Regenerative projects - revitalising disused areas

New European Bauhaus acts as a bridge between the world of science and technology and the world of art and culture to re-think the opportunities green and digital challenges could bring to our lives. Exploring various examples of social economy models and their development can foster understanding the New European Bauhaus principles as well as implementing them in a broader perspective.

Two good practices – The Split Youth Centre in Croatia and the Living Factory in Poland, of urban regeneration were analysed using peer review methodology and they showed some notable examples of community involvement, sustainable living and creative integration. 

The Split Youth Centre and the Living Factory are two projects that align with the principles of the New European Bauhaus and could serve as inspiration for future urban regeneration and community development. These are transformative initiatives that have breathed new life into once-neglected spaces, showcasing the seamless integration of community engagement, sustainable living and creative ingenuity.

 

The Split Youth Centre in Split, Croatia

The Split Youth Centre in Split, Croatia aims to transform disused infrastructure into a functional co-creative space for various activities such as work, culture, creativity, sports and recreation. It seeks to improve the quality of life for local youth, artists, hobbyists, cultural and social activists, and the community by providing diverse programmes and events. The project addresses the need to revitalise unused infrastructure and promote artistic, creative and social engagement among the local community, particularly youth. Collaboration is at the heart of Youth Centre, as 28 public, civic and private organisations join forces to revitalise the neglected space. With hundreds of programmes and activities held throughout the year, more than 2,000 hours annually, the project has undeniably enriched the quality of life within the local community.

It resonates with the principles of the New European Bauhaus initiative, incorporating inclusive decision-making through collaborative governance. As a vibrant centre for creativity and community, it offers valuable inspiration for similar regional projects, proving the profound impact of revitalising spaces and nurturing the human spirit, one programme at a time.

Read more about the good practice – Split Youth Centre

The Living Factory Dąbrowa Górnicza, Poland

The Living Factory, situated in Dąbrowa Górnicza, Poland, is embarking on a remarkable journey of revitalising the former industrial area, carving out a vibrant centre that thrives on locally and socially rooted entrepreneurship. Grounded in the community’s needs, the Living Factory addresses the region’s pressing issue of economic transformation. With the mining industry’s decline, the project offers hope by fostering local entrepreneurship and generating job opportunities for those impacted by industry changes. 

The Living Factory functions as a business incubator, bringing together social and economic partners to collaborate and create new businesses. The project advocates the potential of cooperatives to create job opportunities for individuals transitioning out of mining and mining-related industries. Comprehensive training programmes, mentoring and vital capital support are offered to budding entrepreneurs to help them realise their dreams.

The Living Factory project reflects the NEB initiative’s emphasis on economic transformation, sustainable living, and cooperation between different sectors.

Read more about the good practice – Living Factory

Representatives of several social economy organisations from Latvia, Italy, Croatia and Belgium analysed these good practices, using peer review. A peer review is a mutual and voluntary learning process between well-qualified equals based on systematic exchange of experiences and evaluation of policies, actions, programmes or institutional arrangements. The presented comment papers and peer review working groups provided valuable insights into important aspects of:

  • Financial sustainability
    • Ensuring Effective and Efficient Use of Public Funds
    • Harnessing Innovative Strategies for Income Generation
    • Leveraging Alternative Funding Sources
  • Stakeholder engagement and collaborative partnerships
    • Diverse Stakeholder Engagement Models
    • Role of Social Economy
    • Strengthening Collaborative Partnerships
  • Effective management and governance
    • Governance Models for Regeneration Projects
    • Capacity building for urban regeneration
    • Sustainability and Impact Management

Read more about these aspects as well as the summary of good practices – The Split Youth Centre in Croatia and the Living Factory in Poland

The social economy missions were organised in the framework of project ‘SEA4NEB’ that aims at promoting social economy models to contribute to the New European Bauhaus and at how they can foster spatial and sectoral clusters, taking an ecological approach to cultural cooperation and territorial development with local authorities. The whole methodology of the project is based on a strong partnership at local level between the local authority and the SE actor, while Diesis Network will act as transnational facilitator and coordinator. 

 

Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are, however, solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or EISMEA. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.


Activity report of year 2023

2023 was a very intense, fast-paced and full year! Our scale this year went beyond all frameworks – with the number of events, partners and countries, the diversity and depth of topics – from organising the two-day stage at Conversation Festival “LAMPA”, to international visits and trainings, consulting and running conferences and spending many hours in online meetings.
In 2023, we put a lot of effort into ensuring that social enterprises have an increasingly supportive environment, support mechanisms and opportunities to thrive. The Social Entrepreneurship Association of Latvia continues to develop social entrepreneurship for long-term change in Latvia, working in three main areas – public awareness, capacity building of members and advocacy. Here is a look back at the most important milestones of the past year!

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MOST IMPORTANT EVENTS IN 2023

Social entrepreneurship pitch competition “LET THE GOOD IDEAS GROW“

The Social Entrepreneurship Association of Latvia has organised the social entrepreneurship idea competition “LET THE GOOD IDEAS GROW” for the fifth time. This year the competition was held in cooperation with Luminor bank, as well as the Development Finance Institution ALTUM and the charity shop “Otrā Elpā”. We had two winners, each of whom received EUR 4000 prize. Each year, the competition is open to existing and aspiring social entrepreneurs from all over Latvia who need funding to implement a new social entrepreneurship idea or an existing project. The final of “LET THE GOOD IDEAS GROW” was broadcasted live on Delfi.lv.


In 2023, the prizes were awarded to:
🏆 Jury’s vote – “Is it easy to put on trousers?” / Vilber’s adaptive / Ogre region – Zane Berzina
🏆 In the audience voting – “BJMK Rokskola” / BJMK / Jelgava cityZane Rožkalna
🏆 Luminor bank Sympathy Award Winner – Brand “PARTAPIS” / Kristīne Kalēja – textile recycling in design clothing
🏆 ALTUM Sympathy Award Winner – LeatherWorks / Madara Miltoviča – natural leather scrap workshop
🏆 “Otrā Elpa” Sympathy Award Winner – “Remontbufete” / Zane Ruģēna – repair and building materials exchange

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Conference “Be proud. Evaluate. Celebrate!”

In 2023, the social entrepreneurship sector in Latvia officially turned five years old. During this time, a lot has been achieved: the legal framework has been established and strengthened, public awareness of the importance of social entrepreneurship has been raised, public investment has contributed to the development and growth of social enterprises. Today, more than 200 enterprises with social enterprise status are active, but the reality is that there are many more.

📣 On October 12, together with the Ministry of Welfare, we organised a conference dedicated to the five-year anniversary of social entrepreneurship, “Be proud. Evaluate. Celebrate!”.
The Ministry of Welfare, ALTUM and social entrepreneurship support organisations – Social Entrepreneurship Association of Latvia, Reach for Change Latvia and New Door – as well as social entrepreneurs themselves shared their stories about their achievements.

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 “Constellation of Social Entrepreneurs” Stage at the Conversation Festival “LAMPA”

For the first time ever, the Conversation Festival “LAMPA” dedicated its own stage to social entrepreneurship – “The Constellation of Social Entrepreneurs”, which offered a diverse and exciting programme with more than 10 events in various interesting formats throughout the festival! They inspired, informed and provided practical knowledge not only about the daily life of social entrepreneurs, but also focused on 3 main themes – social entrepreneurship, inclusive society and innovation in education.
The two-day stage was organised together with our members, the social enterprise “Constellation Team”, who provided the Constellation Cube – a creative platform/stage where you could try playing musical instruments, sing and do creative tasks in between the events.

