The Editors' Post: The real star of the show

Pioneers Post's Laura Joffre reports from a long-awaited and high-profile gathering on Europe's social economy – where the "guest of honour" makes a powerful appeal for solidarity. 

The past two days have seen one of the most high-profile gatherings for the social economy in Europe: The Future of Europe conference, held in Strasbourg. The event brought together social entrepreneurs and policymakers from across Europe, including some A-listers, like Spain’s deputy prime minister Yolanda Díaz, who pledged to make the social economy a priority of her country’s EU presidency next year.

But the star of the show wasn’t a head of state. When the audience stood up, it was to greet Petro Darmoris from the Ukrainian Social Academy. In an emotional speech, he asked the EU to take Ukraine on board in its action plan to boost the social economy – and to invest in Ukrainian social enterprises to support the country.

Social enterprises show remarkable resilience during crises, and studies of how the sector fared around the world since the beginning of the pandemic are evidence of this. In the first few days of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Anna Gulevska-Chernysh, co-founder of SILab, who was talking to me from Kyiv, told me how social enterprises in her network were already pivoting to provide urgent help.



But what came out of Darmoris’s speech was the hope he held for the future – after the crisis. When the war is over, the social economy will be a key player in the reconstruction; and he knows this.

As it happens, Ukraine may well have one or two things to teach some EU states on the social economy. More than 100 years ago already, thousands of co-ops were flourishing in the country, boosting economic activity while improving people’s livelihoods, Darmoris told the audience. And while this movement was crushed by the Soviet regime for decades, the social entrepreneurship spirit of Ukrainians regained power after its independence, and even more so after the 2014 revolution. 

Europe will be richer – figuratively but also literally, in the long term – if it includes Ukraine in its vision for a Europe-wide social economy

“We have a lot to share, because we know how social enterprises can play a role in wartime and postwar recovery,” Darmoris said. Europe will be richer – figuratively but also literally, in the long term – if it includes Ukraine in its vision for a Europe-wide social economy. How you make it happen is a much more complicated question, as Ukraine isn’t a member state, and cynics will say hope is sometimes wishful thinking. But the words of the European leaders who welcomed their “guest of honour” suggested otherwise.


Landmark court ruling – and a trailblazing newcomer closes shop

Other unmissable stories in Pioneers Post this week: a landmark court ruling for charities in the UK, why an award-winning social entrepreneur had to close shop, and how to use art as a new approach to international development (intriguing, right?).

Finally, applications have now closed for the NatWest SE100 Index and Awards, which celebrate the UK’s top 100 social enterprises. Big thanks to all the candidates for their submissions, and to our new partners Social Investment Business and UnLtd, who are joining as support organisations for the initiative. Keep your eyes peeled on our website and social media channels for the latest updates… The wait has begun!


This week's top stories: 6 May 2022

‘Guest of honour’ at EU social economy conference, Ukraine asks to join bloc’s flagship plan

London Early Years Foundation chooses £1.5m charity bond over 'typical' social investment to fund growth

New approaches to international development – seen through a creative lens


Top picture: the EU parliament in Strasbourg, by Guilhem Vellut

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