OECD’s work on Social Entrepreneurship

There is a distance from theory to practice and at the OECD we always keep in mind whom we serve; our member-countries, our key partners, and more importantly their citizens.

By ESELA Posted 22/11/2017

Setting the theoretical bedrock

Almost two decades ago, the OECD embarked on a fascinating- yet challenging- journey; to charter for the first time among international organisations the terra incognita of social entreprises. Ever since, its commitment to unlock the potential of this field has remained intact. As in other fields, the first thing that comes to mind is the need for a definition. In this precise case, what is a social enterprise? is a cornerstone question. The OECD already in 1999 identified a social enterprise as “any private activity conducted in the public interest, organised with an entrepreneurial strategy, but whose main purpose is not the maximisation of profit but the attainment of certain economic and social goals, and which has the capacity for bringing innovative solutions to the problems of social exclusion  and unemployment”. Since then, it has been monitoring and recording the rapidly changing boundaries of social enterprises.

Diving deep in country realities

There is a distance from theory to practice and at the OECD we always keep in mind whom we serve; our member-countries, our key partners, and more importantly their citizens. Moreover, we place particular emphasis on the reality on the ground and we think in terms of ecosystems and not of isolated particles- particularly when it comes to social enteprises. This occurs for two reasons. First, because we acknowledge the diversity of cultures regarding social enteprises across countries and we believe in in-depth analysis and tailored policy recommendations. Second, because we do not believe in piecemeal and fragmented approaches but in holistic and systemic support, which can allow social enteprises to develop and grow in a sustainable way. This approach has been reflected in our country reviews  with more recent ones in Croatia and the Czech Republic and will be used as well in four country reviews that we are planning to develop over the next two years.

Building capacity and being action-oriented

Our analytical findings are combined with concrete action plans for implementing them. Capacity-building seminars have also been one of the tools that we have employed for supporting government officials to build conducive ecosystems for social enterprises. Within this framework, government officials had the opportunity to voice the challenges that they face in their contexts and learn from their peers and experts. What is more, policy briefs have allowed us to shed light on specific topics and develop short- yet comprehensive- and actionable analysis for policy makers on social entrepreneurship and on measuring and scaling the impact of social enterprises.

Developing the evidence-base

 An essential aspect of our work is the development of the evidence-base regarding social enterprises, including both qualititative and quantitative data. For instance, last year we released a compendium of good practices for boosting social enterprise development, which presents twenty initiatives from various EU member-states and illustrates different possibilities for supporting social enterprises. More recently, we organised together with the European Commission an experts seminar on satellite accounts- a promising way for collecting data across countries. In the past, we also explored the contribution of social economy to job creation and to social inclusion at the local level in France, Korea, Poland, Serbia, and Slovenia.

Forthcoming work

Together with the European Commission, we are currenty developing an online tool for supporting social enterprise development, which will be relevant to all stakeholders involved in this endeavour. The online tool will have two parts; a self-assessment part and a learning part. It will examine the conditions that breed a general entrepreneurial culture and encourage the genesis of social enterprises in the long-run together with the policy support, which they can receive in order to boost their creation and development in the short run.

The online tool will focus on three policy objectives and seven action areas. The first policy objective is to enhance awareness, recognition, and visibility of social enterprises. By using the online tool, the users will try to assess to what extent they believe that there is social entrepreneurship culture, civil society and social economy engagement in their area along with a sound legal and regulatory framework and an effective institutional setting. The second policy objective is to open up opportunities to social enterprises. With this in mind, the users will assess whether there are initiatives and appropriate support in their area to facilitate social enterprises’ access to finance and to markets. The third policy objective is to make support available to social enterprises and for that the users will delve into assessment statements that try to examine whether social enterprises can access business development support and acquire relevant skills as well as initiatives that can help them to manage, measure and report their impact. Finally, the online tool asprires to provide a first-hand learning opportunity to anyone interested in social enteprises by including a repository of good practice case studies. The online tool is expected to be launched in fall 2018.

Finally, we prepare in close cooperation with the European Commissin an action to support the development of social and solidarity economy, including social enterprises, in non- European countries across different regions of the world. And the journey continues.


by Stellina Galitopoulou

Policy Analyst, OECD


For further information on our work, please contact:

Antonella Noya ([email protected] ), Head of Social Economy and Innovation Unit, Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs, Local Development and Tourism, OECD

Stellina Galitopoulou ([email protected]), Policy Analyst, Social Economy and Innovation Unit, Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs, Local Development and Tourism, OECD

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