Social Entrepreneurship & Innovation – Two Oars of European Youth Lifeboat

Posted on 27. May 2014

by Daniel Gjokjeski

daniel-gjokjeski2José Manuel Durão Barroso, President of the European Commission, in one occasion said that the biggest asset of the Europe is that is a continent of creative social entrepreneurs who have designed systems to enhance education, health, social inclusion and the well-being of citizens. However, this risk taking, unreasonable, confident, value oriented entrepreneurs with a vision that cannot be understood by all is what might make today`s most economically threatened group in Europe, youth. In the spring of 2014 at the Connecting Entrepreneurship Stakeholders with Young Leaders Forum it was agreed that the specifics of the Millenials very much apply for European youth as well: sense of immediacy, technological know-how, performing tasks collaboratively, sharing information openly, solving problems through communal wisdom and mass participation. Therefore, we should look for opportunities that will meet their preferences and provide job opportunities.

With one statement of Dr. Lieve Fransen, Director of for Social Policies and Europe 2020 at the European Commission, triggered the topic that is mostly of my interest: “Social welfare state depends on the radical innovation of social entrepreneurship”. Such an approach should favor new entrants and ideas in the EU Innovation Policy recommendation. There is a need for innovation so that the bottom of the pyramid markets can become new sources of growth for multinational companies. This social innovation should generate a positive social impact driven by a social and economic motivation. It should be a scalable and sustainable model promoted by different actors that will take different forms and improve the lives of vulnerable groups. The current crisis highlights the importance of social innovation as a component of economic strategies to build Europe’s relative position in growing fields. Ideally, creative communities will include groups inventing sustainable solutions solving everyday issues. These solutions minimize human environmental impact, enrich the social fabric and promote interaction.

Beside this recognition and stimuli for social innovation and entrepreneurship the European youth still cannot take the leadership. One of the reason is that young people mostly do what is expected, follow common rules and thinking because it is even harder to find a job if you are risky, insecure, or susceptible to failure. Policies for youth empowerment and training in job searching and/or creating policies and strategies are suitable when dealing with this problem. For example, Youth on the Move presents a package of policy initiatives that aim to reduce unemployment by improving young people’s education and employability. Among those initiatives is the Youth Employment Initiative for support of young people currently not in education, employment or training, targeting the Union’s regions where youth unemployment rate was above 25% in 2012. Another example is the Youth Guarantee Scheme for all young people under 25 to get a good-quality, concrete offer within 4 months of them leaving formal education or becoming unemployed. However, developments in the last few decades indicate that youth-related policies are treated more as part of the European Employment Strategy than as a comprehensive strategy. Additionally, none of these initiatives enhance youth inclusion in the field of social entrepreneurship, although social welfare depends on it, as Dr. Fransen said, and European youth has preferences to develop this kind of enterprises.

Hence, considering all the programs, facts, and preferences, can be concluded that first, there is a need for shift of the approach towards this issue, youth unemployment is not a threat, but it is an opportunity for evolution of the European social economy, and second, there is a need for a novel platform that on supranational level will build bridges between different funds and programs to enhance the efficiency of the policies, and on national level will introduce transfer of knowledge and experience of practices of entrepreneural approaches in the public and private sector between states. Additonally, there is a lack of understanding and structural support of the social economy, especially in the most threatened countries and groups of the crisis, so by many is still considered as risky and unsustainable. Therefore, although we highly emphasis the impact of social entrepreneurship on equality and economic growth and youth capacities for developing social innovations, as long as real, practical and long-term initiatives are not developed to empower youth to make its impact, there is going to be a long and dusty road towards Social Europe.