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(Brain)storm in Malmö 11 December 2013

Posted by cooperatoby in Social enterprise.
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Toby presentingWe had a lucky break at SEN’s second peer review in Malmö last week – Storm Sven swept over us, closing the Öresund Bridge to the outside world – but it kindly waited till after we arrived, and abated before we left. It did make it hard to get to a decent brewpub though. And we had our own Sven, although he is more discursive than stormy in style.
I was greatly impressed by the ‘homework’ that the peer countries had put in, which resulted in an excellent set of comment papers. We had some new participants too: Eszter Kovách from OFA in Hungary and Ulrik Boe Kjeldsen from the Danish social affairs ministry. Denmark has set up a Committee on Social Enterprises, which has just published a set of recommendations and intends to establish a voluntary register. Further evidence of the convergence noted by Carlo Borzaga that is taking place among EU countries on social enterprises.

3 steps to capacity building

The event was excellently facilitated by Elisabet Abrahamsson of the Vägen Ut! consortium in Göteborg, which now provides 130 jobs. Learning from Trento, this time we cut down on the presentations and spent more time in small group discussions, which took the European Café format. I led the table on capacity building, which produced a very rich set of proposals. I simplified this down rather technocratically to 3 points:
1. Demand: raise awareness and smart procurement skills among public authorities
2. Supply: collaborative mechanisms to gain critical mass, such as consortia and social franchising
3. Appropriate financing – it is all ESF-able. A particularly interesting model came out in the form of the ‘wraparound’ support developed in NW England, where in 3 phases ESF is used to develop a business plan, an ERDF loan fund supports the start-up, and then ESF is brought in again to mentor and monitor its realisation.
The shared need for stronger bidding capacity was so evident that an idea arose; that several of the member countries could mount ESF projects to encourage consortium-building, and that together we could add a component of transnational exchange. I hope this plan might gain traction at the Strasbourg event in January
There was quite good evidence of transfer of ideas, and in particular Malmö might take up the idea of England’s Social Value Act and its future, more ambitious, Scottish analogue. There was widespread demand for translations of the Belgian guide to social clauses. Samuel Barco, our evaluator, made the point that ‘political will’ is not given, but constructed.
A decision on the network’s work plan was taken; that for logistical reasons the peer review on start-up support will happen in Scotland rather than Greece. Not to exclude that there may still be an event in Greece too.

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