Social enterprise models in Germany
ICSEM Working Papers No. 2015-15, Liege: The International Comparative Social Enterprise Models (ICSEM) Project.
Karl Birkhölzer, 2015
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The term “social enterprise” in Germany is relatively new and not clearly defined, used only by a minority of organisations which are in one way or another involved in the international debate. But if we follow the working definition of the EMES Network and others (European Network for Economic Self-Help and Local Development 1997), based on the criteria of economic activities, social aims, profit limitation and participatory governance, Germany can look back on a long and outstanding tradition of “social enterprises”.
Social enterprises have emerged in times of economic and social crises and reacted generally speaking to failures of either markets or state. The economy (private and public) is not an end in itself, but a system of means to produce goods and services to fulfil people’s needs. Unmet needs and/or unsolved conflicts caused the emergence of social movements, gathering around and trying to solve these problems; in principle, these social movements were thus as numerous and as different as the causes which brought them about. Social enterprises often emerge when people affected by a problem decide to find economic solutions by themselves.