Learning and Training for Social Entrepreneurship


Within the framework of SETTLE project, from December 2015 to April 2016 in collaboration with project partners we have elaborated a report addressing training needs and policy recommendations for social entrepreneurship «Learning and Training for Social Entrepreneurship. European Approach». As follows, we are sharing main conclusions and insights extracted.

Social enterprises and thus, social entrepreneurship are part of the growing ‘social economy’.  The social economy is a thriving and growing collection of organisations that fall in between the traditional private sector on the one hand, and the public sector on the other.  Sometimes referred to as the ‘third sector’, it includes voluntary and community organisations, foundations and associations of many types. Social enterprises stand out from the rest of the social economy as organisations that use trading activities to achieve their goals and financial self-sufficiency.  They are businesses that combine the entrepreneurial skills of the private sector with a strong social mission that is characteristic of the social economy as a whole.

Defining the status-quo of social enterprises in each of the countries in question is not an easy task, as national conventions and definitions are lacking. Even more so, this hinders international comparison in this field. The data sources often lack representative data, e.g. with regard to the structure of social enterprises. Having said this, there are initiatives in all countries to close this gap in order to make more in-depth research in the future. These ambitions alone show that the field of social entrepreneurship has gained significant importance in all of the countries in question.

While in all countries social entrepreneurship has been growing – especially the “new” approach to social challenges with an increasing number of small social enterprises, Belgium and Germany seem to have the longer tradition in established social enterprises. In contrast to that, Sweden and Denmark, both of the Scandinavian countries have seen mainly a recent boom. These differences in the starting point might stem from the different capitalism form, with the Scandinavian model in which social services is very closely linked to the state, even more so than in the continental countries.

The institutionalization and legal regulation of the social enterprises in the analysed countries highly depend on the tradition and status of social entrepreneurship, as well as on the existing institutional and socio-economic structures of the countries. In Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia social entrepreneurship is comparatively new and emerging phenomenon and it’s legal approval and institutionalization takes place in rather flexible and transient socio-economic and institutional structure of the post-communist countries.

As results of these different approaches, the ecosystems that support social entrepreneurship differs ones from others ones. So, we can identify “mature” ecosystems with a large tradition on support and promote social economy and social entrepreneurship and new ones that area starting. The differences are relevant regarding to two main concepts:

– Different actors participating in the social entrepreneurship ecosystems; and

– Collaboration frameworks and agreements.

In that way, countries as United Kingdom, Germany or Finland have developed strong and collaborative ecosystems involving different actors and contributing to create effective framework to provide with support to social entrepreneurs and enterprises to growth and be competitive in the environments. Other countries are learning form these experience and working in the creation of effective ecosystem to support social entrepreneurship.

Training is a key “actor” in social innovation ecosystem. Countries with broad experience in social entrepreneurship include training as a key pillar of these supporting frameworks and are active actors in the promotion of social entrepreneurship. However, training on social entrepreneurship is not present in the training offer of these actors, and it’s part of other formal training traditional activities provided.

We can find different experiences on training for social entrepreneurship. Some of them are part of a wider programme to promote entrepreneurial mindset. Others are included as a sole module in formal training for business management. A small number of them are focused on social entrepreneurship, but training is intended to explain more concepts about social entrepreneurship and social economy than to develop specific skills and competences that answer the needs of the social entrepreneurs.

From our analysis, we have detected that most of the social entrepreneurs are looking for a more practical training focused on skills and competences to manage a social enterprise. And most of them require specific training on managerial or strategic skills as marketing, finance or legal issues, more than on concepts related to social entrepreneurship and social economy. They know their working area, the “social” environment and goals. But, sometimes they need to develop (together to this social approach) other competences that would support them in the day-to-day.

– How can I finance my projects, products and services?

– How can I attract clients and open new markets?

– How can I define and design a strategy to improve my entrepreneurial environment?

Together with the above, it’s important to talk about the methodologies to train our target group. Because, existing methodologies represent another gap to train social entrepreneurs, or to be more precise, for learning to become a social entrepreneur. They prefer the non-formal or informal training to learn (collaborative learning, game based learning, peer to peer, learning by doing, etc.), more than traditional and unidirectional training methodologies.

According to social entrepreneurs experience they prefer to train using the opportunities of the ICT based learning that provide them with more personalised training and with the opportunity to collaborate with other social entrepreneurs and help to develop specific skills for better management. Methodologies based on mentoring and coaching are very effective in this area, always form collaborative approach of learning.

Case practices included in this report have been selected according to the new trends on social entrepreneurship. Even if all practices present specific characteristics, with regards to training methodology and topics, there are some relevant common elements that reinforce the previous commented issues: the effectiveness of mentoring and coaching methodologies and the existence of a strong collaboration and networking. Thus, in last years we are moving from formal programmes that support entrepreneurial process from a vertical approach to other horizontal initiatives. That is, from those training/learning programmes, a set of modules starting form a first concept on social entrepreneurship, advancing to other specific topics on management of an entrepreneurial model; to programmes designed to support social entrepreneurs focused on more specific subjects as business social plans and ethical sense.

More information about the project and full report can be dowloaded at: http://settle-project.eu

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on whatsapp