We organised 10 events with social entrepreneurs:

  • Ltd “Kano Editions” masterclass “Learning through play and creativity”;
  • Social enterprise “Liberated” and the “Mobility Centre for People with Disabilities” organised a discussion on an inclusive society “Invisible abilities – how to include otherness?”;
  • Discussion by the social enterprise “Barboleta” on “Motivation and innovation in education”;
  • “Mentor Latvia” discussion “YES! Young people start an independent life! How?”;
  • The Social Entrepreneurship Association of Latvia organized charades “Don’t build empty straws!”, which allowed to get to know social enterprises in an interactive way;
  • Social enterprise “Rabarbers” organized “Whining room – support group for parents”;
  • Riga Business School created discussion “When Latvia innovates education, we get to Harvard, Buffalo and MIT!”;
  • Discussion of the social enterprise “Mammamuntetiem.lv” “Who is smarter in family matters – mum or dad?”;
  • A talk by the social enterprise “Ligero” on activating the invisible workforce “Job opportunities for all!”;
  • Interactive discussion “Invisible World: close your eyes and see – education through entertainment in the dark” by the social enterprise “Invisible World”.

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Cycle of Social Entrepreneurship Acitivities
“DEVELOPING SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP TOGETHER!”

The most significant advocacy events in 2023 took place during the Ministry of Welfare’s Social Entrepreneurship Activity Cycle “Developing Social Entrepreneurship Together!” funded by the European Social Fund. Strengthening the social entrepreneurship ecosystem in Latvia took place from the beginning of the year until November. The activities were implemented by organisations representing the sector – the Social Entrepreneurship Association of Latvia, the association “New Door”, “Reach for Change Latvia” and the social enterprise “Visas Iespējas” (All Opportunities). The series of events was aimed at different target audiences – existing and prospective social entrepreneurs, stakeholders in the sector, local authorities, investors and policy makers, young people, business incubators and organisations with the capacity and resources to create an enabling environment for social entrepreneurship.

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VISITS TO ALL MUNICIPALITIES

Between December 2022 and May 2023, the Social Entrepreneurship Association of Latvia met with all 43 Latvian municipalities in individual face-to-face visits to discuss their opportunities to engage in social entrepreneurship development, tools and actions to support the sector, as well as examples of good practice. A total of 317 municipal staff, including chairpersons and executive directors, participated in the face-to-face meetings. Overall, after these visits, SEAL has concluded that organizing meetings and discussions on social entrepreneurship in municipalities is a very important step for the development of the sector. The development of the sector requires the involvement of a wide range of professionals, and by meeting representatives from different sectors, even within the same municipality, discussions and the planning of new interdisciplinary activities were stimulated. It is important to continue working with municipalities, both to follow developments in the field in each region and to maintain up-to-date information exchange due to the turnover of municipal staff.

We have noted that after visits to at least four municipalities, business support competitions have focused specifically on social entrepreneurship, at least four other municipalities have introduced real estate tax exempts for businesses with social enterprise status, at least two municipalities have introduced sales tax exempt, a municipal agency has been tasked with developing social entrepreneurship, and two municipalities have given free use of premises to social enterprises.

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SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP SCHOOL

To provide comprehensive knowledge for starting and running a successful social entrepreneurship, we organised a free e-learning course “Social Entrepreneurship School”. It was attended by people interested in social entrepreneurship, as well as by idea authors and existing social entrepreneurs.

In a series of nine online lectures, experts from different fields provided concise and useful knowledge on topics relevant to social entrepreneurship, such as

  • The basics of social entrepreneurship;
  • Business plan development and reviewing existing plans;
  • Creating and identifying social impact;
  • Financial management;
  • Branding and selling the company;
  • External and visual communication;
  • Digital marketing;
  • Business crisis management;
  • Creativity.

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REGIONAL THINK-TANKS

The social entrepreneurship ecosystem comprises a variety of stakeholders who together create a strong and supportive environment for the development of social enterprises. Strengthening this ecosystem is important as it fosters sustainable and socially impactful entrepreneurship that generates positive impacts for both society and the environment. In order to promote understanding and involvement of all stakeholders in strengthening the social entrepreneurship ecosystem, we bring together in regional Think-tanks opinion leaders, entrepreneurs, representatives of different organisations and municipalities with the will, opportunity and resources to strengthen and develop social entrepreneurship in the region, as well as social entrepreneurs themselves. The aim of the Think-tanks is to understand the role of each stakeholder and to prepare concrete action plans (actions here and now, not visions of the future) to strengthen and develop social entrepreneurship in each region.

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8 MEETINGS WITH INTERESTED ORGANIZATIONS

In the regions, we held meetings with organisations that have the potential to develop social entrepreneurship ideas or are already developing the field, such as academic staff. In this way, we strengthened the knowledge and capacity of existing organisations and informed new audiences about social entrepreneurship, both by inspiring young people and by creating opportunities for entrepreneurs to learn more about social entrepreneurship. A total of 8 events took place in six cities.

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REGIONAL EVENTS ABOUT SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE PUBLIC PROCUREMENT

Together with the Procurement Monitoring Bureau Office and the Centre for Public Policy PROVIDUS, we organised five workshops on “SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE PUBLIC PROCUREMENT – benefits, risks, examples, practices” in February and March 2023, attended by a total of 123 participants, who were also offered individual consultations.

The events explained the nature and benefits of socially responsible public procurement for public authorities, the practical and legal aspects of implementation and enforcement, examples of good practice, risks and practical work.
An explanatory guide to socially responsible public procurement was also produced, providing clear and concise information on the stages of procurement implementation, recommendations to be taken into account when setting requirements in public procurement, conditions and examples for different groups of services and goods, as well as for the implementation of public works, as well as examples of good practice from Latvia.

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NETWORKING EVENTS FOR SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURS

This summer we invited social entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurship idea authors, representatives of municipalities and sector support organisations, as well as other interested parties to networking and experience sharing events – visit social enterprises in the regions! It was an opportunity not only to get to know the work and daily life of social entrepreneurs in a practical way, but also to get to know each other, talk, gain inspiration and new knowledge, share experience, build new partnerships and strengthen the sense of belonging to the social entrepreneurship community! Not only the programme of events was inspiring, but also the venues – BMX track, horse pasture, Valmiera Green School, brunch farm, creative bread lab and other interesting places where we met and were inspired together with 89 participants.

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REGIONAL EVENTS FOR WIDER PUBLIC

Our Social Entrepreneurship Ambassadors attended the events and social entrepreneurs shared their stories. To promote social entrepreneurship in different regions, each event featured a local social entrepreneur as well as a speaker from another region. Visitors had the opportunity to have a frank discussion with the social entrepreneurs, revealing their personal sides and insights into business.

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SYNERGY BETWEEN SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND OTHER AREAS

In order to promote the inclusion of the social economy in other planning documents and activities, proposals for the integration of social entrepreneurship/social economy aspects in other planning documents and activities were made, five proposals were submitted to the Ministry of Welfare.


The topics of proposals are:

  1. Proposal for the implementation of the deinstitutionalisation process in cooperation with social enterprises
  2. Proposal for the integration of social entrepreneurship aspects into the waste management process
  3. Proposal for integrating social entrepreneurship aspects into resocialisation
  4. Proposal for the inclusion of social entrepreneurship in the Diaspora Action Plan
  5. Proposal for the development of a social economy strategy in Latvia

The result has been useful materials that have been used in the work with stakeholders and have facilitated cooperation with organisations and companies working in these fields.

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SEAL MEMBER COMMUNITY

The Social Entrepreneurship Association of Latvia has 143 members, most of whom are social enterprises, but we also have social entrepreneurs and other interested parties – associations, foundations, LTDs without social enterprise status and individuals. During 2023, 14 members joined the community.

