“Business as usual has failed us” – Final Youth Declaration of GSEF2018

Euclid Network attended this years’ edition of GSEF on 1-3 October, which took place in the beautiful city of Bilbao, Spain. We were present not only to stress the role of social enterprises within the social economy, but also to be inspired, to meet stakeholders and to share our new insights with you!

Meeting like-minded

GSEF2018 started off impressively with over 30 mayors from around the world declaring their commitment to support the social economy. “Social Economy is a journey towards innovation and change, a movement of solidarity and cooperation” said Woo-son Park (mayor of Seoul and co-chair of GSEF). Gathering with 1700 delegates from over 80 countries to discuss the social economy, sure does make us feel like businesses that create social impact are gaining momentum.

A need for new, and social, ways of doing business

The need for these new, social ways of doing business was widely accepted amongst the delegates at the conference. Today’s challenges such as climate change, migration, increasing income inequality and the rise of disruptive technologies require innovative answers from both the public and private sector. Speakers cited must reads such as ‘Why we can’t afford the rich’ by Andrew Sayer and ‘Capital in the 21st century’ by Thomas Piketty, to stress the urgency of things. The social economy is to bring remedy as “business for people and planet, leaving no-one behind, is at the heart of social economy” (Final Declaration of GSEF2018) .

It all begins locally

Cities and regions are key enablers of ‘the social economy’, as became prevalent throughout the whole programme. Not surprising, since this years’ edition of GSEF focused on the role of cities. Emilia Saiz (Secretary General, UCLG) points out that “innovation at the local level happens everywhere, the key is how to translate that innovation to the global level”. Ulla Engelmann (Head of Unit, EC) also recognizes the role of regions and has launched the European Social Economy Regions (ESER) project in which the European Commission reaches out to local regions to support their efforts for the social economy. If you think your region should participate; find out more here.

We are proud of the ‘Better Entrepreneurship Policy Tool’ and the contribution that Euclid Network made to its development. The tool was unofficially launched at the conference. This participative online tool allows policy makers and other stakeholders to assess the policy ecosystem of entrepreneurs in a city, region or country. The tool is now accessible at: 

It’s safe to fail

One of the main messages of the event is that it’s safe to fail. Innovation in both the public and private sector is a process of trial and error. Starting up a business that creates social impact ánd is self-sustainable is likely to come with struggles, and may even fail (want to know more about how social entrepreneurs do manage? Come and meet them at our hands-on social enterprise event Gathering to Grow in London 6-7 December). Just like launching new public policies to support the social economy (such as social impact bonds or impact measurement tools) is not always effective. “Failing is not bad, as long as you learn from it” (Lance Mcneill, City of Austin).

With those words in mind GSEF2018 came to a close. Best of luck to the organizers of GSEF2020 which will take place in Mexico City!


The Global Social Economy Forum (GSEF) was initiated by the City of Seoul in 2013, in collaboration with its local social economy partners. Since the 2014 edition, GSEF was founded as a permanent international association uniting local governments and civil society stakeholders that recognize the Social Economy as a key factor in local economic development.

Want to know more?

If you would like to find out more about GSEF2018 please contact Veerle

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