European Commission’s Action Plan for Social Economy – What’s in it for Europe’s Roma?

European Commission unveils the EU Action Plan for Social Economy

– What’s in it for Europe’s Roma?

On 9 December 2021, the European Commission proposed an EU Social Economy Action Plan, aimed at putting forward concrete measures to help mobilise the full potential of social economy, including through improved visibility and recognition and access to finance and markets.

ERGO Network has closely engaged with the run-up to the Action Plan, with a view to raising awareness on the key role social economy can play in contributing to Roma inclusion and to delivering on the objectives of the EU Roma Strategic Framework. In 2020, we released a  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. With our members, we have reviewed the proposed EU Social Economy Action Plan in light of the key messages of our own position paper.

  • Read ERGO Network’s full response to the EU Social Economy Action Plan here!

Regrettably, there is only one mention of Europe’s Roma in the Action Plan, namely in the Introduction, with no other references to ethnic background, minorities, or racialised communities in the rest of the document. For social economy enterprises to actually support vulnerable groups such as the Roma, clear indicators that monitor Roma participation in social economy initiatives are needed. Additionally, social economy actors must be mindful of deeply rooted discrimination and antigypsyism and make conscious efforts to combat any such tendencies.

ERGO Network salutes proposals to better include social economy business models in entrepreneurship educational curricula, and the commitment to support the development of social impact measurement and management, including involving stakeholders in the development of assessment methodologies. However, we are disappointed to see that the contribution of social economy to reducing poverty and social exclusion is insufficiently mentioned, while failing to create fruitful synergies with the EU Roma Strategic Framework, as well as with the European Pillar of Social Rights in a comprehensive way.

While we welcome that developing policy and legal frameworks is one of the explicit objectives of the Action Plan, we would have liked to see the key aspect of the social and societal goals more strongly emphasised, as well as an explicit commitment to embed a partnership approach involving key stakeholders, including Roma communities and their civil society representatives.

ERGO Network appreciates that the Action Plan highlights the added value that social economy enterprises bring to local communities, stressing their strong local roots and the impetus to serve the communities where they are based. However, the role and potential of these communities is insufficiently taken into account in the document. Social economy initiatives must enshrine a broad bottom-up approach, based on real community needs and grassroot input, giving the Roma a voice in the process.

While the Action Plan clearly spells out the need for business development support for social enterprises, disappointingly nothing is said about supporting Roma social entrepreneurs. This is a glaring missed opportunity to tap into the enormous potential and competences that the Roma bring to the table. More targeted support is needed to build the capacity of the Roma, and the existence and potential of social enterprises need to be better promoted in Roma communities.

We equally welcome that the Action Plan acknowledges the key role of public financial support for social enterprises, as well as the commitment to increase the level of support in the next programming period. However, the document doesn’t take into account the fact that marginalised and racialised communities face additional barriers in accessing funding, nor does it put forward proposals to address them.

Social economy offers great potential to address Roma poverty, employment, health, education, accommodation, nutrition, and to keep alive Roma culture and crafts. ERGO Network expresses its hope that the gaps identified above will be remedied through implementation and stands ready to support these efforts, at both the EU and the national level.

For more information about our work on Social Economy, please contact Amana Ferro (a.ferro@ergonetwork.org), Senior Policy Adviser with the ERGO Network staff team.

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.

Social Economy and Roma Inclusion in times of Covid-19

Social Economy and Roma Inclusion in times of Covid-19

ERGO Network Annual Public Conference with Social Economy Europe and the European Parliament Intergroup on Social Economy

This past 17 November, ERGO Network organised its annual public event, together with Social Economy Europe and the European Parliament Intergroup on Social Economy. This year’s conference, which took place online, was dedicated to exploring the key potential of the social and solidarity economy to positively contribute to Roma equality, inclusion and participation, particularly in a pandemic and post-pandemic context. 

Europe is facing an unprecedented social and economic crisis, brought about by the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Many Europeans have lost their incomes, their homes, their security, and even their loved ones, but Roma communities throughout the continent have been particularly hard hit. Because of its explicit objective to contribute to better social and economic inclusion and improved societal outcomes, particularly for vulnerable groups, social economy can play a key role in ensuring equal eights and wellbeing for Roma communities in the recovery process in different countries.

The online conference served as the formal launch of ERGO Network’s position paper “The role of Social Economy in supporting Roma social and economic inclusion in the Covid-19 pandemic and recovery”, rooted in an extensive data collection exercise across ERGO Network’s national membership. The Key Messages of the paper, presented at the conference, are:

  1. Legislative framework prioritising social goals over financial gain and promoting sustainability
  2. Meaningful partnerships supporting Roma participation and ownership
  3. The Roma named explicitly as target group for social economy interventions
  4. Fostering Roma social entrepreneurship through awareness and training
  5. Access to stable, dedicated, transparent funding
  6. An economy based on solidarity that works for all, including for Roma

The event equally aimed to showcase concrete good practices of Roma- and Traveller-led social enterprises on the ground, as well as to put forward positive ways to ensure that the potential of social economy to support Roma inclusion is placed at the heart of recovery packages and the upcoming Action Plan on Social Economy and Social Innovation, in full alignment with the recently released EU Roma Strategic Framework.

