NETWORK THAT IS CHANGING THE FUTURE OF SOCIAL ENTERPRISES
On the 28th and 29th of November, a partnership of Interreg Central Europe project SENTINEL met in Ljubljana to discuss project updates and plan for the future. A partnership is consisted of 10 main partners with many other associate partners participating in discussions. Project's main outcomes are developing a toolbox of knowledge and practices for both social enterprises and the supportive environment. The focus of the project being the underdeveloped regions of different countries included in the project.
The main purpose of the semi-annual meeting was to present current findings of the project and map the road ahead of the partnership. In the first part, findings of country analysis were presented. For the project’s needs each country had to write a Country report and create Needs analysis for pinpointing issues in status quo and identify future possibilities of development of social enterprises.
Representatives of all the countries involved gave detailed descriptions on techniques used – from desk research, to focus groups and SWOT analysis, giving an in depth results long needed in the social enterprises sector.
Slovenia, being a part of the project, is represented by two organizations: PRIZMA – Fundacija za izboljšanje zaposlitvenih možnosti and Fund 05 – Foundation for social investment. PRIZMA’s role is to organize Slovenia’s pilot study held in Podravje, while Fund 05 is focusing on financial side of social enterprises and the supporting environment.
Slovenian research has shown that while there’s abundance of supporting networks for start-ups, specialized environment and development of social enterprises is seriously lagging. Although we can find some good examples of supporting environment, they are more of an example than a regular practice.
Social enterprises of Slovenia (there were 252 of them in August 2017) are facing different challenges. One of the greatest challenges is accessing financial funds needed in early stages of development and accessing bridge loans for successful implementation of different European projects. The final outcome of SENTINEL will address all the challenges and provided answers for advancement of social sector as a whole. Even though social enterprises are quite struggling at the moment, we have still managed to identify some good examples to the sector as a whole.
Maribor’s cooperative Dame (“Ladies”) offers locally produced and ethnical food at affordable prices. Owners and cooks are elderly women, ladies, daily changing the superb menu for broad range of taste. The second example worth mentioning is Ljubljana’s SmetUmet – glamorous garbage, creating innovative products from materials we would otherwise throw away. With their iconic bags and Dragon chilli seeds they definitely represent market oriented social enterprise, successfully dealing and overcoming different challenges.