Becoming a member of the Social Entrepreneurship Association of Latvia gives everyone the opportunity not only to be part of an organisation that defends the interests of social entrepreneurs. It is an opportunity to find like-minded people, build new collaborations, stay informed about the most important developments in the sector, as well as to initiate new projects or thematic working groups.

This year we would like to highlight:

  • We regularly gather key information on various training, competition and funding opportunities. During 2023, we gathered 67 different offers;
  • We organised 11 networking events – some of them were more focused on work integration implementors, but all of them were open for all members with thematic focuses: work life balance, export development, 2 trainings on Meta (Facebook and Instagram) platforms, as well as visits to social entrepreneurs;
  • Five of the members have been nominated for different competitions: the Top 100 Women in Social Entrepreneurship to Agnese Frīdenberga, the Social Economy Award to Gustavs Upmanis from the social enterprise “Visas Iespējas” and Baiba Blomniece-Jurāne from the social enterprise “Barboleta”, the social enterprise “Mobilizing” with the Difftravel initiative, and the social enterprise “Neredzamā pasaule” in the “Disability Award of the Year” organised by the Ombudsman, 3 of which have also won these nominations!
  • During the year, we sent out 18 mailings inviting people to get involved in various SEAL activities, participate in events and competitions organised by others, and apply for funding or development opportunities;
  • We created 16 new podcast episodes with social entrepreneurs;
  • We provided publicity opportunities for members at the Conversation Festival “LAMPA”, and raised the profile of the sector by creating a 2-day stage programme “Constellation of Social Entrepreneurs”.
  • We made it possible to join our joint health insurance scheme – a much-appreciated annual initiative among our members who would otherwise not be able to get a health insurance policy.
  • Each year we make our members’ offers available at various festivals so that everyone can buy the goods and services produced by our entrepreneurs. For summer and Christmas offers we provide special publicity with paid advertising;
  • We offer our members to participate in various international projects and initiatives – in 2023 we organised 2 trainings on podcast as a tool for social impact communication in Tallinn and Riga, we created an exchange visit to Lūznava Manor on the development of the New European Bauhaus Initiative, and we went on exchange visits together to Sicily and Croatia;
  • In addition, we provide free invitations or discounts to various events such as the Sustainability Conference and others.

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ADVOCACY AT THE NATIONAL LEVEL

The Social Entrepreneurship Association of Latvia works in advocacy both nationally and internationally. Local priorities include creating a supportive environment for the development of social enterprises, establishing and developing meaningful support mechanisms for social entrepreneurship, and adopting regulations binding on social entrepreneurs.
International priorities include participation in projects and activities organised by international social entrepreneurship network organisations.

In 2023, a special focus will be on advocacy and the development of the social entrepreneurship ecosystem. Among the achievements, we highlight:

  • We have developed 5 proposals to integrate social entrepreneurship into other areas;
  • We issued 7 opinions that have a major impact on issues relevant to the social entrepreneurship ecosystem:
  • Amendments to the Law on Public Benefit Organisations;
  • Conceptual report on “Opportunities to stimulate investment and diversify financing in social enterprises to promote their long-term growth”.
  • Rules for the implementation of Measure 4.3.3 “Support to Social Entrepreneurship” Amendments to the Public Procurement Law
  • Rules on the social target groups of pupils of a private educational establishment and the conclusion of an agreement on the participation of the municipality in the financing of the maintenance costs of the establishment Latvia’s position on the Social Economy Action Plan
  • On the establishment of a competence centre for social innovation
  • In 2023, we started working on the EU Fund Monitors project, where we are involved in sub-committees for monitoring EU funds, together with 5 other organisations. The nomination of Regita Zeila, Director of the Latvian Social Entrepreneurship Association, was approved by the Memorandum Council, nominating her to represent the views of non-governmental organisations in the EU Funds Monitoring Sub-Committee “A More Social Europe”.
  • On the initiative of the Deputy Mayor of Riga, Edvards Ratnieks, in November we participated in a meeting between the Riga City Council and social entrepreneurs, the aim of which was to inform social entrepreneurs about current developments in the field of business support in the Riga City Council. Around 20 social entrepreneurs from Riga took part in the discussion and actively expressed their suggestions for closer cooperation with the Riga City Council, including:
    – the possibility of introducing real estate tax incentives for companies with social enterprise status,
    – the availability of premises and a clear process for obtaining information and applying for them,
    – a single point of contact.
  • We represent the interests of our members in other associations of which we are members – the Civic Alliance-Latvia, as well as in the organisation “Latvian Platform for Development Cooperation”;
  • We met with academics who are developing courses and study programmes on social entrepreneurship, which resulted in a new course at the BA School of Business and Finance.
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ASSOCIATION’S EXPERTISE

Active work in advocacy has led to various recognitions, new collaborations and work as an expert in the field of social entrepreneurship and the social economy.

Last year, the Director of the Social Entrepreneurship Association of Latvia was one of the 4 representatives from Latvia to be included in the “Top 100 Women in Social Entrepreneurship”. Agnese Frīdenberga, a senior researcher at the Providus Think-tank and a long-standing member of the SEAL Council, Diana Lapkis, founder of social entrepreneurship accelerator New Door, and Inga Muižniece, founder of social enterprise Sonido and Chairwoman of the SEAL Council, were also included in the top 100 from Latvia.

As experts, we were involved in evaluating competitions, licensing study programmes related to social entrepreneurship, and assessing entrepreneurship activity at national level.

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INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION

This year, the international dimension was also well represented, with various projects providing opportunities for our members to take part in exchanges and developing valuable materials for use in their daily work.

In 2023 we continued the work with 6 projects:

  • We continued our work on the B-WISE project “Blueprint for Sectoral Cooperation on Skills in Work Integration Social Enterprises (B-WISE)” with 28 partners from 13 countries. The project aims to develop the skills of everyone working in a work integration social enterprise and to develop a Europe-wide strategy to tackle skills shortages in the work integration sector.
  • In 2023, we started engaging social economy actors in the “New European Bauhaus” within the SEA4NEB project. The project aims to combine design, sustainability, accessibility, affordability and investment to help deliver the European Green Deal and connect with the everyday lives of European citizens. The involvement of social entrepreneurs is important as they also work on issues such as regeneration of abandoned spaces through an inclusive, green and local community development approach.
  • The LOCAL-Y-MPACT project, which aimed to promote cooperation between local authorities, social entrepreneurs and NGOs, has reached its final stage. HERE you can see the results developed during the project.
  • As part of the Podcasting based social impact learning environment project, we organised 2 international trainings on podcasting as a tool for social impact communication. In addition, we recorded conversations with social entrepreneurs about the impact they are having, in collaboration with existing podcasts and programmes. Listen to them in Latvian HERE.
    To develop the collaboration between traditional and social entrepreneurs, we joined the Buy Social B2B Europe project. The long-term impact of the project is to develop the concept of social procurement, or buying from social enterprises that put people and planet first.
    The biggest added value of member organisations is often the opportunity to meet other like-minded people to build collaborations. We also provide this opportunity internationally through the Baltic Sea Social Impact Network, so that new collaborations can be established between social entrepreneurs in Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and Sweden.

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INFORMING THE PUBLIC

For social entrepreneurship to thrive, awareness of the importance of the topic needs to be updated in society. That’s why we organise public lectures and workshops, get involved in events organised by other organisations, provide advice to those interested in social entrepreneurship and send out news bulletins on the latest developments.

