Exploring enabling ecosystems for Social Entrepreneurship across Europe

EFESEIIS represents the project title: ‘Enabling the Flourishing and Evolution of Social Entrepreneurship for Innovative and Inclusive Societies’.


Staff and students from GSBS and the Yunus Centre at the EFESEIIS Social Enterprise Seminar

Almost a year ago we had the chance to speak to researchers within the Yunus Centre for Social Business and Health involved in the EFESEIIS project and find out about the goals and rationale behind this pan-European research on social entrepreneurship. With the project now drawing to a close, we had the opportunity to hear their initial thoughts and findings at a roundtable event organised by EFESEIIS partners across Europe as well as our own staff here at the Yunus Centre.

Our international guests included Prof. Paolo Graziano from the University of Padua and European Social Observatory and Dr Barbara Lucus from University of Geneva and as well as our European research partners Ms Ariola Agolli, Dr Meanu Bajwa-Patel, Dr Thomas Persson and Mr Enrico Testi. After a welcome from Prof. Cam Donaldson, Yunus Chair at GCU, the panel were given a challenge to kick-start the day’s discussions. They were asked to:

Describe, in 5 mins or less, what would constitute a favourable ecosystem for social entrepreneurship/enterprise in your country.

This challenge was taken up by our panellists…


Our panellists (left to right): Dr Micaela Mazzei, Dr Meanu Bajwa-Patel, Dr Michael Roy, Mr Enrico Testi, Dr Thomas Persson and Ms Ariola Agolli.

  • Ariola Agolli (‘Challenges’ PI for Albania, “Partners Albania”, Tirana)
    • Social enterprise is a new thing in the western Baltic region (inc. Albania, Macedonia & Kosovo).
    • Within Albania social enterprise is a topic that has only received attention in the past 5 years.
    • Current conceptualisations around this issue have focused on work integration social enterprises (WISE’s) and a draft law is being considered by the government that would restrict the legal framework of a social enterprise to those purely involved in work integration activities.
    • There is a need for financial support underpinning the growth of this sector.
    • Networking support needed to share learning from other leading examples across Europe.
    • Better links from research in universities to the development of national policies.
    • Awareness of social enterprise and social entrepreneurship needs to be better promoted.


  • Enrico Testi (EFESEIIS project manager, University of Florence)
    • Speaking about an enabling system within the context of Italy.
    • Not an easy question to answer. How do we measure success? Is it about birth rate of social enterprises, survival rate of these or how many are able to scale up in a sustainable way?
    • There are also questions surrounding the notion of ‘enabling for whom?‘ Social enterprises and social entrepreneurs are not a homogenous group; it is feasible to suggest that what is enabling for one may not be for another.
    • There needs to be incentives for social enterprise and social entrepreneurship development.
    • And, fundamentally, there must be a place in the market for the products or services that social enterprises can offer.


  • Dr Thomas Persson (PI EFESEIIS Sweden, University of Southern Denmark)
    • Within Sweden the role of WISE’s over the past few years has been a key aspect of this narrative – especially in relation to asylum seekers.
    • Risk of using social enterprise to put focus on issues such as unemployment rather than on the organisational structure and development of this sector itself i.e. a focus on the outcome (employment) rather than on the process and the individual people involved in this.
    • Four things essential for enabling the development of this sector: knowledge, organisation & democracy (flexibility), finance and competence.


  • Dr Meana Bajwa-Patel (University of Northampton, EFESEIIS team England)
    • Interesting to draw out the differences between the Scottish and English systems.
    • Different type of social enterprise model being pursued in England that more closely follows the SME business model and the notion of enterprising individuals.
    • Highlights that respondents within this research reported a lack of EU influence in England especially with regards to knowledge about available funding.
    • Social media was demonstrated to be less influential in this sector (in the English context) than perhaps expected.
    • Key questions to be asked around the role of training and social entrepreneurship education.


  • Dr Michael Roy (Yunus Centre, GCU, EFESEIIS team Scotland)
    • Development of sector in Scotland can be traced back to the industrial revolution and the culture of commutarianism.
    • Whilst not necessarily different from the North of England, this narrative can be utilised by the Scottish Parliament to give Scotland the freedom to set the discourse surrounding social enterprise as something separate from London’s focus on social impact.
    • Complex architecture of support in Scotland – many umbrella organisation and support networks within the Scottish sector.


What can we do to ensure that the evidence from this project is not lost?

A key theme to emerge from the day’s event was the question of ‘what happens next?’  Concerns were raised about how we can take the data gathered throughout this project into future research to ensure that research is something that can be shared and built upon across Europe. Suggested outcomes from this work include the possibility of a repository of knowledge in which data gathered across the EFESEIIS project could be stored. Further meta-analysis across countries was also suggested as a potential way forward for this project. In the meantime, however, the final findings from this project will be shared at the final EFESEIIS event in Belgium later this year and learning from this research will be shared as widely as possible through the publication of two books on the EFESEIIS programme of work.

We look forward to hearing more about all of these developments and would like to thank the EFESEIIS team and their international guests for inviting us along to their roundtable discussion. For more information visit their website here.

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