The Second European Social Innovation Competition, an initiative run by the European Commission, has awarded three social initiatives with prizes for their innovative social entrepreneurship concepts. The European Social Network (ESN) welcomes the promotion of social entrepreneurship and congratulates the winners from Italy, Belgium and Ireland.

Social entrepreneurship is a topic on the rise and different types of social businesses have emerged in the past years, some run using own revenues, while others have received external support. Recent socio-economic factors have also contributed to the need for developing social entrepreneurship – the high unemployment rate in particular has stirred up European labour markets and yielded dramatic effects in many countries, especially for vulnerable groups, such as young people. Social businesses often create employment opportunities at low costs and use resources in a highly efficient way. The Social Innovation Competition therefore revolves around the lead topic of the ‘Job Challenge’ to address some of the problems in today’s labour markets. The three winners aim to bring a significant contribution to this goal.

The Italian social business From Waste to Wow creates affordable fashion collections assembling high-quality unused materials from established ‘Made in Italy’ brands, whilst employing disadvantaged women exclusively.

The Belgian proposal of Urban farming lease promotes volunteering in the support of professional farmers in combination with professional training on specific agricultural methods and skills.

The Irish initiative Voidstarter will identify so-called ‘voids’ (empty social housing) and convert them into temporary learning spaces and entrepreneurship labs designed for the training of unemployed people.

In a press release, the European Commissioner for the Single Market, Michel Barnier, congratulated the winners: “We believe that the winning projects can take advantage of unmet social needs and create sustainable jobs. I want these projects to be scaled up and replicated and inspire more social innovations in Europe. We need to tap into this potential to bring innovative solutions to the needs of our citizens and create new types of work.”

Social entrepreneurship will also be explored at our 22nd European Social Services Conference in Rome on 7-9 July, join us for some interesting debates.