In 2023, we have given 7 media interviews and sent out 10 newsletters with the latest opportunities for everyone. We provided 49 consultations to social entrepreneurs to help them understand the best way forward for their ideas. We participated in events organised by other organisations to talk about social entrepreneurship, such as the closing event of the Democracy Academy at the Mežaparks stage, the Democracy Festival in Kuldīga, the conference of the association “Cerību spārni” on social entrepreneurship as an employment opportunity for people with disabilities, etc.
In addition to the annual activities, we organised 5 regional think tanks to discuss the opportunities to get involved in social entrepreneurship, organised an e-learning course “School of Social Entrepreneurship” where 9 lectures were given on different aspects of social entrepreneurship, and collaborated with podcast producers to record episodes with social entrepreneurs to reach new audiences.

Thanks to everyone involved for a busy and productive 2023, and here’s to a successful cooperation in 2024!


The social impact of public procurement - can the EU do more?

The aim of this study is to present the possibilities offered by Directive 2014/24/EU on public procurement for the achievement of social goals and to analyse how these possibilities have been transposed into national law and implemented by contracting authorities across the EU. Another aim is to identify obstacles to the use of existing provisions and make recommendations with regards to possible future EU action.
This document was provided by the Policy Department for Economic, Scientific and Quality of Life Policies at the request of the Committee on Employment and Social affairs (EMPL Committee).

Seven years after its entry into force, it is legitimate to wonder what kind of social impact this Directive might have produced and to what extent SRPP is used in the EU. Until now, there has been no evaluation of this Directive from the European Commission. This study attempts to fill this gap and provide some answers on the state of play of SRPP in the EU.


The continuation of Baltic Sea Impact Network

The Baltic Sea Impact Network – a transnational peer-learning network among social entrepreneurs from the Baltic Sea region – is entering its next phase. The network is expanding, as the membership increases from 32 to 50 social entrepreneurs, welcoming new members also from Denmark and Ukraine.

Over the course of 20 months, the members will be guided through a programme of monthly online sessions, alternating between peer learning and expert workshops. In October 2024, all network members will be invited to meet in person in Tallinn, Estonia to deepen their connections and find new collaboration opportunities.

The network allows you to meet people with the same goals. In the field of social entrepreneurship, you can sometimes feel a bit lonely but, in the network, you can find like minded people, who have the same issues.

– Anett Kislov, ResQ Club, member of the Baltic Sea Impact Network Pilot

The Baltic Sea Impact Network is implemented in partnership between Reach for Change Sweden, Reach for Change Latvia, Social Enterprise Estonia, Social Entrepreneurship Association Latvia and the Lithuanian Social Business Association, supported by the Swedish Institute as part of the Baltic Sea Neighbourhood Programme. Each participating organization brings years of experience in supporting social entrepreneurs and has proven its ability to mobilize entrepreneurs and stakeholders at a national level in their respective countries.

The Baltic Sea Impact Network has brought together social entrepreneurs from around the region and has been a platform for building connections with the aim of sharing experience and developing new partnerships. We see the expansion of the Network as a way to strengthen the resilience of the Baltic Sea region by supporting a larger number of social entrepreneurs on their way of creating and scaling positive impact in their respective countries and beyond.

Kristīne Vērpēja, Country Manager for the Baltic region at Reach for Change

The aim is to help the network members learn new skills, connect with like-minded peers from neighboring countries and increase the access of social entrepreneurs to relevant stakeholders.

The project was piloted in 2022, and feedback from the members of the Pilot project has been crucial in adjusting the network model and identifying the priorities for the new phase. The long-term ambition is to formalize the concept of the Network, to invite more funding partners on-board to be able to replicate and expand it across additional markets in the Nordic region and wider Europe.

Learn more about the Baltic Sea Impact Network here.


5 useful steps to create cooperations between local governments and community organisations

Successful cooperation and the creation of meaningful synergies between local authorities and community organisations is an effective way to improve the quality of life and well-being of local people, while creating new opportunities in the area.

By exploring good practices in several European countries – Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden, Portugal and Cyprus – and examining examples that should be avoided, various actions and steps for developing an effective approach to cooperation are summarised in the report “Tools for enhancing cooperation between local governments and community-based youth organisations“. Benefits of strong collaborative practices between local government municipalities and non-governmental organisations are manyfold and well-recognised, and should benefit all involved parties, including community organisations, municipalities, and intermediate organisations.

The report starts by describing the results of a needs analysis to help understand the challenges and needs related to building cooperation between community-based organisations working with young people or aiming to improve young people’s lives and local authorities. Next, the steps to develop a shared vision when forming a partnership are identified. 

Five steps to help build meaningful and sustainable cooperations:

  1. Define and articulate a common outcome
  2. Establish mutually reinforcing or joint strategies
  3. Agree on roles and responsibilities 
  4. Establish compatible policies, procedures and other means to operate across organisational boundaries
  5. Develop mechanisms to monitor, evaluate, and report on results.

Furthermore, local authorities can support NGOs and local social enterprises through financial relationships: funding, grants and subsidies or even through service contracts (public procurement), but also by providing government resources, consulting and other creative ways of cooperation. The report examines the following legal forms of cooperation:

  1. Public procurement of services 
  2. The municipality provides space and resources
  3. Project funding 

For each of these steps and types of cooperation explanations, suggestions and useful resources to help to prepare for cooperation, as well as examples of partnerships between different organisations are offered.

At the end of the report, potential issues in forming a partnership are discussed, and how to avoid them so that the experience of working together is a positive one for all parties involved.

Read more about cooperation between local authorities and community-based organisations HERE.


The above mentioned outputs were created in the context of the project “Enhancing youth capacity in municipalities and encouraging mutual cooperation using social entrepreneurship as a tool, LOCAL-Y-MPACT” The objective of the project “LOCAL-Y-MPACT” is to strengthen the cooperation between community based youth organisations and social enterprises and local municipalities, and promoting social entrepreneurship as an effective tool for reducing economic inequality, promoting social inclusion and integration, creating resilient society and fostering active participation within local communities.

Toolbox available in:

Greek
Latvian
Lithuanian
Portuguese
Swedish


Key findings about the work integration social enterprises ecosystem in Europe

In the framework of Work Package 1 “Research – State of the Art”, EURICSE made some key findings about the WISEs ecosystem in Europe, labour policies and skills needs and gaps. 

The labour market: trends and challenges

Work is crucial to both the welfare of every human being and to the stability of societies. However, unlike the standard assumptions of neoclassical theoretical models, the labour market is far from being perfect. On the one side, there are applicants that are highly qualified and trained, who normally have good career prospects; on the opposite side, are positioned workers that are at risk of labour market exclusion, i.e., workers with support needs (WSN), e.g., people with disabilities (PWDs); people with substance use disorders; convicts and former convicts; long-term unemployed; homeless people; asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants; NEETs; women survivors of violence; members of ethnic minorities and people with low qualifications. 

Since their formation, modern welfare states have adopted labour policies to support the work integration of WSNs. These policies can be classified into four main groups: (i) regulatory policies, which consist of the adoption of quota systems that oblige all or some enterprises to hire a minimum percentage of WSNs; (ii) compensation policies, which compensate enterprises for WSNs’ lower productivity; (iii) substitutive policies, aimed at creating a “substitutive labour market”; and (iv) supported employment, which consists of a mix of policies that intervene directly with dedicated tutors to support the selection and training costs of enterprises integrating WSNs. 

Nevertheless, most of these policies have proved unable to ensure a balanced allocation of the available labour force. The existence of large groups of unemployed persons who are at risk of social exclusion has encouraged the search for alternative work-integration pathways. Work Integration Social Enterprises (WISEs) are one of the most innovative and successful examples.

Drawing on a preliminary analysis of WISEs in all the Member States (MSs) of the European Union (EU) and an empirical analysis consisting of both a face-to-face and an online survey carried out in the 13 B-WISE partner countries, the report analyses the main drivers, features and development trends of WISEs in the EU. Furthermore, the report investigates the skills needs and gaps of WISEs’ workers, especially in the digital area. 

