The Social Economy

Building Inclusive Economies

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Social economy -- also known as 'non-profit' or 'third sector' -- organisations have grown in number and relevance, contributing to employment, social inclusion, democratic participation and community building. Much remains to be done, however, to create the necessary enabling environment to support their creation and development and to mainstream the sector in economic and social policies. This publication offers new insights into the economic theory of social economy organisations, their role in an evolving political and economic context, and the links to local development and the empowerment of users. Building on theoretical and empirical developments in OECD member countries, the publication also presents the main challenges for the social economy in Central East and South East Europe. Recommendations for action are included.


Social Enterprises, Institutional Capacity and Social Inclusion

Over the course of the last decade social enterprises have come to play a key role in the management and delivery of social and labour market services in Europe. While much research has been devoted to documenting the rise of these institutions, their implications for contemporary debates about social inclusion remain elusive. In the first half of the chapter a framework which connects the unique institutional capacity of social enterprises as hybrid organisations to a growing concern for the welfare and well-being of marginalised service recipients is developed. More specifically, the model links two key dimensions of performance – social production and social mobilisation – to two forms of empowerment critical to the fight against social exclusion: consumer empowerment and civic empowerment. In the second half of the chapter this model is applied to an empirical analysis of Italian social co-operatives in two regions in northern Italy, Lombardia and Emilia Romagna. Based on the empirical findings, the key factors influencing social co-operatives’ ability to empower users is considered and, in light of relatively poor performance overall, potential means of improving their empowerment capacity in the future are suggested.


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