European social enterprises dissatisfied with politicians’ support, reveals new research

The Euclid Network launched the inaugural European Social Enterprise Monitor, which compiles data from eight countries, at the European Social Economy Summit 2021 on 26 May. 

Nearly seven out of ten social entrepreneurs who have taken part in a new European survey of social enterprises are unhappy with the support they receive from politicians.

The figures were revealed yesterday when the Euclid Network launched the inaugural European Social Enterprise Monitor at the European Social Economy Summit 2021, broadcast from Mannheim on 26 and 27 May.

The research found that 67% of social enterprises rate political support for their work as non-existent, low or very low. 

Pablo Hoffmann, a researcher at Germany’s social entrepreneurship network SEND and one of the European Social Enterprise Monitor research team, said: “Politicians have still not granted social enterprise the necessary attention. This was clear in 2020 when a lot of social enterprises fell through the grid when the emergency loans came from governments at the beginning of the pandemic.”


ESEM political support chart

Most social enterprises are dissatisfied with the current level of political support. Chart reproduced from the European Social Enterprise Monitor 2020-21


This pilot research covering 2020-21 compiled data from 930 social enterprises in eight countries (the UK, Germany, Sweden, Spain, Portugal, Estonia, Denmark and Croatia). The team aims to incorporate findings from more countries from across the European Union in next year’s research. 

Key findings included that there are more than 65 legal forms used by social enterprises in the study, seven out of 10 of the social enterprises were less than 10 years old, and that finance was the biggest barrier to social enterprises’ development.



What’s more, nearly two-thirds had never applied for EU funding, and over the past year, 30% reported a profit, 28% broke even and 27% made a loss.


Social enterprises in Europe are young and ambitious

According to the 930 social enterprises included in the European Social Enterprise Monitor 2020-21:

  • 74% reinvest or donate their profits mainly in the social purpose of the organisation

  • 7 out of ten were founded in the past ten years

  • Their management teams are 59% women

  • 90% are aiming to scale up

  • 44% operate at the local authority or city level

  • 41% operate at national level

  • 15% operate at a European level 

  • They use more than 65 different legal forms

  • 64% believe there should be a specific social enterprise legal status

  • 96% are micro, small or medium sized enterprises

  • 30% reported a profit, 28% broke even and 27% made a loss over the past year

  • 11% used crowdsourcing over the past year

  • 6% took on impact investment over the past year

  • 16% were helped with funding by family and friends over the past year


One of the aims of the research is to raise the profile of social enterprise among politicians. Wieteke Dupain, head of knowledge, research and development at the Euclid Network, said the aim of the research was “to address the lack of data on social enterprise...and to inform decision-makers on social enterprises’ status, challenges and needs”. 


ESEM launch group

Wieteke Dupain, pictured top left at the online launch event during the European Social Economy Summit 2021, said the research aimed to influence policymaking


The European Commission is currently finalising its European Action Plan for the Social Economy which will launch later this year and run until 2026. Speaking at the launch, one of the team working on the action plan, Dana Verbal, policy officer for social entrepreneurship at the European Commission, said: “We are in desperate need for data and evidence. We have a lot of anecdotes and they are useful but it is a challenge to find out how representative they are.” She added that the research was “very useful and important to us”.