Response to consultation on Social Economy Action Plan

ERGO Network responds to the European Commission public consultation on the Social Economy Action Plan

The European Commission launched a public consultation seeking stakeholder feedback on the proposed Roadmap for an Action Plan for Social Economy, due to be released shortly. ERGO Network contributed its perspective, building on our comprehensive position paper The role of Social Economy in supporting Roma social and economic inclusion A close-up on the Covid-19 pandemic and the recovery strategies, and on our online conference Social Economy and Roma Inclusion in times of Covid-19, co-organised in November 2020 with Social Economy Europe and the European Parliament Social Economy Intergroup.

ERGO Network welcomes the strong recognition given in the Roadmap to the key role of social economy in putting people first and achieving a positive impact in local communities, in tackling growing inequalities and the social impact of the pandemic, and in building inclusive growth. The Roadmap highlights the potential of the sector to positively contribute to job creation and service provision, including social services, through innovative bottom-up initiatives to reach the most vulnerable, as well as to promote participatory, democratic governance models in the workplace.

We further salute the commitment to provide the necessary legal framework and enabling eco-systems for social economy to reach its objectives, including through enhancing its visibility and recognition, improving access to tailored private and public funding, as well as business support, fostering social entrepreneurship (in particular for young people), and other measures. We appreciate the focus on strengthening social economy in non-EU countries, in particular enlargement and neighbourhood countries.

However, we make a strong argument that vulnerable groups such as the Roma must be explicitly included in the Action Plan as key target beneficiaries of social economy interventions. Experience shows that, if Roma inclusion is not spelled out as an objective, mainstream approaches leave them behind. Furthermore, the Roma must be equally recognised as drivers of change, by being empowered to become social entrepreneurs themselves. The existence and potential of social enterprises need to be better promoted and supported in Roma communities.

Non-minority social economy actors must be mindful of deeply-rooted discrimination & antigypsyism, and make conscious efforts to combat any such tendencies. It is essential that non-Roma-led social enterprises work alongside Roma people and Roma organisations, to make full use of the pool of skills and talents already present in the communities. The Action Plan equally needs to acknowledge that marginalised communities face huge barriers in accessing funding from mainstream financial providers.

Last but not least, the Action Plan must be rooted in fruitful synergies with other EU policy and funding frameworks, including the EU Roma Strategic Framework. Social economy must be placed at the heart of Covid-19 intervention and recovery packages and funds, with an explicit targeting of vulnerable groups such as the Roma, who were hit hardest by the pandemic. The partnership principle needs to be embedded, involving key stakeholders, including Roma communities and their civil society representatives, enshrining a bottom-up approach, based on real community needs and grassroot input.

  • Read our full response to the consultation here!

For more information about ERGO Network’s work on social economy, please contact Amana Ferro, Senior Policy Adviser in the ERGO Network Brussels team.