Event Details

29 November 2016
Faculté d’économie et de gestion
Salle 102
Rue Puvis de Chavannes
13001 Marseille

Event Description

The meeting was organized as a roundtable with three participants moderated by TSI’s Nadine Richez-Battesti. Participants were Wilfried Meynet, lawyer specialized on Social and Solidarity organizations, Olivier Rebeyrotte, co-founder of the cooperative of activity and employment Med’inscop, and Francesca Petrella (TSI member).

The 30 participants came from all main “families” of the Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE): associations, cooperatives and mutuals as well as members of the social entrepreneur’ network, students in SSE studies (bachelors and masters) and stakeholders from intermediary organizations, such as the Regional Chamber of Social and Solidarity Economy or ESIA, financial support structure (member of the France Active network).

This meeting aimed at presenting the main results of the TSI project with a focus on two elements:

  • The strengthening of the entrepreneurial dimension within third sector organizations, in relation to the spread of social enterprises around Europe and the inclusion of some social enterprises in the scope of the third sector;
  • The identification of the barriers to the development of third sector organizations and on resilience strategies of these organizations.

What are social enterprises? How can we characterize them and why are they part of the third sector? During the first part of the roundtable, the notion of social enterprises in France and at the European level were discussed. France is specific, compared to the other countries included in the TSI project, as regards its long tradition and anchorage in the Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) and the institutionalization process and recognition of the SSE by public authorities, in particular with the adoption of a Law on SSE in July 2014 and its relatively well developed ecosystem in favor of the SSE. Most social enterprises are embedded in this SSE tradition and are now included in the SSE when they meet several criteria concerning in particular the pursuing of an explicit social mission and a limited redistribution of profit.

Starting from the definition of SSE organizations, provided by the French Law on SSE of July 2014, a discussion followed on the characteristics of social enterprises: concerning the definition of what is considered as “social”, the issues around the participative governance dimension in social enterprises and the tension between the figure of the social entrepreneur seen as a hero and the importance of the collective dimension and governance of the social enterprises. Examples of social entrepreneurs in the room were enriching the discussion.

What are the barriers and the levers for the development of the third sector? During the second part of the roundtable, results from the TSI project concerning barriers and resilience strategies have been presented and discussed. Main barriers are:

  • Evolution of volunteering: growing fluctuations and more flexible and informal volunteering: a lot of structures mentioned that they have difficulties to recruit volunteers on a medium or long term basis and need to train volunteers given the higher complexity of managing organizations today.
  • Scarce resources and changing modes of financing: reduction of publics, funds, move from grants to contract, increasing fees, need to diversify the portfolio of TSOs;
  • Bureaucratization: increase of administrative burden, along with the spread of New Public Management principles and related to it, the insistence on managerial performance and the diffusion of managerial tools;
  • Lack of infrastructure and public spaces or facilities, in particular for sport and cultural activities, given the budgetary constraints and financial difficulties of municipalities in general
  • Low-quality third sector jobs as seen as a reason for the lack of attractiveness of this sector, although important improvements have been observed;

Several resilience strategies have been observed. A major trend concerns the diversification of activities, of resources (financial but also human ones when combining volunteers with paid workers for instance), and of type of public financing sources. A second largely observed strategy is the trend towards professionalization through the adoption of managerial tools and the increasing number of competence-based boards. A third important strategy is to change scale, by merging or by strengthening networks on a sectorial or territorial basis. The main objective is to get more power to negotiate with public authorities, to try to benefit from economies of scale or to build long-term trust relationship with local stakeholders.

These results have been discussed. The participants consider that these barriers are also representative of the French situation. They stress however that there is a lot of support and financial schemes for Social and solidarity economy (SSE) organizations but that it is still, for some stakeholders, difficult to access to them, given a lack of information, time or competence. Although the importance of the ecosystem in favor of SSE organizations has been stressed, the lack of incubators or support schemes for the first steps of social enterprise creation was stated as worrying to foster social entrepreneurship. The necessity of having support schemes that could help young enterprises to overcome the three-year activity stage has also been pointed out. The lack of investment funds accessible to associations and of functioning subventions have also been mentioned as major barriers since most of the schemes are given on a project basis.

The observed trend towards changing scale, merging and developing networks, at the sectorial or territorial levels, has been discussed as resilience strategies. There are a lot of different ways of changing scale to face the challenges of the environment. One important issue for stakeholders is not to loose the soul of the organisation, its local anchorage, and to keep its SSE values and principles strong.