Social enterprise in Europe: Recent trends and developments
Until recently, the notions of « social entrepreneur », « social entrepreneurship » and « social enterprise » were used more or less along the same lines: simplifying a little, one could say that social entrepreneurship was seen as the process through which social entrepreneurs created social
enterprises. In the last decade, however, a fast growing literature has produced various definitions and approaches of each of these three notions.
The concept of « social enterprise » first appeared in Europe (a few years before it emerged in the United States), and more precisely in Italy, where it was promoted by a journal launched in 1990 and entitled Impresa sociale. The concept was introduced at the time to designate the pioneering initiatives for which the Italian Parliament created the legal form of
« social cooperative » one year later. As will be shown, various other European countries have since passed new laws to promote social enterprises. Along with such approaches, the EMES Network stresses the positioning of European social enterprises « at the crossroads of market,public policies and civil society"5, especially to underline the « hybridization » of their resources:social enterprises indeed combine income from sales or fees from users with public subsidies linked to their social mission and private donations and/or volunteering. This clearly contrasts with a strong US tendency to define social enterprises only as non-profit organizations more oriented towards the market and developing « earned income strategies » as a response to decreasing public subsidies and to the limits of private grants from foundations.