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European Commission-established expert group, the GECES, to make proposals for supporting social enterprise – January 2016

Jonathan Bland shares his thoughts on the legal and regulatory GECES Expert Group, which is contributing to new proposals for promoting social enterprise

By ESELA Posted 22/02/2015

In 2011 the European Commission decided to give social entrepreneurship a boost by introducing the Social Business Initiative. It brought in a number of actions to support the growth of social enterprise linked to increasing the visibility and understanding of social enterprise business models, improving the regulatory environment and encouraging social investment.

An expert group called GECES was established in 2012 to support this work, and involves representatives from all the EU member states and about 40 independent experts. Earlier this year the group was refreshed and tasked with reviewing progress and making recommendations about what else needs to be done to create a truly supportive ecosystem for social enterprise. The group will submit its report in Autumn 2016.

The Commission is keen to draw on the strengths and expertise of the GECES members and the networks to which they are connected and has established a methodology involving four working groups to produce the report. These cover the themes of: visibility, investment, legal and regulatory issues and supporting the growth of social enterprises in countries bordering the EU. As a whole GECES members are also exploring what greater role social enterprise might play in the migrant crisis.

I elected to be in the legal and regulatory working group. We are looking at the themes of what needs to be done to get the right legal frameworks to support social enterprise in different countries, the implementation of the new procurement directive and state aid rules. These are things very close to hearts of the members of the new European Social Enterprise Law Association (ESELA).

I think we need to make some very practical recommendations that can help people grow social enterprise solutions where they are needed most and in the shortest possible time.  In my view this is about sharing learning and best practice about what works best in different places rather attempting to create any new Europe-wide legal instruments or directives.

I believe that ESELA members could play an important role in supporting our work on GECES.  As one of the GECES experts who is not a lawyer I think that being able to draw on practical experience from legal experts in different European Countries could really help our work. I have already circulated the newly published ESELA report to the GECES group.  I hope that I can count on support from ESELA members and that the Commission and other GECES experts will engage with you in helping to produce concrete proposals that help to move social enterprise forward across Europe on a much greater scale.

You can find out more about the work of the GECES group here: http://ec.europa.eu/growth/sectors/social-economy/enterprises/expert-groups/index_en.htm.

Jonathan Bland
Managing Director, Social Business International
Member of GECES

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