ESLIDER/SENL – PeerEx 2022 Members’ Edition
In August and October 2022, the national network organizations for social enterprises, ESLIDER and Social Enterprise NL (SENL) went on an exchange visit to the Netherlands and Portugal, respectively, as part of the PeerEx 2022 program by Euclid Network. The exchange aimed at supporting both organizations in further developing their advocacy work for a legal framework for social enterprises. The need for a specific legal framework for social enterprises has been going on for years. When it comes to this topic, there are some disparities between European countries, such as the UK, Denmark, or Latvia, which have already adopted a specific legal framework, and countries who are advocating for it such as Portugal, Germany, and the Netherlands.
This exchange created the opportunity for ESLIDER and SENL representatives to visit both countries and learn from the different social enterprise ecosystems. The visits were very valuable in getting an understanding of the different social enterprises that are based in the countries, what are the needs and barriers they face, and how to support the social enterprises in making more impact.
Continue reading for an overview of the visits to Amsterdam, The Netherlands and Lisbon, Portugal!
When in Amsterdam…
A first part of the exchange in Amsterdam involved visiting social enterprises part of SENL’s network, including Bamboovement, an eco-friendly and plastic-free personal product start-up with collaborations with Albert Heijn (the biggest grocery retailer in the Netherlands) and Royal Dutch airline KLM for long-distance ‘travel kits, and BYCS, a social enterprise that works to strengthen the human infrastructure of cycling cities by supporting community initiatives, promoting a culture of active mobility and inspiring new citizens to take up the bicycle for daily trips.
Jorien (SENL) and Joana (ESLIDER) also visited Boeren en Buren, a community enterprise that stimulates short supply chains in the food industry and connects food producers directly with consumers.
When in Lisbon…
Beyond SE visits, SENL and ESLIDER held a hybrid working session on lobbying for a legal framework for social enterprises, attended by the lawyers leading the ESLIDER’s working group legal framework for social enterprises and the ESLIDER’S President, João Baracho, as well as by Mark Hillen, founder of SENL, and Josephine de Zwaan, a dutch lawyer supporting SENL in the advocacy process. Drawing from SENL’s 8 years of experience lobbying for a legal framework in the Netherlands, Mark and Josephine shared insightful knowledge and good practices, such as the importance of separating the regulation of the operational concept of the “Social Enterprise” from the public policies to be approved (benefits, for example), how crucial it is to define the main message and deliver it in a simple manner, to define a vision, the desired impact and to create an emotional connection with the need for more social entrepreneurship and to look at the social economy sector as a whole. The knowledge shared was subsequently integrated into the strategy of ESLIDER’s working group.
Visit to social enterprises:
The exchange in Lisbon began on the 26th of October 2022 with visits to two different kinds of organizations with the potential to become social enterprises if that model would exist in the Portuguese legal system.
1. Rizoma, a multisector cooperative founded in 2020, and one of the first of its kind, is a community-based project which started by opening a grocery store, and is now getting ready to help solve social and economic problems beyond just food consumption. Getting to know Rizoma was particularly interesting for Jorien, who is working with the project social finance for community-based social enterprises and could learn about the business model, the governance structure as well as some of the challenges and creative ways its founding members have found to surpass them, namely regarding the access to funding for real-estate. Coincidentally, they got the chance to meet a group of Polish social workers working with the Foundation for Social and Economic Initiatives (FISE) and The Local Social Economy Support Center with whom we exchanged contacts and intend to follow up for future partnerships.
2. Manicómio started as an art project based in Lisbon’s Psychiatric hospital and it is now working not only on selling art from artists with different mental health conditions but also coordinating a network of mental health workers providing mental health care for affordable prices to a vulnerable population. Manicómio is also part of ESLIDER’s working group for a legal framework for social enterprises in Portugal. It was particularly interesting to learn about past struggles related to the lack of a legal framework for social enterprises. The association has found an innovative model adopted by a few associations so far – a hybrid model that combines NGO and company status, which allows them to both secure public funding and revenue from commercial activities.
In addition to SE visits, Jorien and Joana participated in a working session with a Portuguese lawyer part of ESLIDER’s working group. During lunch, the group exchanged insights on the Portuguese political context and how it might influence the campaign building around the legal framework.
There is no end in sight to this collaboration. In addition to the expected results of the activities described above, the exchange resulted in unexpected connections, namely ESLIDER and SENL had the chance to get in touch with intermediary organizations and social enterprises in other EU countries. All international connections are particularly relevant at this time as SENL prepares to host the Social Enterprise World Forum 2023 (SEWF) in the Netherlands. Additionally, Joana and Jorien are both part of the Euclid Network (EN) the Community of Practice (CoP) on Policy, meeting regularly throughout the year. Moreover, Joana (ESLIDER) plans to visit the Netherlands in April 2023, when the peers are expected to catch up and discuss the developments of the working group in Portugal and the legal status lobby in the Netherlands.