Academic journal article Journal of Community Positive Practices

Introductory Aspects on the Sustainability of Social Enterprises 1

Academic journal article Journal of Community Positive Practices

Introductory Aspects on the Sustainability of Social Enterprises 1

Article excerpt

Introduction

Concerns for social economy are not new, as this is a matter of interest since the 19th century, when it was mentioned in the works of Charles Dunoyer (Treatiseon Social Economy, 1830) and Ramón de la Sagra (Lecciones de economía social, 1840) (Monzon Campos &Chaves Avila, 2007). The failure of social and economic policies to provide acceptable welfareto individuals and solve problems such as social disparities, poverty, and lack of housingenhanced the interest in new strategies, which are fairer and more attentive to the needs of individuals. Social economy has been identified as such a solution and promoted by the European Union as a means to reduce social exclusion and achieve the objectives laid down in the Europe 2020 Strategy, whose main purpose is to create a smart, sustainable and inclusiveeconomy, with high levels of employment, productivity and social cohesion (European Commission, 2010).

The social economy has often been defined by reference to the promoted principles - priority of social goals, voluntary association, democratic character, solidarity, autonomy - or its specific forms - non-profit organisations, cooperatives, mutual societies etc. The term "social economy" is often associated with social entrepreneurship and social enterprise; the latter brings together those entrepreneurial initiatives that have arisen in response to growing social problems (Defourny & Nyssens, 2001; Monzon Campos &Chaves Avila, 2007; Kerlin, 2006; Defourny, 2014), and was promoted for the first time at European level in Italy, through the Impresa 1 socialemagazine. According to CIRIEC (Monzon Campos& Chaves Avila, 2007: 20), social enterprises have the following features:private and formal organisation, autonomy ofdecision, freedom of membership, orientation towards meeting the needs of members by providing goods, services, insurance and financial support, decision making and profit distribution irrespective of the capital contributed by the members, each member having onevote. The principles of an activity producing goods or services, a high degree of autonomy, a significant level of risk and a minimum amount of paid work are grouped by EMES in an economic and entrepreneurial dimension of social enterprises. In addition to this dimension, there is a social dimension that includes the principles ofsocial purpose, decision making irrespective of the contribution to the capital, participatory nature, andlimited distribution of profits (Defourny, 2014: 25-27).

One of the goals most often attributed to social enterprises is work integration of persons belonging to vulnerable groups(Preoteasa, 2011; Dragotoiu, Marinoiu & Stanescu, 2011; Osvat, Stefanescu&Jurj, 2012; Nicolaescu, 2013), which describes best a particular type of social enterprise, namely work integration social enterprise. Social enterprises do not limit their goalsto social inclusion; they can also be set up for goals such asenvironmental protection, fair trade, supply of social services or tourism.

The limited understanding of the role of such organisations to local and national development, together with the negative perception of cooperatives due to the association with the communist regime, the excessive dependence on donors, the lack of a legal framework to regulate cooperatives and other non-profit organisations, the lack of confidence insolidaritymovements, the predominantly parochial political culture, and the difficulty of mobilising the necessary resources are the main factors hindering the development of the social economy in central and eastern European countries (Defourny, 1999 inCace, 2010: 96-97). In Romania, the interest in social economy has increased following the implementation of projects funded by the European Social Fund (ESF), which has also led to an increasing number of debates and conferences on social economy, and to an increasing number ofpublications in the field. Thus, 107 bookson the social economy in Romaniawere published between 1994 and 2014, a dramatic increase in their number was recorded in 2010 (15 books, compared to 4 in 2009), followed by a doubling of their number in 2011 as compared to the previous year (Stanescu, 2013). …

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