Work integration Social Enterprises: drivers, features, and models of integration 

WISEs are an institutional mechanism of supported employment that favours workers discriminated against by conventional enterprises and provides them with appropriate on-the-job training. Thanks to the expertise accumulated in working with WSNs, WISEs design organisational processes that suit employees’ needs and take stock of their skills and capabilities. WISEs are double-output enterprises; indeed, in addition to trading marketable goods and services, they also deliver work integration support services to WSNs otherwise excluded from the labour market. 

In some countries (e.g., France, Greece, and Italy), WISEs have emerged from below, mainly thanks to the self-organisation of supporters, the families of WSNs or WSNs themselves; in other countries (e.g., Bulgaria, Croatia, Lithuania, Slovenia and Spain), WISEs have evolved from traditional sheltered workshops, which have progressively shifted to a more entrepreneurial stance and started to behave more and more like WISEs. 

Since their emergence, WISEs have developed different models of integration. While some WISEs are structured to create stable job positions for WSNs within the organisation itself (permanent integration model), some other WISEs train WSNs on the job to prepare them to work in the mainstream labour market (transitional integration model). A third group of WISEs have developed a mixed integration model. Several factors explain the choice of a particular model of integration, including the types of WSNs integrated, the incentives and constraints of public policies, the connections of WISEs with labour policies and the degree of interaction of WISEs with other potential employers. 

WISEs operate in a wide spectrum of economic sectors. The lion’s share are however labour-intensive industries (e.g., manufacturing, construction, cleaning) where low added-value jobs predominate, requiring low levels of specialization from the workers’ side. 

WISE recognition

The report maps the legal structures of both legally recognised WISEs and WISEs that operate “outside the radar”, as they are neither legally defined as WISEs, nor conceived as WISEs by the organizations themselves. 

WISEs vary to a great extent across EU in terms of legislation: while in some countries (e.g., Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain) WISEs have a specific legal framework that applies to them, in other countries (e.g., Austria, Estonia, Ireland, Netherlands and Sweden) WISEs mainly use traditional legal forms that were neither specifically designed for them, nor for social enterprises whatsoever. There are moreover countries (e.g., Czechia, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Latvia, Luxembourg, Poland, Romania and Slovakia) where the ad hoc legislation for WISEs introduced are rather ineffective and the newly established WISEs continue to use legal forms that have not been designed for them. In some countries, WISEs are registered in special registers (e.g., in Sweden) or are identifiable thanks to specific funding schemes (e.g., in Austria) or private mark (e.g., in the Netherlands). 

Noteworthy is that in countries such as e.g., Italy, changes in legislation have been either essential or key in fostering the development of WISEs on a wide scale. Finally, in countries (e.g., Bulgaria, Croatia, Lithuania, Slovenia and Spain) where sheltered workshops have transformed into fully-fledged enterprises, WISEs use legal forms or statuses that were originally designed for the former. 

WISE resources

Running a WISE entails higher production costs (mainly related to the training and supervision of WSNs integrated) when compared to conventional enterprises. WISEs struggle moreover to access repayable resources owing to their specific not-for-profit nature. For these reasons, WISEs have developed peculiar models of sustainability and rely upon a mix of public and private resources, including non-monetary contributions (e.g., voluntary contributions, donations received from members and assets made available by the community); non-repayable resources (public – e.g., subsidies and grants to cover investments in fixed assets, support for workplace adaptation and training – and private, e.g., indivisible reserves resulting from the constraint on the distribution of profits); repayable resources (from e.g., socially-oriented and ethical banks); fiscal advantages and resources from income generating activities thanks to the selling of goods and services to public agencies, individuals, and conventional enterprises. 

As highlighted by the B-WISE research, there is overall a need for more enabling public schemes and policies. The great majority of EU MSs have indeed inconsistent and fragmented public support systems, which fail to consider adequately the social responsibility taken on by WISEs. In more than a few countries, there is disproportionate access to public support resources – which depends on the target groups addressed by WISEs – with WISEs integrating PWDs having access to a more generous support system. In other countries, only selected typologies of WISEs benefit from a targeted support system, whereas the remaining typologies have no access to support measures whatsoever. 

Country patterns: from traditional labour policies to WISEs

WISEs can be clustered in three groups of countries: (i) Central and Eastern Europe (i.e., Bulgaria, Croatia, Latvia, Poland, Romania and Slovenia), (ii) Southern Europe (i.e., Greece, Italy and Spain) and (iii) Western Europe (i.e., Austria, Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands). 

In Central and Eastern Europe WISEs are the most widely recognized social enterprise typology. In these countries, WISEs legal recognition and public support are relatively unsatisfactory, whereas the EU has played a major role in supporting their development. 

In Southern Europe, WISEs are strongly rooted in the longstanding tradition of cooperatives and they have been legally recognized. Key challenges influencing the development of WISEs include high unemployment rates, the presence of a large informal sector, a high segmentation of the labour market and a poor development of active labour market policies.

In Western Europe, active labour market policies are well developed; they have on the one hand contributed to higher employment rate and, on the other hand, they have led to more flexible labour markets. While WISEs are fully integrated in the welfare system in Austria and Belgium, they are treated like any other enterprise in the Netherlands, where an “equal playing field for all enterprises” exists.  

Technical and soft skills in WISEs 

The aim of the B-WISE face-to-face empirical analysis was to identify skills needs and gaps of three target groups: (i) enablers (e.g., manager, area coordinators, and ICT specialists); (ii) supporters (e.g., job coaches, tutors and mentors) and (iii) WSNs. Drawing on the European Skills, Competences, Qualification and Occupations (ESCO) framework, 403 workers were interviewed so as to examine their skills endowments and gaps. 

Based on the research conducted, to perform their jobs, enablers require a broad spectrum of managerial as well as communication, collaboration and creativity-related skills. Supporters – who deal with a variety of activities, from planning work time and space to assist WSNs – need a mix of both hard and soft skills. In their view, the most relevant skills are those related to the training and support of WSNs. Lastly, according to WSNs, operational skills – such as sorting and packaging goods, cleaning and assembling products – are essential to carry out day-to-day activities with accuracy, precision and autonomy.

While there is no significant gap between skills relevance and skills endowment, there is room for improvement for all the three target groups, especially in those skills that are considered as most relevant. According to both enablers and supporters, skills gaps are mainly due to the lack of economic resources. Based on enablers’ responses, also labour shortages of workers with the needed job profile have however a role in explaining their own skills gaps. Supporters consider by contrast the scarcity of suitable training activities a key explaining factor. Lastly, WSNs identify the lack of time to learn new skills as the most relevant reason explaining their own skill gaps.

Enablers’ and supporters’ skills gaps negatively affect their capacity to assist current or additional WSNs in their work integration paths. The main concern for WSNs is their inability to work while ensuring proper quality and/or speed, which may provoke delays or hamper the quality of the products/services supplied to customers. Training is seen as the most important measure to address skills gaps, but the lack of resources to be allocated to training by most WISEs hinders training attendance. On top of this, respondents highlight the lack of suitable training activities that are fully tailored to address the skills gaps especially of WSNs. 

Technology and digital skills gaps in WISEs

Relying on both the findings of the face-to-face and online survey (completed by 175 enablers), the study shows how technologies and digitisation processes are – especially in large WISEs, in which the level of digitization is higher compared with smaller ones – applied to a large extent in management process (through e.g., the use of cloud computing services and e-invoices) and for the standardization of production processes (through e.g., technologies like Enterprise Resource Planning software packages). Conversely, some advance technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, rapid prototyping and assistive technologies are considered less relevant. 

