ICSEM is a unique worldwide research project which aimed to identify, analyse and compare social enterprise (SE) models across countries, regions and fields. It brought together, between 2013 and 2020, 230 researchers working together under the coordination of two long-standing EMES members and leading scholars in the field of social enterprise, Jacques Defourny and Marthe Nyssens. The project covered some 60 countries in all regions of the world, and built up a database on some 720 social enterprises from over 40 countries.
The first major step of the Project aimed to understand SE-related context and concepts in each country, to identify SE models and to describe their institutional trajectories. This first stage resulted in the publication of some 50 country studies under the form of ICSEM Working papers (all freely available for download).
The second stage of the project focused on data collection and resulted in the abovementioned database. On the basis of a common questionnaire, data were collected about over 700 social enterprises emblematic of the SE models identified in the first stage, with a view to strengthening international comparative analysis and to proposing a worldwide typology of SE models.
In a last stage, a comparative analysis of SE models within world regions and at the global level resulted in publications—journals’ articles and special issues and books—combining country-level information from previous stages, statistical work on key SE features as well as transversal analysis of some issues such as institutionalisation of SE models. Four books resulted from the ICSEM Project: Social Enterprise in Latin America, Social Enterprise in Asia, Social Enterprise in Western Europe and Social Enterprise in Central and Eastern Europe, all of which have been made available in Open Access (with the support of the Empower-SE COST Action 16206 for the two “European” books and of the Chaire Économie Sociale et Solidaire, Le Mans University, France, for the “Asian” book). These four books were also the subject of a series of publications, entitled “One Day, One Team, One Chapter…” on the EMES blog.
ICSEM researchers shared a quite unique feature: they all took part in the project on a voluntary basis. Indeed, the ICSEM budget only covered coordination costs as well as accommodation costs for researchers taking part in ICSEM’s major meetings. ICSEM “Research Partners” have come a long way together—much further than they might have dreamt when the Project started, back in July 2013—and ICSEM has become much more than a “simple” (though incredibly large-scale) research project: a community of committed researchers.
Over the course of the ICSEM Project, some 20 meetings were organised: general meetings bringing together all the researchers involved in the project, across national and regional borders; regional symposiums gathering researchers in various regions of the world; and local talks aiming to create links and interactions between ICSEM national teams and various stakeholders (in particular, local policy-makers and social entrepreneurs) at the local level. The numerous ICSEM-linked publications are of course major outputs of the Project, but great memories of shared events (which, for all participants, will no doubt be recalled to memory by the pictures and photo albums of the events) are another…