Social entrepreneurship, which is about developing a traditional enterprise to resolve social or environmental problems, such as providing creches, housing or services for the elderly, has enjoyed a fresh burst of interest in recent years in Europe and across other continents. For good reason. Despite the crisis, these enterprises have created thousands of jobs while making a significant contribution to social inclusion and innovation.

Currently, according to the European Commission, one in four companies in the European Union falls into the social economy category. Anchored in an age-old tradition in France, where it accounts for 10% of gross domestic product (GDP) and more recently in Germany, where it represents 4.1% of GDP - the same as the automobile industry (1)- this form of company is making headway in Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy and Spain.

It has made much more modest progress elsewhere, where "there was no such thing as a social enterprise," points out Penny Newman, well known in the UK for having contributed to its development over the last twenty years.

The reason for this entrepreneurial phenomenon, so little known by the general public, is the economic crisis. This is leading to higher unemployment and a crisis in the liberal model that hands over all social responsibility to member states to deal with on their own. "The crisis has challenged the Western model, based on the free market and a welfare state," say Henri Malosse, president of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and three Commissioners: Antonio Tajani (industry and entrepreneurship), Michel Barnier (internal market and services) and Laszlo Andor (employment, social affairs and inclusion)

(2). For them, "new European growth" is necessary. It will need "to turn its back on the irresponsible behaviour of financial liberalism to base itself on the real economy, entrepreneurs and to enable long-term investment, be that in the development of innovating services, in the modernisation of our social and health infrastructure, in the energy transition or in the development of skills". Social entrepreneurship is described as a "source of inspiration" for a...

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