Identifying new opportunities for sustainable solutions

Changing world

It cannot be denied, that climate change, global economy, migration of population, social, economic, ecological and resources aspects do change the whole world and society. More and more joint responsibility and participation in the fields of human recourses, environment and sustainability tends to grow, and this process directly influenced by increase of communication and distance opportunities for collaboration. Joint responsibility drives people to be more involved in global issues – they do not want to stay aside, but share, inspire and motivate for collaboration to create more sustainable solutions. Everyone can be the motivator, the initiator or mentor of positive socio-economic changes.

New actors, new behaviours

This increased attention to social issues has stemmed both from the growth of existing actors and activities and from the creation of entirely new types of organisations, enterprises and behaviours. Social economy is a third sector among economies between the private (business) and public sectors (government). Social economy organizations have different legal forms and various objectives, ranging from agriculture and banking to provision of employment and sheltered workshops. It includes organizations such as cooperatives, non-profit organizations, social enterprises and charities. European social economy is made of 2 million enterprises, representing 10% of all European enterprises, and employs over 14 million workers (the equivalent of 6.5% of the working population in the EU)(1)

Social economy organizations differ from private and public organizations by their purpose: this is a different model of enterprise, which continuously associates the general interest, economic performance and democratic governance. Social economy enterprises’ main purpose is to serve their members rather than to maximise profits.

Social enterprise is a social economic operator that carries out economic activities addressing social and/or environmental problems. Social enterprises have a clear “social mission”. It means that the social entrepreneur clearly knows what efforts it takes to improve the lives of the public, whom it is trying to help and has a plan how to do it. Its funding model may be a hybrid, but the bulk of their income comes from provided services or sold products. The profit of social enterprise is utilized for the social or environmental problems solving, reinvesting in their social mission.

Social entrepreneurship is exactly new method to be used to overcome existing challenges as main aim of social entrepreneurship is to bring positive impact of society through different innovative approaches in employment, poverty reduction, and better access to education (inclusive education), social security, medical assistance and protection of environment. (2)

The members of social enterprises shares ethical values of social economy, namely, caring, sharing, self-reliance, honesty, democracy, equality, learning, ecological consciousness, social justice and openness.

What is social entrepreneurship? Created by SENS, Social Economy Network Serbia

Get inspired!

Despite the positive impact that social economy enterprises have on their communities and the European economy and society in general, they still face with the lack of visibility that affects this segment of the economy (including in the media), which in turn leads to a lack of awareness and recognition of the social value that it generates. The lack of awareness is not just due to the lack of media coverage – rather, it starts with a lack of education on these issues.(3) But the first step of awareness-rising is promotion of good examples, success stories and inspiration. Get inspired from these excellent examples from around the world!

Lude, a trademark for social enterprise that employs senior citizens and utilizes potential textile waste creating design rugs. It gives reason for retired people to get up in the morning and look forward to something, thus also saving a little bit of our green planet.

RESTART, the online marketplace for art made by refugees, helps newcomers facilitate new beginnings. The concept of RESTART is based on the belief to replace short-term based charity with long-term oriented solutions.

D.Light Design, manufacture inexpensive lamps and sell them in communities that don’t have reliable electricity.

The Social Cooperative W & Team was established in city Bytom by few women who just lost their jobs but was determined enough to take responsibility in their own hands, to use their experience and proffesional skills as stremstress and open own social bussiness. The Social Cooperative offers: designing and making costumes for theatres and ballet performances, sportswear, clothing for dancing and training and replicas of clothing folk, sewing measuring on the order, tailoring.

Social supermarket Community shop, a food market that sells food to low income communities at a discounted price. Discounted food is donated (or purchased very cheaply) from food suppliers and other supermarkets, who cannot sell the food themselves for a variety of reasons such as approaching expiry dates, dented cans, and product mislabelling.

Used Textbooks for Social Change, Partner with student groups/clubs to collect used textbooks at the end of each semester. Students donate their used textbooks. Some of the textbooks are re sold to students at the college/university of their collection source; some of the textbooks are donated to students in need at underserved universities in the developing world. The profits are split between the student groups/clubs, program administration costs, and any remaining funds are used to support social programs in developing communities.

Kiva, a platform for individuals and organizations to lend money directly to entrepreneurs who would otherwise not get funding, such as those in the developing world. Charge a small fee to cover the operational costs.

Baking/Cooking for a Social Cause - Edgar and Joe’s, a bakery that focuses on building employment skills for underemployed groups, such as at-risk youth or former drug addicts.

See for more inspirational examples from
Social entrepreneurship network of the Baltic Sea region
and Forbes' List of the Top 30 Social Entrepreneurs

Anita Stirane, Latvia

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