In Advocacy, Influencing, NEWS, Opinion

Our Policy Lead Veerle Klijn at the Catalyst 2030 event on the European Social Economy Action Plan - The role of social enterprises in reaching the SDGs

Connect, Celebrate and Accelerate are the three key actions of the Catalysing Change Week 2021. The annual event gives the opportunity for experts, social entrepreneurs, social innovators, policy makers and representatives from the private sector to sit together and showcase their systems’ change efforts and the best practices that can accelerate the work in pursuit of the SDGs.

We at Euclid Network had the great pleasure to be invited to the session held on 4th of May, where our Policy Lead Veerle Klijn spoke about three main points:

1. Why social entrepreneurs are needed now more than ever.
2. Why we need the European networks to elevate the voices of social entrepreneurs.
3. How the European Action Plan can support social enterprises to catalyse change.

Why social entrepreneurs are needed now more than ever

There are only 9 years left to reach the 2030 SDGs, but we are still far away from getting there. Why are we all acting so slowly?

The current COVID-19 pandemic has certainly exposed many fragilities in our economies and deepened existing disparities, while simultaneously highlighting the need for resilience, innovation and cooperation. The pre-crisis problems, including: the insufficient quantity and quality of employment; growing inequalities; global warming and climate related migration and the unsustainability of the current industrial food system, are worsening significantly as a consequence of the measures taken to counteract the health emergency.

Climate change and economic inequality are two of the biggest challenges we are currently facing and they are what concern me the most, says Euclid’s very own Veerle Klijn. In fact, we are witnessing the consequences of the climate change with our own eyes: more severe storms, rising seas, droughts and fires. Higher temperatures have caused the displacement of millions of people and seen them loose too their livelihoods.
Worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic, the economic inequality is another plague of our society. While the millionaires are getting richer and richer and the middle class are struggling to save money, the number of people below the poverty line is drastically growing – including the number of children living in poverty.

This situation depicts the worst crisis, on a humanitarian, social and economic level since World War II. The key question now is, once the health emergency ends, do we want to return to the world the way it was before COVID-19? What future do we want? We need a systemic change, which requires collaboration and cooperation by governments, corporations, civil society and so on. Social entrepreneurship is not THE magic answer to all the challenges we are facing. Social enterprises are not THE solution, but A solution.

In fact, social enterprises have proven over the past decades to be remarkable vehicle for a more inclusive, just and green economy. Social enterprises are businesses that are changing the world for the better. By selling goods and services in the open market, social enterprises create employment and reinvest their profits back into their business and the local community. This allows them to tackle societal problems, improve people’s life chances, provide training and employment opportunities for those furthest from the market, support communities and create solutions for the climate crisis.

They are business for good and when they profit, society profits.

Why we need European networks to alleviate the voices of social entrepreneurs

Being a social entrepreneur may look simple, but it definitely isn’t. If anything, sometimes it seems like the entire system is going against them: lack of recognition by national governments, insufficient funding, excessive bureaucracy

Social enterprises are not immune to the COVID-19 pandemic, as they are under immense pressure. They are facing: the total or partial inability to trade for periods of time; the increased competition for scarce funding resources; and the unforeseen challenges in adapting their business models to the new reality. There is a need for social enterprises to be recognised and included in the decision-making process. They need a seat at the policymakers’ table, to share their concerns, challenges and necessities.
One of our main goal at Euclid Network is to boost the social enterprise ecosystem in Europe by connecting entrepreneurs and enterprises, sharing resources, ideas, best practices and jointly pushing for more visibility, recognition and government support.

We at Euclid Network have created a place where social enterprises meet and support each other, a place where they do not  feel alone.

How the European Action Plan for Social Economy can support social enterprises to catalyse change

We at Euclid Network believe that the European Action Plan for Social Economy is a crucial and necessary instrument for all social economy actors. The Action Plan aims to support, promote and enable social enterprises to be a fundamental part of the future economic model both within the EU and at the international level. Therefore, we congratulate the European Commission for this initiative and for its effort in providing measures and creating conditions for the social economy to fulfil its potential.

We need to support social enterprises to catalyse change and this Action Plan has been a great opportunity to do so.

Social enterprises still need to get more visibility and the recognition they deserve, especially at a regional and national level. We need to talk about social economy organisations in schools and university; we need to raise awareness among consumers; we need to build the capacity of business intermediaries to support social enterprises; we need to promote the collaboration between them and the private sector.

The policy decisions governments make now, will determine what our post COVID-19 economy will look like.

Governments have a unique chance for a green and just economic recovery that they must seize. Governments must now recognise the vital role of the social enterprise sector and harness its potential for an inclusive, equitable and sustainable economic recovery.

Veerle Klijn 

Veerle started her career as a social entrepreneur herself, supporting the homeless in her hometown Utrecht, the Netherlands. While completing her Master Thesis on boosting social enterprise through government intervention she was a trainee at the European Commission’s DG GROW, in the unit working on Social Economy. Currently at EN, Veerle works with leading social enterprise support organizations, governments and various international institutions on a daily basis to advance the social enterprise sector across Europe, and globally. 

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