The first ESELA Conference, on “The Future of Social Impact: Connecting Law and Practice”, was held on 17 June 2016 at the offices of Bates Wells and Braithwaite in London. It was the first gathering of ESELA’s legal experts, social investment and venture philanthropy practitioners from different countries in Europe.
The programme included sessions on social enterprise policy, B Corps, social impact bonds, hybrid funds and protecting impact. We had a fantastic line up of speakers from across Europe, including Risto Raivio from the European Commission; Alex Meagher from the UK Cabinet; Elinor de Pret from European Venture Philanthropy Association; Bill Clark, drafter of the Benefit Corporation model legislation; and Cliff Prior, the new CEO of Big Society Capital, on the future of social impact. In particular, from Risto Raivio’s presentation, we discovered that sixteen European countries have already adopted laws with regards to social enterprises (Romania, Lithuania, Denmark, Croatia, Greece, Czech Republic, France, Slovenia, Belgium, Portugal, Spain, Finland, Slovakia, United Kingdom, Italy and Hungary), and six others are currently developing legal frameworks in this respect (Latvia, Malta, Poland, Bulgaria, Luxembourg and the Netherlands).
There is a movement towards a more coherent understanding of the concept of social enterprise law in Europe and a convergence in the legal frameworks in the different member states; however, diversity still exists on a European level as to the definition of a social enterprise. Even though a diversity exists among the emergence of legislation on social enterprise across Europe, more and more countries have the same goal: to promote and encourage a healthy eco-system for social enterprises.