For what specifically concerns digital skills, there are no significant discrepancies between the relevance of digital skills and their level of endowment for the three target groups. Enablers are the category of WISE workers who most need these skills. On the contrary, WSNs require little digital skills to carry out their work activities and digital skills seem to be more relevant in their private life activities rather than at work. 

As for technical and soft skills, there is room for improvement of digital skills for the three target groups. However, a difficulty in finding training initiatives for bridging these gaps has been detected, especially for WSNs.

Development trends and challenges

In all the countries where they operate, WISEs have demonstrated their ability to tackle key problems of labour exclusion affecting contemporary economies that traditional labour market policies had proved unable to tackle. In spite of their success, WISEs potential is still far from being harnessed. 

WISE visibility has increased significantly over the past decades and new laws recognizing WISEs – especially via legal statuses – have been adopted in a growing number of EU MSs. Noteworthy is also the trend of recognising WISEs via cooperative legislation adjustment, which is diffused in countries distinguished by a longstanding cooperative tradition. 

The scarce development of ex lege WISEs in some countries can be traced back to two main factors:  the insufficient degree of engagement of WISEs in law-making processes and the policy-makers’ incapacity to identify all types of organizations that may be considered WISEs.

All in all, there is a trend towards the broadening of WISEs target groups: in the past, PWDs were the only group conceived as disadvantaged while in more recent times, the concept of disadvantage has been progressively enlarged so as to include a broader set of vulnerable workers. 

Another key trend development detected is that, over the past decade, the domains of engagement of WISEs have progressively broadened towards fields – such as those related to ICT, culture and the management of cultural heritage – with a higher added value.

Analysis confirms however that to fully exploit the added value of WISEs, a more enabling environment is needed. In particular, there is a need for more enabling public schemes and policies. New market access opportunities for WISEs are nevertheless emerging from the 2014 EU Directives on public procurement. 

Innovative strategies are being moreover experimented by some WISEs with a view to improve their integration capacity. Among the most innovative, collaborations between WISEs and conventional enterprises are becoming a widespread strategy in some countries also as part of particular legal and/or policy schemes, such as quota systems. Worth mentioning is also the tendency to build networks that group WISEs together. 

When it comes to skills development, WISEs face specific challenges. The level of skills endowment of the three groups of workers targeted by the empirical analysis seems to be rather good. However, data show that there is substantial room for improvement and failure to fill these skills gaps could jeopardize WISEs’ capacity to assist current and/or new WSNs. Training activities are considered particularly important, but the lack of time and resources – especially in small WISEs – to be allocated to training hinders training attendance. As regards specifically WSNs, targeted training, planned on the basis of their needs and capabilities, is needed.

Considering digital skills, results show that there are no significant discrepancies between their relevance and the level of endowment for the three target groups. Worth noting is that for WSNs specifically, digital skills seem to acquire a higher relevance in private life activities compared with work activities.  

Another important tendency emerged is that the level of digitization is higher in larger WISEs. However, technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, rapid prototyping and assistive technology are considered as less relevant and therefore are rarely used within WISEs. Nevertheless, those are important technologies, mainly for the adaptation of WSNs’ individual workplaces, and their potential should be fully-exploited by WISEs.

 

The B-WISE project, Blueprint for Sectoral Cooperation on Skills in Work Integration Social Enterprises, is an Erasmus + project coordinated by EASPD with the support of ENSIE.


What are the skills needed for work integration social enterprises' workers?

Various skills are needed for WISEs workers (enablers, managers and workers with support needs), here are the highlights of the report.

One of the research activities led in the framework of work package 1 was to map skills needs and gaps in WISEs across the 13 project partner countries. It was led in the form of an empirical analysis to map the skills needed to perform the jobs and fill the skills gaps in WISEs, with a view to profiling the training requirements of three main professional profiles, namely “enablers” (e.g., managers, area coordinators, IT specialists ); “supporters” (e.g., job coaches, tutors, and mentors) and and workers with support needs (WSNs)*. Face-to-face interviews were conducted with 403 persons (89 enablers, 145 supporters, and 169 WSNs) from a sample of around 100 WISEs in 13 countries across the EU. The investigation analyzed the available skills deemed as the most relevant for the above mentioned categories of workers and skills gaps. In addition, the reasons for such skills gaps, their effects on WISEs, and the strategies put in place to cope with them were examined. 

The skills needs and skills gaps analysis highlighted four key findings.

First, the survey showcased that WISEs face specific challenges when compared to conventional companies. The level of skills endowment of all three respondent groups was rather good, with enablers and supporters particularly well aware of the broad set of skills needed to work in WISEs. The data analysis did not highlight any significant difference across countries, but it confirmed there is substantial room for improvement. Failing to fill skills gaps is regarded as particularly risky since it could jeopardize WISEs’ capacity to assist current and/or new WSNs and lead to an increased workload for staff. In other words, skills gaps could hinder the process of work integration. 

Second, the various groups of respondents chose specific skills as particularly relevant. Enablers rated management skills as highly important: from designing strategies for the development of WISEs and making decisions to engaging in direct relations with employees to coordinate their activities and motivate them. Among other skills, negotiating with clients, especially private ones, was perceived as highly relevant. Supporters pointed out the multifaceted nature of work as they deal with a variety of activities, including planning work time and space, assisting and supporting WSNs in carrying out their tasks, and managing and reporting activities to their supervisors and coordinators. A mix of hard and soft skills is required, the balance of which also varies according to the specific role assumed by a supporter within an organization. However, what clearly emerged is that “assisting workers with support needs for their job” is crucial when looking at supporters. Interviews highlighted that counseling and mentoring activities, in some cases, aim to stimulate workers in their own growth at work: they favor a positive atmosphere and even touch on some personal aspects that impact work. Some interviewees felt that they have received all the necessary tools to manage the support and counseling of WSNs. There were cases in which a lack of training related to psychological aspects of the job, as well as the diverse typologies of workers’ disabilities, influenced the effectiveness of supporters’ activities. Finally, “collaborative, communicative and operational skills” were essential for WSNs to carry out day-to-day work activities with accuracy, precision, and autonomy. The importance of specific skills depended on the type of economic activity carried out, which in the sample interviewed ranged from manufacturing to administrative/office activities, catering, and waste management.

Third, when looking at enablers’ skills, the age of the organization makes a difference. Start-up WISEs need to build new skills to recruit the most suitable staff and develop effective working teams, while in more structured WISEs, the development of organizational and decision-making strategies comes to the fore. 

Finally, from a comparative viewpoint, all three respondent groups considered specialized technical knowledge related to media and technology as not relevant; this can be traced back to the key role played by soft skills and other technical knowledge necessary to assist workers in carrying out their job tasks in WISEs. 

Against the background of addressing skills gaps, respondents consider training activities particularly important. Based on their answers, training is primarily financed by WISEs’ own resources: most WISEs provide for training internally or support employees’ participation in external training. 

Looking at the reasons behind skills gaps, enablers and supporters expressed similar opinions by identifying the shortage of economic resources as a very important factor and the lack of motivation as the least relevant reason. To tackle the scarcity of resources, one strategy is to support WISEs’ access to private funding schemes by encouraging their desire for collaboration via mutually supportive mechanisms. 

An additional obstacle to filling skills gaps is the lack of time, which is typically a barrier in relation to training activities in small organizations. WISEs, especially when they are small in size, struggle to detach personnel from their required work activities. In these situations, training carried out within the organizations and combining both theoretical and practical activities can help WISEs overcome this problem. 

Moreover, according to respondents, it is particularly difficult to identify the optimal training activities to improve supporters’ and WSNs’ abilities. Indeed, training activities may be stressful, especially for WSNs, when they are not fully tailored to address their specific skills gaps. Thus, it is important to invest time and energy in adapting training and education to the specific needs of recipients. Hence, individualized and targeted training designed and planned based on workers’ real needs and capabilities is crucial.

