The EUCLID Network is the European network to empower civil society & social enterprise. As part of their work they run Erasmus for Young Social Entrepreneurs, a pan-European programme that brings together aspiring social entrepreneurs with more experienced peers.
On the 7th December 2018 EUCLID Network hosted a ‘Gathering to Grow’ event in London, for alumni of their Young Social Entrepreneurs Programme. The event brought together an energetic mixture of social entrepreneurs and support organisations from 16 countries across Europe.
Mark Richardson and Dr Sarah Evans represented the INTSENSE project. As well as taking part in the Pitch Lab, where aspiring social entrepreneurs practised their pitch for investment, Mark and Sarah presented the early stage findings of the INTSENSE mapping exercise, to sense-check these with internationally focussed social entrepreneurs and support organisations.
Amongst this audience were a number of social enterprises looking to trade or operate across international borders. The EUCLID Network is clearly helping to raise that international aspiration through the opportunities it presents to mix with, and learn from, social entrepreneurs from across Europe. Ann Branch, the Head of Unit ‘Job Creation’ at the European Commission, also spoke about similar collaborative European networks funded through the EU for Work Integration Social Enterprises (WISE), Cooperatives and Microfinance.
But there was general agreement that, beyond Scotland, there is no specific support for social enterprises in Europe wishing to internationalise. Funding and networks might encourage learning across borders, but almost all of it encourages the development and growth of locally or nationally focussed enterprises.
There remain four key challenges facing most social enterprises wishing to internationalise, which could be addressed by national governments, or perhaps more appropriately by the EU.
The mapping exercise being conducted as part of this INTSENSE project will hopefully give a good understanding of the current position from which to develop appropriate European and national programmes, as well as providing information to social entrepreneurs about any support they can utilise already.