Social enterprise in Europe: Recent trends and developments

EMES Working Papers no. 08/01 (transversal paper)

The notion of social enterprise first appeared in Italy in the late 1980s, but it really began to be used at the European level in the mid 1990s, especially through the works of the EMES European Research Network. As will be shown in the following pages, although the concept itself has not gained the same recognition in all European countries (and is even still poorly understood in several of them), the field realities that it aims to highlight are developing almost everywhere and increasing research efforts are being made to analyse them.

International literature on this theme is thus now developing significantly. Within this context, the objective of the present paper is twofold: first, through this introductory part, we try to synthesize major evolutions experienced by social enterprises across Europe and key challenges they are facing; in the second part, members of the EMES Network provide a more precise – although concise – update as to current trends and debates in their respective countries.2 But before going further, it seems useful to begin with some terminological clarifications.

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