Partnership meeting in Maribor

Strengthening social enterprises to increase their impact in the economic and social sectors of the countries of Central Europe

Maribor, 27. - 28. November 2019 –Foundation for the Improvement of Employment Opportunities Prizma, a foundation, hosts organizations from six Central European countries that carry out support and strengthening activities for social enterprises to become an important player in economic and social development. They will formalize their efforts by setting up a transnational advocacy network for social entrepreneurship. The social economy and social enterprises are crucial for the convergence of disadvantaged regions of Central Europe, where market forces cannot revitalize the economy, and social enterprises are key players in social inclusion and labor integration. Social enterprises face many common obstacles as they emerge and develop. Lack of skilled workforce, negative effects of demographic change (brain drain, population reduction), lack of managerial and professional skills and business-to-business interaction are the main factors, while there are also lack of support mechanisms tailored to the needs and specificities of social enterprises in the local environment. In order to foster a "highly competitive social market economy", the European Commission has put the social economy and social innovation at the heart of its efforts under the 2020 Strategy. Social enterprises contribute to smart growth by responding to local needs through social innovation. Through their long-term orientation, they create sustainable and inclusive growth, a positive impact on the environment and people. They address a wide range of social and environmental issues and operate in all parts of the economy. Social entrepreneurship can make a significant contribution to the development of new products and services in the public interest, to the development of entrepreneurship on the principles of social responsibility, to rural development, balanced regional development and training and employment of vulnerable groups in the labor market. Although Slovenia has a rich history of civil society organizations, it lags far behind in developing social entrepreneurship over other European countries, where social entrepreneurship generates about 10% of GDP and provides just as much employment. T

This project is supported by the Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE Programme funded under the European Regional Development Fund. Therefore, a supportive environment and favorable conditions for the development of social entrepreneurship must be established. Since 2011, the Foundation for the Improvement of Employment Opportunities Prizma has join the efforts to strengthen the supportive environment and empower social enterprises, and carries out its activities in cooperation with national and international organizations. In this way, it is also linking up with nine organizations from Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Italy, Germany and Slovenia in the Sentinel project, which is funded by the European Union through the Interreg Central Europe program through the European Regional Development Fund. The key objective of the project is to enable social enterprises to transform innovative social ideas into successful and sustainable business models, and to make Central European regions better places to live and work. The Sentinel project, which is being implemented by partners between June 2017 and May 2020, first carried out in partner countries analyzes of the situation, revealing the situation of social entrepreneurship, the development of a supportive environment and the needs of social enterprises to develop their skills and networking. The partners responded to the perceived challenges by piloting activities to support social enterprises, especially those in disadvantaged areas, in their operations and in the further development of activities, using various tools and methods. The proven tools and methods and good practices will be compiled and presented in a useful guides for implementing mentoring support and managing networks. SENTINEL has already launched joint actions to develop and validate new, widely applicable skills development solutions, mentoring for social enterprises and networking that will enable them to better fulfill their important role in social innovation and inclusive growth. The partners of the Sentinel project do not want to end their efforts and activities with the completion of the project, so they set up a transnational advocacy network for social entrepreneurship, which will continue to strengthen the vision and role of social enterprises and influence the policies, programs and initiatives of decision makers, national and EU officials, local communities, and other organizations supporting the social entrepreneurship environment.