Polytechnic University of Valencia Congress, CARPE Conference 2019: Horizon Europe and beyond

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How to scale the societal impact of work integration social enterprises? Evidence from The Netherlands
Leendert de Bell, Linda Drupsteen

Last modified: 05-11-2019


The number of social enterprises is increasing rapidly. Social enterprises are looking for new, innovative and economically sustainable ways to tackle structural societal challenges that generally fall outside the direct focus and objectives of the public and private sector. Social enterprises are primarily mission-driven, where profit is not a goal in itself but a means of creating social impact with regard to a specific social problem. The intended impact areas of social enterprises broadly range from poverty reduction, sustainability, healthcare, or labor participation of vulnerable groups.

With respect to the latter impact area, many initiatives have been taken across Europe to prevent and combat marginalization of vulnerable groups as a result of long unemployment spells, which may cause financial and social pressure, as well as decay of physical and psychological health conditions. Nevertheless, the nature and extent of these initiatives vary considerably across countries (CEDEFOP, 2018). Social enterprises, in collaboration with other relevant stakeholders such as ‘conventional’ companies or local governments, can play a key role in addressing these challenges.

This proposal builds on research that was completed earlier this year at HU concerning the scaling of social enterprises with a particular focus on work integration of people with a distance to the labor market (so-called WISEs) (e.g. people with low qualifications, young people disengaged from education, people with mental or physical disabilities, refugees, former prisoners, former addicts, or people who have difficulties finding a job due to their age etc.). One of the outcomes of this research showed that it is difficult for WISEs to transcend its societal impact beyond the local level.

In practice, the effective realization of both social and economic value is not easy for many WISEs, but the interaction with and between different actors in the external environment or ecosystem also plays a crucial role in its success. More research is needed on what works in successfully addressing the work integration of vulnerable groups in different parts of Europe, and under what conditions. The aim is to come to a joint EU research proposal, in which WISEs play a central role, to contribute to innovative and more structural solutions for labor participation of vulnerable groups.


Social Enterprises; Work Integration; Scaling Impact

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