It’s impossible to talk about supporting social entrepreneurship without considering the ecosystem in which it operates. Government policies, finance, support networks and training opportunities — they all play a vital role. But how do you know what’s working where you are, and what needs to change?
Enter a brand new tool for assessing social enterprise ecosystems: the Better Entrepreneurship Online Tool, developed by the OECD and the European Commission. Stellina Galitopoulou, policy analyst at the Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs, Regions and Cities at the OECD, tells us more.
Why was this tool created?
This is the first time that an online tool for assessing and learning about social enterprise ecosystems has been developed. The Better Entrepreneurship Online Tool aims to help stakeholders better understand their ecosystems, and to bring them together to compare their views. It also acts as a learning platform, which gathers and makes available to everybody all the knowledge that has been generated by the OECD since 1999.
What was the process of creating the tool, and who was involved?
The Better Entrepreneurship Online Tool was created by the OECD and the European Commission, together with relevant stakeholders in social enterprise.
It has been a long journey, starting in late 2016. Throughout this time, we’ve had an Advisory Board comprised of international experts, and to make sure we were involving the relevant stakeholders in the process, we organised a workshop in June 2017 gathering around 70 participants from several EU Member States and from all areas of the ecosystem: the public sector, business development support structures, finance providers, academia. Our aim was to “co-construct” this tool in order to serve its users in the best possible way.
What were the challenges in reaching common definitions and measures?
There were two main challenges. First, how do you define social enterprise? From the outset we followed the Social Business Initiative’s criteria, which is in line with the OECD’s work. This helped the group to build a common understanding.
The second challenge was related to the assessment methodology of the tool. The stakeholder workshop was crucial in that respect — it allowed us to test different methodologies on paper and get valuable feedback. Similarly, the two testing workshops of the prototype in Dublin and The Hague will help us to further refine the assessment methodology and the overall use of the tool.
What kind of questions does it ask?
The Better Entrepreneurship Online Tool covers seven action areas that are critical to the social enterprise ecosystem: social entrepreneurship culture, social economy engagement, the institutional, legal and regulatory frameworks, access to finance and markets, skills and business development support, and impact measurement and reporting. It includes 34 assessment statements in total (which will be translated into all official EU languages). For every statement, the user is invited to assess the extent to which this is true in his or her context, with some pointers to help assign either a low or high score.
How will the tool be used?
Ideally, this online tool should be used collectively by the relevant stakeholders of the social enterprise ecosystem of an area.
For this reason, we have built in a “group function”, which allows users either to compare their views or to complete those parts of the assessment where they have expertise. This should generate thought-provoking discussions and catalyse the way policies and initiatives are being designed and implemented.
The Better Entrepreneurship Online Tool is still in prototype phase, and will be tested in the Netherlands at a side-event of the Euclid Summit, on 10 April.