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Social Innovations Forum - Social economy in the Western Balkans needs a comprehensive political and legal framework, financial support and more visibility

Social enterprises make an important social and economic contribution to society. In the Western Balkans, however, there is still a lack of a political and legal framework that ensures the recognition and support of such enterprises. The participants of the Social Innovations Forum in Belgrade therefore call for more support to increase their visibility.

Last week, Most Europa participated in the Social Innovations Forum in Belgrade organised by PULSE Group and RISE - Regional Incubator for Social Entrepreneurs. The event took place for the eighth time and promotes and strengthens social entrepreneurship in the Western Balkans.

During the two days, participants discussed how social entrepreneurship can be strengthened and what needs to change for social enterprises to reach their full social and economic potential in the region. Susan Fritz from USAID opened the event and underlined that social entrepreneurs need more freedom and that a solid policy framework is essential for this.

Sandra Grujičić from the Serbian Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Policy pointed out that there are still no legal regulations in Serbia that support social entrepreneurs, even though they are vital for social and economic development of a society. Therefore, she proposed to form a working group to develop a law, which should necessarily include organisations from the sector.

The legal status of social enterprises being often unclear makes it hard to identify them and measure their social impact, said Veerle Kljin from Euclid Network.

And that is precisely what makes social enterprises so important: their impact on pressing issues, such as unemployment, environmental protection, the inclusion of vulnerable groups, etc. Social enterprises make an immense contribution to solving cross-cutting topics and should be supported accordingly, Ivana Stančić from Smart Kolektiv demanded. 

Therefore, decision-makers should expand the visibility of social enterprises through legal recognition, financial support and by including them in decision-making processes. 

Dana Verbal from the European Commission, DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, Unit for Social and Inclusive Entrepreneurship announced that in December 2021, the EU will launch the new EU Action Plan for Social Economy.