In April 2008 a working party stemming from the development partnerships in the EQUAL programme published the following:
[The social economy] is a complex of autonomous private activities realized by different types of organizations that have the aim to serve their members or local community first of all by doing business. The social economy is oriented on solving issues of unemployment, social coherence and local development. It is created and developed on the base of concept of triple bottom line – economic, social and environmental benefits. Social economy enables citizens to get involved actively in the regional development. Making profit/surplus is desirable, however is not a primary goal. Contingent profit is used in preference for development of activities of organization and for the needs of local community. Internal relations in the social enterprises are headed to the maximum involvement of members/employees in decision-making and self-management while external relations strengthen social capital. Legal form of social economy entities is not decisive – what is crucial is observing public benefit aims as listed in the articles. Subjects of the social economy are social enterprises and organizations supporting their work in the areas of education, consulting and financing.
Sweden's national thematic group adopted the followng definition:
Social economy means organised activities with primarily social purposes that are founded upon democratic values and are organisationally independent from the public sector. These social and economic activities are primarily conducted by associations, co-operatives, foundations and similar bodies. Activities within the social economy have as their driving force to serve the public interest or member interests, without profit motives.
In 1990, the Conseil Wallon de l’Economie Sociale, set up by the regional government, published the following definition, which remains the most authoritative:
"The social economy consists of economic activities carried out by companies, mainly co-operatives, mutuals and associations, which hold to the following principles: object of service to members or to society in general rather than making profit; autonomous managment; broadly democratic decision-making; primacy of persons and work over capital in the division of income."
- Mapping of the social economy in Wallonia (2007): http://www.concertes.be/cartographie_version_21_sep.pdf