Social Enterprise in Europe is a dynamic, diverse, and entrepreneurial movement encapsulating the drive for new business models that combine economic activity with social mission, and the promotion of inclusive growth.
Fig 2 identifies the ‘national families’ of social enterprise across Europe, their defining features and the eco-system within which social enterprise development is taking place. Although there is both a growing interest and convergence in views across Europe on the defining characteristics of a social enterprise, understanding and approaches to social enterprise differs substantially across (and sometimes even within) countries.
There is no single legal form for social enterprises. Many social enterprises operate in the form of social co-operative’s, some are registered as private companies limited by guarantee, some are mutual, and a lot of them are non-profit-distributing organisations like provident societies, NGOs, associations, voluntary organisations, charities, or foundations. Despite their diversity, social enterprises mainly operate in the following four fields:
Figure 2. A map of social enterprises and their eco-systems in Europe (Wilkinson 2015)