Nearly in all industrialised countries, we assist nowadays to a remarkable development of the "third sector", that is socio-economic initiatives that do not belong to the area of the private enterprises that mainly aim at profit-making neither the area of the public sector. Several surveys have shown that we are probably going from a "welfare state" towards a new governance concept where the political responsibilities and the traditional enterprises have left the field to the third sector for the provision of goods and services. In the debates of the place and role of social economy, recent analyses have underlined a growing interest for these fields not very well known by our economies: the multiplication of the so-called "social enterprises" transpose to all the EU countries the development of a new entrepreneurship with a social aim. 

One of the main activities field of the social integration enterprises is the training and re-integration of the excluded persons from the labour market and mainly the low qualified unemployed and the disadvantaged persons to stop them been permanently excluded from the labour market and to re-integrate the society in general.

In all European countries we find work integration social enterprises: work integration enterprises and proximity development agencies in France, work integration enterprises and social workshops in Belgium, type B social co-operatives in Italy, co-operative development local agencies (LKU) in Sweden, community businesses in the United Kingdom, social inclusion co-operatives and agencies in Spain. workers' co-operatives in Finland, local development social organisations in Ireland, integration co-operatives for disadvantaged persons in Portugal, community development and work/incubators co-operatives in Denmark

The social integration co-operatives are at the same time, an active tool of the employment policies since they combine the integration of disadvantaged person in the labour market and a policy to fight exclusion.

Social Integration enterprise/ approach BBP (benchmarking best practice)

The Social Integration Enterprises have a great heterogeneity at a European level. They are different according to:

  • The type of subsides they received from the public authorities (mainly through employment policies): permanent, temporary or largely self-financed
  • The type of job they provide to the disadvantaged person: permanent, temporary
  • The place of training within their activities
  • The relevance of the work integration social enterprises varies from one country to the other. In certain countries like Italy or France - there are thousands of work integration enterprises for long term unemployed and disadvantaged persons. In other countries the number of work integration social enterprises is very low since it is a recent phenomenon (Sweden, Finland).

We also find this difference at the level of the recognition within the different legal systems, the political recognition, degree of partnership with the public powers and other enterprises.

This heterogeneity at the EU level justifies the BBP approach: standardise the performance of the policies and innovations of the member states regarding the social integration enterprises, grow awareness of the national public policies trough collecting and exchanging information and a comparative approach, collect the "best practices", set up benchmarking pilot process around the social economy Troika (July 2001) (France, Belgium, Sweden and soon Spain).

In fact the surveys give us an incomplete image of this type of initiatives. Moreover most of the information on the work integration social enterprises is limited to quantitative data (number of enterprises, workers, users.). There is not enough information on the way social enterprises work, the way they mobilise and mix their productive resources but also on the quality of the jobs provide. Few evaluations on the capacity of integrating the excluded persons and few comparative studies have been done.