This paper is partly based on data collected as part of the PERSE research project (2001- 2004), which was carried out by various members of the EMES European Research Network.1 The main goal of this research project is to measure the social and economic performance of work integration social enterprises through the thorough study of more than 150 WISEs in 11 countries of the European Union, combining three areas of study:
- the analysis of the various types of resources mobilised, be they market, nonmarket or social capital-based resources;
- the measure of individual benefits (for the workers in integration) and of collective benefits (for society at large) generated by these enterprises;
- the study of their organisational evolution over time and their interaction with public policies.
The goal pursued in this paper is twofold. In the first section, the wide diversity of WISEs in Europe will be illustrated on the basis of five distinct typologies : modes of integration, status of the workers in integration, modes of social and professional training, main characteristics of the target groups and distribution of the resources mobilised. In the second section, the common features of European WISEs will be studied from the point of view of the definition of the “social enterprise” elaborated by the EMES Network.