Together with Birkhölzer, Karl/Glänzel, Gunnar/Lautermann, Christian/Mildenberger,Georg
Research concerning social economy and social enterprises in Germany is still at an early stage and tends to focus on defining the “boundaries” and building a common and widely accepted understanding of terms, limitations and underlying concepts.
Although the terms social economy and social enterprise are not legally defined nor understood in detail in Germany today, various organizations exist, which work according to business principles, but aim for the greater common good rather than for individual gain. They do not act or see themselves as something like a coherent “social economy sector”, but are organised in separate groups or “families”, with different identities, institutional and legal frameworks, research, development, education and training organizations etc.
This contribution therefore outlines the main discussion lines of what could be considered social enterprises according to the criteria underlying the ICSEM project. We discuss the explicit use of the notion in relation to the general policy, legal and finance-related environment as well as the institutional landscape and the socio-economic and social policy context. We analyse the major conceptions having emerged in literature and research so far and seek to outline the topic in relation to other concepts. Finally, we discuss the interest of public authorities and their underlying conceptions.