Denis Stokkink, Board member of SOGA EU, founding president of the Brussels-based European think & do tank POUR LA SOLIDARITÉ-PLS. An economist and lecturer in social economy at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, he is also general rapporteur of the European Commission’s Group of Experts on Social Entrepreneurship (GECES). He gives us a progress report on the current state of play of the European institutions mobilised for the Social Economy and the role of GECES during the Covid crisis.

Can you tell us more about the genesis of GECES (2012-2017) ?

Denis Stokkink : “In its Communication on the “Social Entrepreneurship Initiative” (October 25th, 2011), the European Commission announced the establishment of a “Multi-stakeholder Advisory Group on Social Entrepreneurship” which will review the progress of the measures envisaged by this Communication. (…) this group could be composed of representatives from Member States, local authorities, social entrepreneurship organisations, the banking and financial sector, and the academic world”. 

This group of experts for the Social Economy at the European Commission (GECES) has therefore been set up for 6 years (2012-2017) in order to be consulted by the EU Commission in the framework of the social entrepreneurship initiative and on other issues related to social entrepreneurship and the social and solidarity economy.

The roadmap of this first GECES ended in 2016, with a General Report to the Commission. It listed, inter alia, five positive contributions of the Social Economy to the development of the EU and thirteen recommendations for concrete actions to take full advantage of the potential of social enterprises to address the four main problems faced by social economy actors and social enterprises: a lack of visibility, recognition and identity; difficulties in accessing finance; an inadequate legal framework and a serious lack of European programmes, networks and support mechanisms.”

What is the new GECES roadmap (2017-2023)?

Denis Stokkink : “In 2017, new commitments have been made and are being steered by the Taskforce co-chaired by Ann Branch (DG Employment) and Ulla Engelmann (DG Grow).

The new GECES has seen its members renewed and was constituted with the will to meet regularly the members to discuss the future of HE in Europe. Two subjects are the subject of a more developed consultation: solidarity finance (a report submitted at the end of 2019 will be presented at the European Summit in Mannheim at the end of November 2020) and ecological and social innovation clusters with Hugues Sibille, Denis Stokkink and Ana Umbelino as rapporteurs. A report with 30 good practices published in 2019, new report will also be presented in Mannheim.”  

How did EU Social economy experts respond to the Covid crisis and how do they prepare Mannheim European Summit?

Denis Stokkink : The GECES continues to work actively by exchanging between public and private experts and the European Commission on the possibilities of highlighting SSE. 

The members met on 29 April to share :

  1. Sectoral “Bottum up” initiatives from Social economy and civil society in the territories to respond to the challenges that enable, in particular, precarious populations to propose social innovations in emergency/transitional society situations. For example, DG Grow has worked to reference the social economy initiatives created across Europe on Covid 19 (DG GRow) and to set up a support unit that offers webinars of actors from the European Social Economy community.
  2. The vision and ambitions of European Social Economy actors, taken up by the European Commissioner for Employment Nicolas Schmidt during a speech on Q&A, to help prepare the European Commission’s action plan for the SSE, in the 2nd quarter of 2021. Nicolas Schmit also sent a letter to the national authorities of all EU Member States, stressing the importance of SSE responses in the territories and the importance of significant economic rescue measures directed towards Social Economy actors. All GECES members were enthusiastic about Commissioner Schmidt’s announcement that he is truly committed to giving SSE the means to develop.

    The next meeting of the GECES will take place on 18 June on the preparation of the European Social Economy Summit in Mannheim.