Practical dimension of the project – supporting and inspiring social enterprises
Innovative models of Social Enterprise (SE) Co-Creation Hubs, are an important prerequisite for the sustainable development of SE at the expert and organisational levels. Social enterprises, by their very nature, play an important role in society, balancing business and social objectives.
The model developed as part of the project addresses challenges faced by the social enterprise communities, such as the training of its own staff and target groups in the field of SE management and operations.
An important stage of the project was to test the practical application of the model in a local context, among organisations that work with disadvantaged groups or work to overcome social problems in different areas of life – culture, sport, employment, etc.
Social enterprises (SEs) are beneficiaries of SE Hubs activities – experience and research show that they can be examples in providing social inclusion for excluded people.
Vision, tests, know-how
The following activities were carried out as part of the project:
- creative phase: the development of the vision for the SE co-creation hub (international desk research on needs and challenges as well as good practices, interviews with social enterprise staff identified as role models in the partner countries and case studies of social enterprise co-creation hub models in the partner countries. The final result was a vision of SE Co-creation Hubs as an innovation model. University of Lodz also organised a three-day expert summit in November 2021
- testing phase: The implementation of the Social Entrepreneurship Hubs Model (80 SE identified employee representatives participated in the test phase in four partner countries, 20 participants from each country selected through an open online call, four two-day training courses on inclusive training approaches and employee recruitment instruments were organised in each partner country. They were involved from four partner countries and shadowing/fellowship programmes were organised
- dissemination phase: in this phase, the dissemination of know-how on the management of the innovative SE Co-creation Hub model at national and European levels and the development of relevant recommendations for developers took place. A two-day event and exhibition of SE centres in the hub space in Athens, Greece, was organised. The conference was attended by nearly a hundred experts from across Europe
Social enterprises – expectations and challenges
Activities of social enterprises take place in an environment in which political, economic, social, technical and technological as well as ecological aspects can be distinguished.
The main challenges that social enterprises face, are as follows:
- creating a system of basic and specific training for SE employees;
- enhancing competences of social entrepreneurs in running a social enterprise and managing human resources
- improving communication between social enterprises and support institutions for both social entrepreneurs and people at risk of exclusion;
- networking between public administration and third sector organisations;
- creating support centres for social economy entities;
- preparing social campaigns to inform about the idea of social enterprises in support of people at risk of exclusion;
- creating a system of financial and non-financial support for social entrepreneurs.
SE capacity building: expertise, staff development, public trust
The SE Hubs methodology made use of the co-creation process that combines capacity building for social enterprises, the need to share expertise and integrate training to improve the skills of social enterprise personnel and the need to gain public recognition and trust in social enterprise activities.
The long research phase, which took nearly ten months, consisted of several phases. In the first phase of the project, we identified the needs and challenges facing social enterprises in the project partner countries, i.e. Poland, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy and internationally. We also diagnosed legal conditions for the operation of social enterprises in the project partner countries and in the EU. In addition, we identified and described the current support system for social enterprises in the project partner countries and the EU, with a focus on the following three areas: the recruitment process, staff retention and internal training, the management of training facilities and expertise, and the distribution of products and services offered by social enterprises.
We then selected and presented the best system and tool practices for operating and supporting social enterprises in the project partner countries: Poland, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, with an emphasis on the three aforementioned areas. The selection and presentation of the best models in these areas in all four participating countries was another element.
In-depth interviews in Poland, Bulgaria, Greece and Italy were an important activity in the research phase. Based on the interviews and material collected in the previous stages, case studies were prepared.
Innovative SE Hubs model
The SE Hubs model (version 1.0) was discussed at an international expert meeting in Poland (November 2021, Lodz). The SE Hubs 2.0 model, on the other hand, after changes proposed by experts, included a catalogue of necessary support for social entrepreneurs. At this stage, there was a transition from the research phase to the analysis phase. An implementation phase was planned in the project to test the developed model and implement any adjustments before finalising it.
The project involved four partners: PRISM Impresa Sociale srl (Italy, coordinator), BCNL (Bulgaria), Athens Lifelong Learning Institute (Greece) and the University of Lodz (Poland).
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