The event was very well attended with almost 100 participants, and it brought together ERGO Network and Social Economy Europe national members from the grassroots level in many European countries, as well as other national practitioners, European civil society organisations, EU policy-makers from the European Parliament and the European Commission, and other stakeholders.

If you attended this event, or watched the recording, don’t forget to let us know what you thought about it by filling in this Evaluation Form. Thank you!

See more:
Agenda of the event

Full recording of the Facebook livestream

ERGO Network position paper

Conference Report

Photo album

 

For more information about this event, or about ERGO Network’s work on social economy, please don’t hesitate to contact us: a.ferro@ergonetwork.org

Social economy and Roma inclusion in times of Covid-19

Social economy and Roma inclusion in times of Covid-19

A contribution to Europe’s Action Plan on Social Economy

ERGO Network and Social Economy Europe are delighted to invite you to attend their joint online conference entitled “Social economy and Roma inclusion in times of Covid-19: A contribution to Europe’s Action Plan on Social Economy”, to take place on 17 November 2020. The event is kindly hosted by the European Parliament Intergroup on Social Economy (click here to see agenda).

Europe is facing an unprecedented social and economic shock, brought about by the devastating effects of the coronavirus. Many Europeans have lost their incomes, their homes, their security, and even their loved ones, but Roma communities throughout the continent have been particularly hard hit. Because of its explicit objective to contribute to better social and economic inclusion and improved societal outcomes, particularly for vulnerable groups, social economy can play a key role in ensure equal rights and wellbeing for Roma communities in the recovery process in different countries.

This online conference will bring together national practitioners, civil society organisations and other stakeholders, as well as EU policy makers, to discuss how to achieve real policy change for Europe’s Roma in a social economy setting. The objectives are to showcase concrete good practices of Roma- and Traveller-led social enterprises on the ground, and to put forward positive ways to ensure that the potential of social economy to support Roma inclusion is placed at the heart of recovery packages and the upcoming Action Plan on Social Economy and Social Innovation, in full alignment with the recently released EU Roma Strategic Framework.

REGISTER HERE by 15 November

AGENDA

We are looking forward to debating with you – join the conversation! #RomaSocialEconomy

For questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch: info@ergonetwork.org.

 

This conference is kindly supported by the European Union Programme for Employment and Social Innovation EaSI (2014-2020).

The role of Social Economy in supporting Roma social and economic inclusion

ERGO Network position paper: The role of Social Economy in supporting Roma social and economic inclusion in a Covid-19 context

Directly to the position paper.

Europe and the world are facing an unprecedented social and economic shock, brought about by the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many Europeans have lost their incomes, their homes, their security, and even their loved ones. In this context, Roma communities throughout the continent have been particularly hard hit, having to face, in addition to the above, a sharp rise in both popular and institutional antigypsyism, as well as police brutality and numerous breaches of their human rights. The road to healing and recovery will be long and difficult for all, but it will be particularly challenging for those already facing extreme hardship, poverty, and social exclusion, such as Europe’s Roma. However, social economy can support better Roma inclusion, wellbeing and participation, as well as trust-building with the majority community.

Traditional business models are based on a philosophy of maximising profit (or return on investment), which is then distributed to investors or owners (shareholders). Conversely, social economy is a model where the profit is entirely reinvested in the expansion of the enterprise, and/or used to finance social inclusion and community development projects. Because of its explicit objective to contribute to improved societal outcomes particularly for vulnerable groups, and because of its bottom-up, community-rooted approach based on ownership, social economy can play a key role in ensuring social and economic inclusion, equal rights, and wellbeing for Roma communities in the post Covid-19 recovery process.

The social economy sector has already proved its exceptional resilience during the previous economic crisis, and it is now, fittingly, back in focus in the European discourse. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has entrusted Nicolas Schmit, Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, with the development of an Action Plan on Social Economy. This is a key opportunity to ensure that social economy is used as a powerful and effective tool to deliver Roma inclusion on the ground, not least in a post-pandemic context.

This position paper is rooted in the direct experience of ERGO Network national members, Roma and pro-Roma civil society organisations working at grassroots level in European countries. It aims at exploring the positive interplay between the role of social economy in today’s development models and Roma rights and inclusion. It reviews what is needed at national level in order to build strong, sustainable social economy enterprises, which contribute in a positive way to the social and economic inclusion of Europeans of Romani origin across the continent, as a number of good practices from different national contexts, in the Annex.

The publication will be launched in the framework of ERGO Network’s annual public policy event, to be organised on 17 November together with Social Economy Europe and the Social Economy Intergroup in the European Parliament. More information will follow soon!

Access the position paper here.

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

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