Finally, the findings of the survey underline the importance of further research on both the content and modalities of training., which will be done later in the B-WISE project.

Read the full report HERE.

 

The B-WISE project, Blueprint for Sectoral Cooperation on Skills in Work Integration Social Enterprises, is an Erasmus + project coordinated by EASPD with the support of ENSIE.


* E.g., people with physical and/or sensory disabilities; people with intellectual and/or learning disabilities; people with psycho-social disabilities and/or mental illness; people with substance use disorders; convicts and ex-convicts; people on long-term unemployment; homeless people; asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants; NEETs; female survivors of violence and members of ethnic minorities.


Technology and digital skills gaps in work integration social enterprises

This article focuses on technology, digitisation and digital skills of WISEs in the 13 B-WISE participating countries. It summarises the results of 403 face-to-face and 175 online surveys carried out between October and December 2021. For a more comprehensive report (English), please consult chapter 7 of the “Report on trends and challenges for work integration social enterprises (WISEs) in Europe. Current situation of skills gaps, especially in the digital area.

Relevance of technology and digitisation for WISEs

Based on the surveys filled out by enablers (e.g., manager, area coordinators, and ICT specialists) we can state that:

  • The digitisation of management processes (e.g. cloud computing services and e-invoicing) is the most significant domain in which WISEs apply technologies and digitisation processes.
  • The second important domain is the digitisation of standardised production processes (e.g. ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software packages).
  • In addition, the technological adaptation of individual workplaces is considered less relevant today and in the future.
  • Artificial Intelligence (including big data and Internet of Things), rapid prototyping and assistive technologies are rarely used.
  • Large WISEs reach in almost all cases a higher level of digitisation. As a consequence, scale will be an important factor for WISEs if they want to take further steps towards digitisation and towards the implementation of technologies.

Enablers: relevance of digital skills, needs and gaps

In the face-to-face survey targeting enablers, the relevance and the level of endowment of digital skills of the enablers in their WISE (their own digital skills and those of colleagues with a similar role) were questioned. Five competence areas were investigated in this survey: (i) management of digital content and data literacy; (ii) communication and collaboration through digital technologies; (iii) creation and editing of digital content; (iv) addressing safety issues in digital environments; and (v) solving digital problems. The survey shows following results:

  • No significant discrepancies between the relevance of digital skills for enablers (upper table) and the level of endowment (lower table).
  • According to enablers, all competence areas are relevant for enablers.
  • This goes together with the level of endowment.

Supporters: relevance of digital skills, needs and gaps

To get a clear impression of the digital skills of supporters (e.g. job coaches, trainers), the survey for enablers included a judgement on the relevance and the level of endowment of the digital skills of the supporters in their WISE. The survey shows following results:

  • According to enablers, following competence areas are most relevant for supporters:
    • management of digital content and data literacy;
    • communication and collaboration through digital technologies.
  • According to enablers, 9.7% of supporters have no digital skills, 24.7% have a low level, 30.4% a basic level and 22% an above basic level of digital skills.
  • For the two competence areas considered as most relevant for supporters, over 60% of supporters have a level of endowment that is basic or above basic (no significant discrepancies between relevance and level of endowment).

Moreover, the face-to-face survey addressed to supporters included a self-assessment, collecting information on the use of digital skills at work and at home. Supporters were asked if they performed a certain action (at work or at home) during the last three months. The self-assessment covered six categories: information skills, communication skills, problem-solving skills (A “Basic” and B “Advanced”), and software skills for content manipulation (A and B). Based on the survey results, we can state that:

  • Supporters use and need digital skills both at work and at home.
  • Although the use and importance of digital skills at work is high, supporters use more digital skills at home.
  • Only basic and advanced software skills for content manipulation (e.g. word processing software, spreadsheet software or software to edit photos, videos or audio files) are more frequently applied at work.

Workers with support needs: relevance of digital skills, needs and gaps

To map the digital skills of workers with support needs, the survey addressed to supporters included a judgement on the relevance and the level of endowment of the digital skills of the supporters in their WISE. The survey shows following results:

  • Overall, according to supporters, digital skills are not very relevant for workers with support needs at work.
  • According to supporters, following competence areas are most relevant for workers with support needs:
    • management of digital content and data literacy;
    • communication and collaboration through digital technologies.
  • According to supporters, 13.8% of workers with support needs have no digital skills, 28% a low level, 24.6% a basic level and 7.7% an above basic level of digital skills.
  • According to supporters, there are no significant digital skills gaps among workers with support needs: relevance and level of endowment go hand in hand.

The face-to-face survey addressed to workers with support needs included the same self-assessment as the one inserted in the survey targeting supporters, covering the same six categories of digital skills. Workers with support needs were asked if they performed a certain action (at work or at home) during the last three months. Based on the survey results, we can state that, overall, workers with support needs use significantly fewer digital skills at work than at home.

Digital skills training

  • Most WISEs interviewed do not provide training on digital skills themselves. Nevertheless, there are some exceptions: more than 50% of the WISEs interviewed in Austria, France, Spain and the Netherlands organise training on digital skills themselves.
  • The larger the WISEs, the more likely they will provide training on digital skills.
  • Among the three target groups, the main beneficiaries of training initiatives on digital skills are enablers, while the participation of workers with support needs in training activities aimed at improving their proficiency on digital skills is lower.
  • The fact that the level of endowment of digital skills is high for enablers shows that the current training initiatives meet their needs.
  • Overall, a limited share of the WISEs interviewed (16.9%) have established partnerships with other local/regional organisations to promote external training initiatives for WSNs.

Relevance of digital skills, needs, gaps and training: conclusions

  • Considering digital skills, there are no significant discrepancies between the relevance of digital skills and the level of endowment for the three target groups.
  • Enablers need most digital skills at work, consequently there are more training initiatives targeting enablers. These initiatives meet the needs of enablers, given that their level of endowment of digital skills matches the relevance of the skills.
  • Supporters need digital skills to a certain level and their level of endowment is considered basic or above basic for the skills they need most.
  • Finally, it can be noted that workers with support needs require little digital skills at work, this also matches with their level of endowment. Moreover, there are little training initiatives for workers with support needs. The workers do not need digital skills at work, but the self-assessment shows that they do use digital skills at home. This raises the questions if WISEs should pay more attention to the need for digital skills in other contexts, outside of the working environment.

 

The B-WISE project, Blueprint for Sectoral Cooperation on Skills in Work Integration Social Enterprises, is an Erasmus + project coordinated by EASPD with the support of ENSIE.


Social Entrepreneurs for Tourism

The field of social entrepreneurship is on the rise, drawing more supporters and venturing into diverse sectors. To keep the trend up, addressing challenges posed by COVID-19 with innovative solutions had become essential. One such strategy involves social enterprises not only sticking to their core business but also reshaping and adapting their offerings to cater to the tourism industry. This dual-purpose approach aims to not only generate additional income but also ensure the sustainability of these enterprises in the face of evolving circumstances.

The Latvian Social Entrepreneurship Association, in cooperation with the Georgian Social Enterprise Alliance (SEA) and the Regional Sustainable Development Institute (RSDI) of Georgia, had been exploring opportunities to promote the possibility of social entrepreneurs engaging in the tourism industry under the project “Social Entrepreneurs for Tourism” funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia.

