lead-up to the warm-up/ kick-off meeting. Peer review seminars: These will be organised by the local partners, acting as a team involving ESF authorities and social economy organisations, in close liaison with the co-ordinator and facilitator.

Progress reporting & evaluation: An external evaluator will be appointed at an early stage, in order that they can provide forward-looking formative advice which will improve the performance of the network, not only retrospective summation. The timetable provides the evaluator with clear milestones against which progress can be assessed.

Language: the network will operate in English, with any translation or interpretation that should be needed being provided by the relevant partner on their own responsibility. This approach has been shown to work well in the first BFSE network, in which some products were published in English only and some bilingually.


  • Staff costs: The project budget does not include the cost of staff members of some MAs (and among them of the lead partner). MAs (totally or partially) will devote to the project working hours of their staff paid by their own budget.
  • Travel and subsistence: The project budget does not include the costs of all the people participating in meetings, because some MAs will use their own budget.


As regards the content of the network’s learning, it implements the Better Future recommendation to adopt an integrated strategic approach. The network aims to identify and examine a selection of good practices from around Europe so as to gain a deep and shared understanding of the elements of a comprehensive support environment for the creation and growth of social enterprises. In this it draws on work carried out during the Needs and options for Member States and regions in supporting self-employment and micro-enterprises (MES) project carried out for the Employment DG in 2010, which established a ‘reference model’ of factors conducive to inclusive entrepreneurship. SEN members have adapted this reference model slightly so that it is more appropriate to social enterprises. In particular, the aspect of participative governance has been added, to match the well-developed level of intermediary organisations that exists in the social economy in not all, but most EU countries.

Reference model

The adapted reference model is as follows:

Building blocks of a comprehensive support environment for social enterprise development The user experience Outreach & accessibility • Physical accessibility (location, travel cost, timing caring responsibilities) • Cultural appropriateness (language, sub-contracting to specialist agencies, partnership with community groups) • Welfare bridge (transitional benefit, capitalisation of benefit, specific legal structures (couveuses, business & employment co-operatives) A coherent pathway • Recruitment (open door / selective)  Business planning Start-up  Consolidation & growth A menu of appropriate services for each phase • Lifestyle-appropriate counselling • Modular training & qualification • Coaching & mentoring • Microfinance • Access to larger markets • Premises & incubation • Business co-operation System functions Governance • Stakeholder partnership Maintaining quality • Sourcing from the best providers (one-stop shop, prime contractor, consortium, voucher, braided) • A quality management structure for agencies • Quality standards for advisers (values & purpose of SE, organisation & legal structures, finance & support, project work) • A ‘passport’ as a portable record of achievement for social entrepreneurs Co ordination • Coherence: signposting, branding • Adequate financing (Structural Funds, vouchers) • Research • Monitoring & evaluation

Clustering of themes

In order to examine a reasonably complete sample of issues, and therefore to be able to arrive at the desired deep shared understanding of what a comprehensive support environment would look like within the time available, these building blocks have been grouped together into five clusters as follows:

Clusters & their possible components

  1. Outreach and accessibility: outreach to and accessibility by the most disadvantaged target groups, managing diversity, partnerships with community groups
  2. Start-up support: counselling, mentoring, training etc., social innovation incubators (e.g. activity co-operatives etc.), portable record of achievement (‘social entrepreneur’s passport’)
  3. Finance: Microfinance, mutual & ethical funds, community share issues (crowdsourcing), improving access to Structural Funds instruments: JEREMIE, global grant etc.
  4. Consolidation & growth: social franchising (code of practice, funding the development phase, trade sectoral approaches), reaching larger markets/public procurement, social value measurement
  5. Governance & co-ordination: partnership with stakeholders, local development & co-planning tools, policy co-ordination, overcoming silo working, action planning, branding & promotion of the support system to potential users, sourcing the best services: organising the procurement of business support services (prime contractors, consortia, vouchers), quality assurance: accreditation of advisers & agencies, monitoring & evaluation


The stakeholder analysis for the project is as follows:

