In Members, Members, NEWS

Please join us in welcoming a new member to Euclid Network, Estonian Social Enterprise Network (ESEN)! With this newest addition, not only do we add another social enterprise support organisation to our growing numbers, but our network will also have a stronger presence in the Baltic region, which will undoubtedly lead to many new opportunities for collaboration for all members of EN.

We interviewed Helen Mikkov, the chairperson of ESEN, as well as a member of Commission Expert Group of the Commission on Social Economy and Social Enterprises (GECES), who told us everything we need to know about her organisation, their members, and what they hope to achieve as a part of Euclid Network.

Estonian Social Enterprise Network in a Nutshell

Founded in 2012, the ESEN was created to represent those enterprises in Estonia that are focused on impact, and to give them a voice within the Estonian government so that they would have a say in the way policies are made.

Currently, the network has more than 54 members and working together within 15 different partnerships, they have educated more than 650 students about the field of social impact.

Their Mission Now and the Way Forward

ESEN is in the midst of writing a new three-year strategy which will start in 2021. But as of now, Helen talks about the focus of their current mission: “Our mission is currently about creating new social enterprises and spreading the word. We are in cooperation with main universities, part of the largest pitch competition in Estonia, and other social entrepreneurs. We are everywhere we need to be in those important places so we can see what is relevant and what can be done right now.”

ESEN is also working on developing their social enterprise community and infusing the start-up mindset throughout the Estonian society.

In terms of their government advocacy: “Our main role with the government is to be the bridge between them and our members. We are a strategic partner of the Ministry of Interior. ESEM aims to be part of the discussion on how economic recovery packages can be devised to support social enterprises in the country.”

The network and its mission are continuously evolving. As ESEN grows in membership and influence, they would like to have more cooperation with the start-up ecosystem. Not only would this allow them to entice new social entrepreneurs, but also to help companies change their ways of doing business by showcasing the added value of social impact, how they can measure their impact, and how to fine-tune business models to be more socially minded.

About Their Members

Helen fondly says that ESEN members are a very diverse group, working in a wide range of fields and activities from physical and mental healthcare, the environment, education, social inclusion, job training, and support for individuals with special needs and their families, to name a few.

“Our work and membership are very diverse. We have a member called Dermtest who has developed a technical way to test for melanoma and other forms of skin cancer. Another member, Equilibre MTÜ, provides hippotherapy or horse therapy services, and we even have a member who’s a financial institution that provides loans to social enterprises and other initiatives across the country, Hea Koostöö Hoiu-laenühistu (English: Good Cooperation Savings & Loan Association).”

Other notable enterprises part of ESEN are a museum and printing house with a social enterprise mindset, called Trükimusseum (English: Estonian Printing Museum MTU) and an eco-friendly hostel, Hostel Looming, moving towards zero-waste.

Why join now?

When asked why ESEN decided to join Euclid Network, Helen says the catalyst began because of COVID-19.

“In Estonia, the new recovery packages of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications didn’t include specifications for social enterprises. We saw that we didn’t yet have the leverage or contact with the Ministry of Economy, so we realized we need to develop a stronger voice. Since we are a strategic partner in Estonia for social entrepreneurship and you are a strategic partner of the European Commission, it was a perfect match. We can use this opportunity and connection points to enhance the dialogue and communication in Estonia.”

The other reason to join EN? The European Social Enterprise Monitor (ESEM) project.

Helen says: “I also heard that you are preparing a project to collect data from different countries about the challenges faces by the social entrepreneurship and social enterprise fields. I thought this is exactly what we need in Estonia.”

In fact, ESEN along with seven other EN members from various countries will be the first countries to participate in the inaugural year of what will become a yearly meta-study, describing the results of an online survey meant to take the pulse of the social enterprise and start-up fields in Europe and individual country levels.

We look forward to working with Estonia and our members on the ESEM project, knowing that it will be the first of many in which EN collaborates with ESEN.

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