The term ‘Social Economy’ is one that is being used more and more these days when it comes to implementing the just transition. The European Union has shown itself to be a global leader in the space in recent years, with many initiatives created to support the growth of the social economy over the coming decades. Our project, RevitaLESE, is a clear example of this. For people just entering the space, and even those who’ve been around a bit longer, some obvious questions might remain. For example, what is a social enterprise, what is a ‘LESE’ and why do they need the support of a project like this?
At its very root, the concept of a social enterprise, or a social economy organisation more generally, is to put the interests of people above the desire to maximise profits. Usually, this is done by engaging in some sort of traded activity with an express social mission. These social missions can be wide and varied; building wealth in local communities, creating positive environmental impact, or employing those who are distant from the labour market
Social enterprises have shown time and time again that they have an incredibly positive impact in the communities and economies in which they operate. However, they are not without their challenges by any means. Due to the primacy of purpose over profit in these organisations, oftentimes they can stagnate or make inefficient uses of their restricted resources. This can be for many reasons, for example, many social enterprises struggle to scale effectively as they are more averse to risk in comparison to profit-driven organisations. However, if the European Union is to meet its goals in the fight against climate change, the digital transition, and become a more just and inclusive society, the continued growth of social enterprise plays a fundamental role.
That’s where the RevitaLESE project comes in. This project is based on the rejuvenation of these Long-Established Social Enterprises (LESEs) in terms of both their business model and social mission. In short, the overall goal of RevitaLESE is to revitalise the European social economy sector, maximise its impact, and solidify its position and recognition as a key contributor to the development of the European Union.
In this project, ‘long established’ refers to social economy organisations that have been in operation for 5-7 years or more and have moved beyond the start-up phase (in some contexts with underdeveloped social economy sectors, we have broadened our target group to include those in operation for 3 years+).