Level Stakeholder Interested in achieving EU officials designing & managing ESF & ERDF (EMPL, REGIO) more effective OPs that create jobs & inclusion officials promoting social business (MARKT, EMPL, ENTR) well-financed, well-regulated and visible social enterprises GECES members EP, EESC officials promoting social innovation (RTD, ENTR, EMPL) a more innovative climate in social & employment policy social economy federal bodies better recognition of the role of the social economy national & regional officials designing & managing ESF & ERDF more effective OPs that create jobs & inclusion officials responsible for social enterprise policy transnational guidance on creating a comprehensive support environment for SEs officials responsible for the economy, employment and inclusion more social enterprise creating growth, jobs & inclusion social economy federal bodies a structured framework for dialogue on policy for the social economy social investors a higher number of ethically appropriate investment opportunities business advisers & business support organisations a larger market of successful social enterprises know-how in providing appropriate high-quality support services social entrepreneurs and social enterprises a more supportive framework (regulation, finance, partnership, procurement etc.) social NGOs creation and growth of social enterprises, which in turn create jobs & inclusion people at risk of unemployment and/or exclusion

Synergy with other networks

The activity of SEN is synergetic with a number of stakeholder networks at European level, among them, and their representatives have attended the BFSE events:

The original BFSE network was synergetic with several of its contemporaneous ESF learning networks. It sprang out of the same pillar of EQUAL – entrepreneurship – as COPIE, the Community of Practice in Inclusive Entrepreneurship, and their work areas overlap in a number of areas, particularly COPIE’s diagnostic tool and its work on high quality business support, enterprise education and finance, and BFSE’s work on public procurement and social franchising. BFSE was also synergetic with several of the other ESF learning networks as regards creating opportunities for the work integration of disadvantaged groups, e.g. IMPART (migrants and ethnic minorities) and ENYE (young people). The successful use of work integration social co-operatives to integrate ex-offenders has been a significant theme within the work of ExOCoP.


SEN logframe.jpg


In applying this methodology, the network members will have the assistance of support drawn from academic institutions well acquainted with the European social economy.


The identification of good practice will be done according to the following steps:

  • Definition of clusters of issues: This work has already been started and an approximation has been arrived at in the project design phase. The starting point was the MES reference framework (see s. 7 Content above)
  • Search for contrasting examples: This will be done primarily by the social economy representatives of the participating territories, using as appropriate pre-existing familiarity, interviews and focus groups.
  • Selection of sample of three cases: this will be done by the steering group on the basis of a proposal by the network facilitator. Criteria for the choice will be:
    • scale of application
    • effectiveness
    • variety of contrasting approaches
    • balance across different environmental conditions


The good practice examples identified will be jointly examined through a process of peer review. Though the term peer review is applied to a wide variety of practices, this implementation is strongly inspired by the European Commission’s Mutual Learning Programme which has been conducting peer reviews in active labour market and social inclusion policy for more than a decade. It also draws on the methodologies developed during the first round of the ESF Learning Networks, as set out in Common Methodology no. 4, ‘Peer Reviews’.

Who the peer reviewers are

It is important that the peer reviewers comprise both institutional and social economy partners, working as a team. This is so that reactions to the approaches under consideration, and possible transfers to the home territory, take into account the policy and administrative framework as well as the practical situation on the ground. This should help to avoid unrealistic appraisals or the launch of 'white elephants' which are impractical to implement.

The peer review cycle

Each cluster of issues would be the subject of a chain of events focused on a peer review seminar. Each peer review would conduct a comparative analysis of a number of good practice examples. The cases would be chosen to represent a balanced range of approaches to the issue in question, given differing framework conditions. It might be the case that one of the cases would be from the host country, but equally that might not be so. If the opportunity to make a site visit to a relevant case presents itself, this should be built in.