Social entrepreneurs face several challenges when stepping into the tourism sector. The lack of information on current tourism trends, along with the need for innovative service development and entrepreneurial skills, makes it difficult for them to integrate successfully. The Covid-19 crisis hit the tourism industry hard, prompting shifts in habits and industry dynamics. Travelers now lean towards exploring local destinations, engaging in traditional events, and supporting small businesses. To ensure a sustainable and engaging tourism experience that positively impacts communities, successful collaboration is crucial. This collaboration should involve various stakeholders, including public and private organizations, local producers, social entrepreneurs, cultural sectors, local authorities, and tourism management organizations. By fostering cooperation among these parties, we can, and indeed did, craft a tourism offer that aligns with evolving preferences and creates a positive social footprint in the visited communities.

The project successfully unfolded from July 1, 2022, to November 15, 2022, with the overarching goal of nurturing the social business ecosystem and fostering a positive social impact in Georgia. During its implementation, small and medium-sized social enterprises were empowered to adapt their services to thrive in the tourism industry. The key achievements include:

  • Identification of social enterprises adept at providing services in the tourism sector.
  • Enhancement of capabilities, knowledge, and skills for social enterprises, NGOs, and civil society organizations, enabling them to deliver high-quality tourism services and collaborate effectively with tourism agencies.
  • Support provided to tourism sector representatives and fellow social entrepreneurs in overcoming the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic through innovative approaches.
  • Creation of opportunities for cooperation, meetings, and networking among social entrepreneurs, promoting the exchange of experiences and knowledge.

Within the framework of the project, social entrepreneurs capable of providing services in the tourism industry were identified. They became acquainted with existing and potential social business initiatives in the field of tourism, including those already offering various activities and those with the potential to be involved in this field. The capacity of social entrepreneurs was strengthened, with efforts directed towards improving their knowledge and skills to develop activities in the tourism sector. Experience exchange and individual mentoring were provided to aid in the development and enhancement of products/services.

During the project, we developed and tested tourist routes in different regions of Georgia, which underwent multiple improvements and refinements. These routes involve the social enterprises that we have been working with along the way and offer an experience that brings a positive impact. To explore more about routes alongside detailed offers from social enterprises check out our article or download the Touristic Catalog of Social Enterprises.

The project extended to the exploration of the relationship between social tourism and social entrepreneurship in Latvia. While the concept of social tourism has been widely discussed since 2014, its actual presence still has significant room for growth. In Latvia, social enterprises have embraced the concept in their business practices, which is not surprising given the close alignment of core values between social tourism and social entrepreneurship. If you’re interested in further details, the article on Social Tourism Development in Latvia provides insights into the recovery efforts amidst the COVID-19 crisis. This article sheds light on how these intertwined concepts have played a role in navigating the challenges posed by the pandemic and fostering resilience in the community.

The entire journey facilitated the sharing of experiences, networking, and learning from successful examples. The project produced tangible resources, including a touristic catalog, and laid the groundwork for participant enterprises to sustain their development in the social tourism sector. As a result, these efforts have collectively contributed to the growth and advancement of social entrepreneurship in Georgia’s tourism industry.


This piece was written in the framework of the project “Social Entrepreneurs for Tourism”, funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia.


Impact Management Toolbox

This toolbox helps you plan, implement and communicate the positive changes that you aim to create with your initiative or organisation in the lives of young people.

What? A combination of nine tools especially developed for planning, measuring and increasing positive impacts of the organisations and reducing any negative effects of their activities.

For whom? For you. If you are active in an organisation that works with and for the young people. For example, youth associations aiming to develop their members or social enterprises providing services to youngsters.

What if I don’t work with young people? The tools will be absolutely suitable for designing and measuring the impact of your activities too! However, all the examples in this toolbox are related to young people as they are the main target group here.

By whom? Top organisations developing social impact measurement, youth field and social entrepreneurship in the Baltic States. For more information, see below.

Who financed? The project “BALTIC: YOUTH: IMPACT” has been co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union.

With the help of this toolbox, you can be even more successful in your activities!

If you are reading this, you are probably active in an organisation that aims to create a positive impact in the lives of young people. 

Perhaps you want to unleash the creative potential of youngsters… or help young people who have had lesser opportunities compared with their peers…. or provide valuable knowledge and skills to the members of a youth organisation. 

The toolbox has been designed to help you plan, do, measure, improve your activities… and repeat! In other words – you will be able to create a more positive impact with your activities. 

You will have more clarity and make better choices

Also, you will be more effective in involving your team and explaining your work outside the organisation

In conclusion, you will be able to leave a legacy that you can be proud of!

Feel free to try out and use just one, several or even all of the tools!

You can take an ambitious journey covering all the tools to get your organisation’s impact management to a new much higher level. In that case, start from the problem tree, then move on to the next tools and complete your development process with the organisational model canvas. 

Alternatively, you can choose a tool that seems to match your current needs the best. For example, if you feel that you need to understand better how to attract young people and keep them involved at different stages of your activities to achieve a bigger impact, you should start with filling in the beneficiary journey map. 

You can find brief descriptions of each of the tools in the toolbox here.

How this toolbox has been created?

The toolbox has been developed based on its creators´ experience of what is needed to increase the positive impact of the organisations that work with young people. 

The Erasmus+ project “BALTIC: YOUTH: IMPACT” enabled the top organisations developing social impact measurement, youth field and social entrepreneurship in the Baltic States to come together and create this toolbox. The lead partner in developing the tools was Stories For Impact while all the other partners contributed with their ideas and experiences, including the testing of the tools.

We have taken into account:

  • the previous materials developed by other experts for the same or similar purposes, 
  • our project partners´ own practical experience of training and consulting the youth organisations. 

The exact structure and design of the tools have been created specifically within the project “BALTIC: YOUTH: IMPACT” as a result of testing the preceding tools and developing them further. Usually, we developed the earlier tools by simplifying these to make it easier for you to try out and use them.

What about the sources of impact planning and measurement tools?

Many of the tools included in this Toolbox have been in use already for a few decades. For example, UNDP´s publication “Handbook on Planning, Monitoring and Evaluating for Development Results” introduced a problem tree – the very first tool in our Toolbox – to global audiences already in 2009. The theory of change tool was invented and promoted even earlier, in the 1990s. So far, among the best compilations of these tools is a handbook “Maximise Your Impact – A Guide for Social Entrepreneurs” (2017). 

As the mentioned tools have become common knowledge among the professionals who practice impact measurement and service design, no specific additional references have been made (with a few exceptions) within the toolbox.  

We have combined different versions of the tools and developed them into formats that we think are super useful. You are welcome to take these tools, develop them further and share the results with others too.

What about the sources of service design tools?

Service design is a process for creating experiences and solutions that work for the customers and other people involved. 

It’s a human-centred approach with an end goal of suiting all users’ needs while keeping in mind the big picture. The authors of “This is Service Design Thinking” have stated five key principles that should be followed for good service design: user-centred, co-creative, sequencing, evidencing and holistic.

Many different tools have been developed to bring the idea of service design into reality. They have been modified and perfected over the years, so it’s hard to point out an author for each tool. Therefore, it is generally agreed that they don’t need to be credited. 

You can find a wide range of service design tools on this link but they can be a bit too generic for your specific purposes. So, we have picked out a “Stakeholder Map” and “Beneficiary Journey Map” and will walk you through them in a way that’s most beneficial for youth organizations. Service design for you can be different from that of for-profit companies that these tools were initially created for.

What about the source of the Organisational Model Canvas tool?

Another commonly used framework that we have modified further is the business model canvas – originally a tool with nine boxes for developing new business models, as well as analyzing existing ones. 

The framework was first introduced by Alexander Osterwalder in 2005, published in a book by him in 2008 and altered by different authors ever since. 

We’ve modified developed it into a tool called “Organisational Model Canvas” so that its brilliantly useful approach could also be successfully used by a youth organization or a social enterprise.

Impact Management Toolbox has been prepared and tested by: