For over a year, Kennisland has been teaming up with Social Enterprise NL to consult experts and social entrepreneurs in order to prepare a draft agenda for a strong social enterprise sector in The Netherlands. The resultant agenda was presented to the Members of Parliament on 23 January 2014.
Although The Netherlands has a strong tradition of entrepreneurship for the social good, social enterprise has not become a major issue among policy makers yet. Therefore, last year Kennisland and the Dutch platform for social enterprises, Social Enterprise NL, carried out a quick scan of policy measures for strengthening social enterprises in other European countries. Our findings were published in a report for the Ministry of Economic Affairs (Dutch only). To sum up we found that:
- Internationally, social enterprises are an innovative and fast growing sector;
- The economic and social potential of social enterprises is widely recognised by both the EU and an increasing number of EU Member States;
- Social enterprise and social economy are increasingly part of economic policy rather than social policy;
- Recognition of the potential of social enterprises is a crucial element in policies to support social enterprises and it is relatively easy to implement;
- Dutch social enterprises prioritise the same basic needs as their international colleagues: access to capital and access to markets.
Even though there is a great variety of ‘social enterprise and social economy traditions’ we found there are basically five key issues that policy makers target in relation to social enterprises:
- Recognition: labelling of social enterprise as a particular type of entrepreneurship and/or enterprise, and the promotion of social enterprise and its social and economic impact.
- Business skills: creating favourable conditions for entrepreneurs to build up skills and acquire knowledge and contacts necessary to run a social enterprise.
- Balancing social and commercial interests: safeguarding (for instance through special legal forms) the primary objective of social enterprises to achieve social impact by operating and competing as companies in the free market.
- Access to capital: stimulating the availability of, and access to capital including all kinds of measures to stimulate impact investing.
- Access to markets: creating a level playing field, especially by improving public procurement procedures to make them more accessible for social enterprises.
Based on our findings Social Enterprise NL has adopted the first Dutch agenda for stimulating social enterprises in The Netherlands. A visual summary of the agenda can be found here. In the coming months this agenda will be discussed with social enterprises, politicians and policy makers. Feel free to join in and send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org!