• Service: Enterprise, Family business
  • Type: Business and industry issue
  • Date: 12/25/2012

Complementarity and substitution: social entrepreneurship and the public sector 

Social entrepreneurship
Faustine Delasalle is a part of Convergences 2015, the platform for thought in Europe that aims to build new convergences between public, private, and solidarity-based actors to promote the Millennium Development Goals and to alleviate poverty and privation in developed and developing countries. Convergences 2015 brought more than 200 organizations together to reflect on the challenges of cross-sector partnerships, international cooperation, microfinance, social entrepreneurship, and sustainable development.

Here is Delasalle’s contribution to the 2012 Barometer of Social Entrepreneurship…

The power of social enterprises

“We really believe in the power of social enterprises,” stated Rohan Silva, advisor to David Cameron at 10 Downing Street. Benoît Hamon, the new Minister for Social and Cooperative Economy in France, goes the same way:

They are a pool of considerable growth, they bring jobs that cannot be relocated and activities that are useful to all.

Public institutions attach a growing importance to social entrepreneurship, in which they recognise the ability to find solutions that are adapted to different social and environmental challenges and to contribute to the economic dynamism of territories.

Added to this is an increasingly evident assessment which Arnaud Mourot, Director of Ashoka France, summarises well:

Investing in social entrepreneurship is extremely profitable both for the state and for public authorities at large.

Social entrepreneurship and public authorities

Behind this shared enthusiasm, differences in perception soon emerge from the role and position of social entrepreneurship in relation to public authorities. In the United Kingdom, where the Cameron government has launched a vast development plan for social entrepreneurship, Rohan Silva explains that:

Social enterprises are able to meet challenges and be more effective than state actors. Quite frankly, over the past 20 to 30 years in both France and the UK, the state has not done such a great job educating the very poor, or tackling social breakdown and needs for housing estates, or providing a solution to issues at stake across our countries. What is important therefore is what works, what will be most effective, what will best help the people that we want to help.

This strategy does not meet with unanimous agreement, particularly in France where it is often interpreted as a turnaround for the state.

It’s the responsibility of governments to adopt and spread the social solutions conceived and produced by innovative social enterprises,” confirms Celso Grecco, founder in Brazil of the first social stock exchange.

We consider it both politically legitimate and more secure that the social mission be financed with public and private-public funds,” confirms Olivier Dupuis, General Secretary of CNEI (National Committee of Work Integration Social Enterprises), who fears the consequences of excessive privatisation in this sector of activity:

Integration through economic activity is a profession. For us, the driving force behind the activity of integration is the social driver. But, if we start saying that it can become a market like any other, the risk is that the question will no longer be how to integrate people but rather how to make a profit.

The role of the state

Faced with the reluctance of certain social entrepreneurs, Arnaud Mourot conversely accepts the evolution of the role of the state:

We are sure that today the role of the welfare state as operator, financer and organiser is over. A new era has begun, that of a driving state.

In this context, social enterprises have to “translate social problems into opportunities for economic development, innovation and the reduction of the public bill.

Beyond the differences in points of view concerning the role the state can or should assume in relation to social policies and with regard to the subsequent positioning of social enterprises, there is one point unanimously shared among the representatives of social enterprises: the need for the relations between social enterprises and the state and local authorities to evolve from an ‘ordering party – service provider’ relationship to a process of co-creation of public policies.


Christophe Bernard

Christophe Bernard
I am a KPMG partner based in the French firm’s Paris office, responsible for encouraging the growth of our firms’ middle markets practice across Europe, Middle East and Africa, a majority of that market comprises of family businesses.

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