What is the Elexies project?

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-financedThe type of job they provide to the disadvantaged person: permanent, temporaryThe place of training within their activitiesThe 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. 


  • European Network of Social Integration Enterprises asbl

  • EMES -European Research Network about Social Economy

  • CECOP - The European Confederation of Workers’ Co-operatives, Social Co-operatives and Social and Participative Enterprises

Introduction to the National filing card

This project is specifically concerned with the different types of social enterprise for integration, also known as work integration social enterprise (WISE) in 12 EU countries. Its aim is to identify and describe their main characteristics as social enterprises, the type of work integration they provide, their numbers, and how they have developed and are supported. The ultimate goal of the project is to build a database accessible on internet.

The study is conducted using the EMES Network definition of social enterprise as a common reference point and guideline for determining the social enterprises to be included in the study. The EMES definition distinguishes, on the one hand, between criteria that are more economic and, on the other hand, indicators that are predominantly social.  

ELEXIES Results 

For a better recognition of the contribution of the integration social enterprises for social inclusion in the European Union

Introduction: The political orientations as defined by the European Council

At the occasion of the European Council of Lisbon and Feira in March 2000, the members of the European Union have taken a major step making out of the fight against social exclusion and poverty one of the key elements for the modernisation of the European Social model. The promotion of social integration has been claimed as a key point of the EU global strategy to achieved its strategic aim from now to 2010, that is to become the most competitive knowledge economy and one of the most dynamic in the world, able to reach a sustainable economic growth together with a qualitative and quantitative improvement in term of employment and a greater social cohesion. It has also set up as an aim, full employment in Europe, in a new society, better adapted to the personal choices of the women and men.

Poverty and social exclusion have complex forms and shapes that oblige us to call upon a wide range of policies in the framework of this global strategy. Nevertheless a quality job is the key element for social inclusion.

In order to promote a quality employment we ought to develop the integration through work capacities, mainly thanks to the acquisition of skills and long term training. The implementation of these aims by the EU in the framework of the European strategy in favour of employment contributes also in the fight against exclusion. The economic growth and social cohesion are mutually reinforced. A society with a higher social cohesion and less exclusion is the token for a more effective economy.

The role of the social economy is highlighted:

Within the social economy one finds a multitude of occasions for integration and employment. The organisation of the third system can be defined as private and autonomous, having among other missions to reach social and economic aims of common interest, to limit the monopolising strategies, single or private of the profits and work for the local collectivities or for groups of persons coming from the civil society and having common interests. They are often managed jointly by all concerned actors, mainly paid workers, voluntary workers and users.

 With the right support the social economy can contribute in a more efficient way to the enlargement of the labour market and the creation of new possibilities for low qualified workers or with their abilities reduced so that they can use their skills and be fully active in their professional life. The incl/NAPs give several examples on how the social economy potential is used. Italy, France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Sweden develop the social economy as a sources of employment for low qualified workers, as a potential production tool via measures aiming at simplifying the legal framework, facilitate the access to public services and working as a network for the public administrations.

  • Preserve and encourage the development of social economy

A) At a European level

It is recommended:

to allow the States to support their social integration enterprises, including through financial direct support, on the basis of a clear social security benefits contract and on the basis of reliable and regular evaluations;to recognise the specificity of the mission of the social integration enterprises, which in fact, can not be regarded as exerting an unfair competition with respect to the so called "traditional" enterprises;to recognise that a large number of them fulfil general interest missions for which the rules of the market cannot be applied if we want to guarantee the access for all without conditions of solvency of the people to whom these services are addressed;to leave the possibility to introduced social clauses in the calls for tenders of the public markets in particular in the form of quotas and by the introduction of selection criteria privileging the social aspects allowing to adopt proposals such as "better saying socially" over others "saying less financially";to state the specific role of the Work Integration Social Enterprises in the Green Paper on entrepreneurship;to recognise the high added value of the capital with a social aim, generated by these enterprises;to explicitly specify the role of the WISE in the European strategies for employment and for social inclusion as a complement of the public actions;to start with a step of recognition of the representativeness of the WISE in the sectorial social dialogue and the European social dialogue by supporting the dialogue with all the EU institutions and the European Trade Unions Confederation;to insert specific lines in the European action programmes, for example in the programmes supported by the European Regional Development Funds (FEDER), as it is the case of measure 4 (or D) of the Equal programme financed by the ESF: To reinforce the social economy (third sector), and mainly the public interest services, by concentrating in the improvement of the quality of the jobs";to work for the recognition of the general interest enterprises at the level of the EU bodies and mainly by the Parliament and of the Economic and Social Committee.

B) At a national level in each country of the EU

Work Integration Social Enterprises call upon all the public powers and the national social actors in order to :

Value the contribution of the WISE in the Social Inclusion National Action Plans and to include then in the global strategies fighting against exclusion;Admit the possibility to set up its own tax system and appropriated legal forms for the WISE;Favour the creation of employers regrouping for integration and qualification,Encourage the creation of social enterprises under the co-operative form that would like to set up the possibilities offered by the recent statute of the European Co-operative society, as soon as it is adopted;Work for the labelisation of the SIE that respect a specific work schedule based on the nature of the mission after /under agreement with the public powers;Encourage the negations for collective agreements specific to the sector;Define the target groups leaving the possibility to operated with "mixed" populations;Think about the integration of the sector within the social organisation representative at a national level ;Find the tools to collect reliable statistics for the activity of the sector;Assure the possibility to set up mixed financing procedures (private, public, and donations) and support the financial tools that support specifically the sector.

C) Within the Work Integration Social Enterprises

The representative movements commit themselves to:

To give clear and transparent account of their activities allowing to value the social mission that they develop when they are supported by the public powers;Privilege the participation of all parts concerned in their enterprise project;Support themselves within a network to encourage the creation and development of the integrating enterprises;Integrate and support the creation of similar networks in the candidate countries;Support the creation and implementation of a participative management policy;Take all their place in the movements representing the social economy in general;Carry on with the first initiatives started on the definition of criteria for a future labelisation and the tools for the social audit for the evaluation of their activities;Go even further in the transparency of the allocation and repartition of the profits in the case of the social enterprises "for profit" supported by the public powers (but that are in reality "not for profit ones").

Because they have a social, through work and citizens integration project for those who can not benefit from all their rights, because they have put themselves at the heart of the economic system and they contribute to the innovation and social cohesion, because they have a highly pedagogical and integrating role, the Work Integration Social Enterprises constitute the key element for the construction of a solidarity based and more competitive Europe in which the whole of the citizens can have their place.

Within a European project that combines social, economic, cultural and ecological development Work Integration Social Enterprises only claim one thing: the recognition by all the related forms of the decisive key role they play in this project.

Work Integration Social Enterprises

Definition : The Work Integration Social Enterprises (WISE) are autonomous entities whose main aim is social and through work integration of the disabled or socially excluded persons by granting them a monitoring or a personalised training for a lasting integration within their structures or in a traditional economic structure.

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Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Commission. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.