Euclid Network and NCVO gathered a range of top speakers on March 15th to discuss the future of social enterprise and social business in the EU, with four roundtables over the course of the day, touching on a range of subjects relating to social enterprises.
Important recent initiatives from the EU coupled with a cross party consensus on the value of social enterprise has given many hope that the next decade could bring social business into the mainstream. This event aimed to bring together politicians and practitioners to discuss the practicalities of how this could be achieved.
Emerging from the conference were some clear themes. As the roundtables progressed, the lack of measurable and quantifiable data in the sector became apparent, and several of the panellists called for a real effort to create a universal framework for measuring social impact.
The need for early stage investment was also a recurring theme, with speakers noting that the background of many social entrepreneurs means that they don’t have access to traditional sources of start-up funding. This led onto the need for mixed funding and for more mainstream methods, such as loans and equity buy-ins, to compliment the current options available.
Overhaul of the public procurement process was identified as important, with comments from the conference floor often noting the difficulty and expense of accessing funds and competing for government tenders. The task of persuading procurement officers to take into account social value rather than simply price when awarding contracts is a crucial prerequisite to making government tenders truly open to social enterprise, and the conference noted that this represents a potentially huge prize with public contracts making up 19% of EU GDP.
Finally, from first hand experience social entrepreneurs recounted stories of the complexity and cost of accessing EU funding, and some of the difficulties that can ensue during the process. They noted however that the process is worth it when the funding comes through, and that the EU had identified the need for simplification in the next programme which promised to be more accessible.
If you attended this event, we would appreciate your feedback
See the full agenda here.
Some videos of the event are below, and are also available on EuclidNetworkTV.