A new strategy and centre of expertise for social enterprises

In spring 2021, the Government adopted a strategy on social enterprises. One of the most important objectives of the strategy is to employ people with partial work capacity and those who are otherwise in a difficult labour market position.

Social business is one of the Government’s policies aimed at creating a labour market based on trust and equality and raising the employment rate. 

To ensure the implementation of the strategy, the Government decided to establish a new Centre of Expertise for Social Enterprises that operates in a network-based manner. It aims to increase the number of social enterprises in Finland and to promote the employment of people with partial work capacity at the same time. 

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment has allocated EUR 3 million in a discretionary government grant to a new Centre of Expertise for Social Enterprises for 2021–2023. The discretionary government grant was awarded to a network-based consortium of six organisations.

The discretionary government grant was awarded to a network-based consortium of six organisations, coordinated by the Finnish Association of Social Enterprises Arvo. The other participants are Diaconia University of Applied Sciences, Rehabilitation Foundation, Pellervo Coop Centre, Silta-Valmennusyhdistys and Vates Foundation.

The consortium’s members complement each other with their skills so that their areas of expertise cover the whole spectrum of Finnish social business activities and entrepreneurship. These areas include social innovations, social impact, business, sustainable development and employment of people with partial work ability.

The network-based centre of expertise makes use of skills from different fields

The centre primarily aims to provide advisory and guidance services and to build network-based expert services to strengthen the operating conditions for social enterprises and to increase the employment of people with partial work ability. In addition, the centre promotes the introduction of impact-based business models, social innovations, research, data collection and education. 

Due to its network-like activities, the centre of expertise is able to use the knowhow and skills of experts from various fields and provide expert assistance to those who need it. In addition to companies and those interested in social entrepreneurship, these include educational and research institutions, ELY Centres, regional business services, and other organisations providing public business and financing services.

The centre’s tasks include:

  • creating national advisory and guidance services specialising in social enterprises and introducing measures to raise awareness of the business model among experts working in business and employment services as well as in entrepreneurship education in educational institutions. 
  • systematising statistics and data collection on social enterprises and promoting research in the area
  • increasing skills in responsible and impact-based business among social enterprises
  • strengthening structures and network cooperation that support the expansion and commercialisation of social innovations
  • developing national models for employing people with partial work ability and others in a difficult labour market situation as part of social entrepreneurship, and strengthening the networks of social enterprises that integrate people into the work
  • finding ways to market social enterprises and assessing the need for new funding models and opportunities for expansion.
  • There are approximately 1,700 social enterprises in Finland with a combined turnover of nearly EUR 5.8 billion. The majority of companies operate in the health and social services, environmental, recycling and employment services sectors. There are more than 50,000 jobs in social enterprises. The centre of expertise will support social enterprises in increasing the capabilities, awareness, resourcing and competence related to the business model.

A social enterprise is engaged in business activity to achieve its chosen social objective and directs the majority of its profits or surplus to advance this primary purpose. The objective is included in the articles of association or rules of the corporation. In addition, a social enterprise emphasises responsibility, openness and transparency in its activities as well as inclusion and democracy in its administrative model.

European Commission’s Action Plan for the Social economy

On 9 December 2021, the European Commission published a Communication on the European social economy action plan. Action is needed in three areas to implement the action plan:
1) improving the operating conditions of the social economy 
2) provision of development opportunities for actors in the social economy
3) increasing awareness of the social economy

The promotion of the social economy is based on the benefits of the social economy from the perspective of both the economy and employment throughout Europe. Social economy organisations are communities that prioritise their societal or environmental objectives, for example. They also invest most of their revenue in promoting this objective. Consequently, the Commission’s objectives also support the activities of the Centre of Expertise for Social Enterprises.

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Inquiries: Tuija Oivo, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, tuija.oivo(at)gov.fi