Each cycle of peer review is scheduled to take 3-4 months, comprising the following steps:

Weeks Action -12 initial scoping paper to clarify the issues in the cluster, and define what can be learnt and who needs to learn it -10 collection of contrasting good practices from among partners (and possibly elsewhere), and choice of which to study (partners to supply short analytical profiles) -7 writing of case studies (<10 pages) of 3 examples, showing different approaches and where possible from different countries -4 writing and circulation of comparative background paper (+/-15 pages) setting the initiatives in their policy and practice context, and discussing the strengths and weaknesses of the contrasting approaches to the problem -2 peer comment papers (2-3 pages) relating the issue to conditions in each participating country/region (circulated before the event to allow digestion) 0 peer review meeting (1.5 days) including site visit to a relevant local example of good practice, if one exists +2 writing of summary report, including policy implications (+/- 20 pages) +4 peer feedback +6 Publication

Peer review seminars

The basic schedule for each peer review meeting will be as follows:

Day 1
11:00 Welcome, presentation of programme, recap of roles
11:15 Presentation of comparative background paper + discussion
13:00 Lunch
14:00 Site visit (if any)
16:00 Tea
16:30 Tour de table of peer countries/regions (c. 10) who present their comment papers + discussion on the relevance, feasibility & sustainability of the approaches presented.
19:00 End
Day 2
09:00 Split into groups of < 10 to discuss (1) effectiveness; and (2) transferability
10:30 Coffee
11:00 Feedback from small groups
12:00 Conclusions – key lessons learned
13:00 Lunch
14:00 Depart

The peer review seminars will be facilitated using visualisation techniques.

They will be attended by all partners who wish to attend, and by both managing authority and social economy representatives, making up a complementary team from each peer country or region.

Peer review documentation

Peer review documents – which will be prepared in (or translated into) English – will include the following:

  • initial scoping document defining the issues to be covered during the seminar
  • case studies (normally three) of contrasting approaches to the issue. These would include:
    • a summary of the approach
    • the history of how it developed
    • the policy framework, including funding
    • results
    • criticisms
    • comparisons with alternatives (in same territory or elsewhere)
    • assessment
  • comparative background paper: this would typically be around 20 pages long. It would:
    • set out the common issue being investigated
    • present the three contrasting approaches – paying due attention to the context (economic, social, cultural, institutional, etc.) that has produced them
    • analyse the strengths and weaknesses of the approaches
    • compare and contrast them
  • comment papers from each partner territory attending (normally all MSs/regions): they should address an overall impression (assessment of the effectiveness of the approach), salient compliments and doubts, issues that the approach provokes in the home context, similar approaches that have been taken or might be taken “at home”, and an assessment of effectiveness and transferability

The comment papers should be prepared as a team by both the Managing Authority and social economy participants. This will ensure that a rounded appraisal is given, one that includes both the effects of the approach in question on the ground, and its linkages with the rest of the policy environment, and the Structural Funds in particular.

  • summary report: this will cover:
    • the various characteristics of the approaches examined
    • the points raised in the comment papers, discussion and workshops
    • In what senses is it (or is it not) a good practice?
    • policy implications at various levels
    • guidelines for Structural Fund involvement.


This stage of the process consists of the following steps:

  • analysis of policy demand in partner countries/regions: evidence for this will be taken from background knowledge, from the results of the peer review seminars, and where appropriate from interviews or focus groups held with policy-makers
  • definition of key messages and most receptive audiences
  • matching with supply of good practice solutions: most of these solutions will arise out of the peer review seminars, but where appropriate these can be augmented with examples drawn from elsewhere
  • compilation of set of well-targeted evidence-based messages: these messages will take the ‘policy brief’ format, being composed of:
    • an outline of the issue being addressed
    • an analysis of the policy framework
    • a summary of the evidence for the good practice solutions proposed
    • recommendations for action
    • references to useful resources

The work will be carried out principally by experts from the social economy partner organisations, or other experts nominated by the Managing Authorities.


During the life of the network the results will be published as work proceeds, in that case studies and peer review documentation will be published on the network’s website. This constitutes a method of progress reporting, as well as making the results accessible to other Member States and regions. Press comment will also be invited. It is also proposed to solicit feedback from GECES, the European Expert Group on Social Enterprises, which is discussing the issue of Structural Fund support for social enterprises. At the end of the series of peer reviews, the process will produce two products:

  • a practical tool (horizontal mainstreaming): the summary reports will together compose a reference matrix, in which the various building blocks of a comprehensive support environment for social enterprise development will have been investigated and illustrated with a comparative analysis of a number of good practice examples from a wide range of countries.
  • a policy paper (vertical mainstreaming): the sets of policy implications can be elaborated and discussed at the final event.

The wide base of experiences on which the comparative analysis is based, together with the participation of experts and academics, ought to ensure that the results make a genuine contribution to the understanding of the best support environment for social enterprises in Europe, which can be implemented with the help of the Structural Funds. It is proposed to present the results to a closing conference in Brussels, and to publish them not only on paper but on the web in the form of a ‘clickable matrix’.


The network inherits the existing BFSE site at This will be thoroughly revised to present the network in a richer, more visually stimulating way. The present three-column layout is easily readable and allows clear navigation. It is proposed to improve the following aspects:

  • greater use of graphics – photographs and diagrams
  • more journalistic news-based approach to the content. News stories will be posted on the home page periodically, normally illustrated by a photograph. These might for instance present the key finding of a peer review seminar, or the launch of significant policy initiative. Each story is eventually archived as it is replaced by a current story
  • announcements of network events
  • the continuation of the present archiving of articles under thematic headings, but with expansion of the thematic categorisation
  • a section on the network partners, including profiles of each one with links to their web pages
  • possibility to subscribe to e-mail news stream (building of mailing list)
  • possibility for user feedback
  • journalistic stories showing how the products of the network can be used
  • (towards the end of the project) presentation of the findings of this network, i.e. the recommendations and the clickable matrix of good practice.

Clickable matrix

This would be a rectangular array of buttons, with Member States on one axis and areas of the comprehensive support environment on the other axis. Clicking on a given button would give access to descriptions of cases on that topic in that country.


As a shared information resource in support of the network’s work, relevant articles will be published on the Wikipreneurship wiki. This channel will also be used to publish part-results and monographs resulting from network activities.


The various documents will be published as PDF files which any interested person can download and print. The network will print and distribute hard copy publications presenting the recommendations as well as the good practice lessons and examples.


This event will take place in Brussels which is relatively easy to reach from a large number of Member States and in particular by members of the European institutions. It will target policy-makers in the Structural Funds and in social enterprise policy, at European, national and regional level across the EU, along with other important actors such as the OECD LEED programme. It will be a one-day event, as few decision-makers will be willing to give up any longer time period. Based on the experience of BFSE, it is estimated that 75 people will attend.


The first three months will be devoted to establishing the methodology for the peer review series, conducting a survey of partners to ascertain the good practice that exists, what can be learnt from it and how that learning can best be applied. We believe that the Managing Authority and social economy organisations from each country or region should work together as a team to identify and prioritise relevant cases. To guide this process we would bring in a respected academic with a good knowledge of issues in the European social economy, such as a member of the EMES network. We would also propose to transform the website at this stage into something more graphically sophisticated, including profiles of the partner organisations and participating individuals, to create a ‘community’ feel.

The five peer review cycles will commence in month 4, and run till month 21 (they can overlap if necessary). The final three months of the project lifetime will be given over to the summarising the results, and disseminating them via publication on paper and on the web and at a closing conference in Brussels. This will also be the time for completing the external evaluation.

Mth Event / Theme
1 MAs meeting (Warsaw)
1-3 Prepare & sign partnership agreements
1-3 Develop and agree peer review methodology
1-3 Partner questionnaire, analysis & proposal for topics & cases to review
3 Warm-up/kick-off event: elevator pitches, Metaplan on needs & capacities + peer review training (Warsaw)
3 Launch website
4-7 Peer review cycle 1 Governance, co-ordination, co-planning, local development (Trento)
8-12 Peer review cycle 3 Consolidation & growth, social franchising (Sweden)
12-14 Peer review cycle 2 Start-up support (Athens)
15-18 Peer review cycle 4 Finance (Warsaw)
19-21 Peer review cycle 5 Outreach, accessibility, diversity (Cyprus)
22 Write summary paper
22-23 External evaluation
23 Publication of clickable matrix
Closing conference (Brussels)
24 Final report