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Social enterprises – the grand solution to today’s social ills? Ulrika Levander School of social work, Lund university, SWEDEN.

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Presentation on theme: "Social enterprises – the grand solution to today’s social ills? Ulrika Levander School of social work, Lund university, SWEDEN."— Presentation transcript:

1 Social enterprises – the grand solution to today’s social ills? Ulrika Levander School of social work, Lund university, SWEDEN

2 The social enterprise in Sweden  Is in today’s political discourse presented as a new & innovative way to approach welfare challenges (strongly supported by the Swedish government)  Increases: duplication over the last four years  Is surrounded by a positive rhetoric

3 The focus of my study  …how the understanding of the social enterprise is constructed in Sweden today?  …what the implications and dilemmas of the solutions to welfare challenges advocated in the prevailing discourses of social enterprises are?

4 The definition provided by the Swedish government (Work-integration) social enterprises Enterprises operating business…  with the overall purpose to integrate people, who have great difficulties to achieve and/or keep a job, in the society and in the labour market  who creates participation to their employees through ownership, formal agreements or in other well documented ways  who mainly reinvest its profit in its own or similar activities (not for-profit)  who is organisationally independent of the public sector (Näringsdepartementet - Ministry of Enterprise, Energy and Communication 2010)

5 Different institutional features  Business political force – operates business, creates new job openings  Labour-market policy tool – workfare- and activation-measures/work-rehabilitation  Social policy actor – a third sector welfare- producer, subcontractor to the public sector

6 The politicized discourse of social enterprises in Sweden  By operating business the social enterprises can create new job openings for groups of people that traditionally have difficulties to be established in the labour market  Reduces social exclusion  Take advantages of people’s abilities – often talked of as ‘participation’ The enterprises present innovative measures to combat social exclusion by offering jobs that take advantage of people’s abilities and create alternative tracks to work- rehabilitation Handlingsplan för arbetsintegrerande sociala företag, Näringsdepartementet 2010

7 As a labour-market policy tool  Solution to social exclusion = the grand ‘social ill’ of today (i.e. being unemployed/ “standing outside” the labour market)  The intensification of Swedish activation policies (the mid 1990’s and onwards)  The unemployed shall be made “ employable ”  Control and demands of quid pro quo  Unemployment are viewed as a problem of activation rather than a problem of structural redistribution

8 Problem?  Subsidized employment programs for socially excluded people usually show vague or negative effects for possibilities to get a job  Recirculation between open unemployment and workfare measures  “Lock-in” effects in benefit dependency

9 Solution needed?  The creation of activation and rehabilitation measures that lead to “ real ” jobs The enterprises present innovative measures to combat social exclusion by offering jobs that take advantage of people’s abilities and create alternative tacks to work-rehabilitation Handlingsplan för arbetsintegrerande sociala företag, Näringsdepartementet 2010 Prop. 2009/10:55 En politik för det civila samhället: Social enterprises are particularly emphasised as organizations that can undertake workfare assignments within the “Jobb- och utvecklingsgarantin” (2007)

10 Contradiction: Focus on offering jobs Three types of social enterprises are described by the government. Enterprises with… 1)paid employees 2)an emphasis on work-rehabilitation to a job at another working-place 3)An emphasis on pursuit and a sense of social fellowship …only one of these types offer ‘real jobs’

11 As a third sector welfare producer – a subcontractor to public authorities  Increased interest for actors of the third sector to produce and deliver welfare services  Political ambition to develop new forms of collaboration between the public sector and the third sector  New ways of citizen participation and political participation are implemented in Swedish social policies (e.g. Överenskommelsen mellan regering, idéburna organisationer inom det sociala området och Sveriges Kommuner och Landsting)

12 Hopes and “promises”?  A positively framed discourse (of social enterprises – as well as of the third sector)  Catchwords : participation, empowerment, social capital, self-help

13 Problems?  Lack of knowledge regarding the civil society  The extent to which third sector organisations perform welfare operations on behalf of the public sector  No collected statistics regarding social enterprises and their effects/result

14 Still: The idea of participation is a central feature in the talk of social enterprises  Social enterprises “ create participation ” for its employees (but everyone is not employed)  The participation distinguishes the social enterprises from other work-rehabilitation initiatives (Nutek 2008)  ”…create unique conditions for personal development, empowerment ” (Nutek 2008)  “… unique in their emphasis on participation” (Arbetslivsinstitutet 2002)  “… participation creates empowerment and rehabilitating effects (Arbetslivsinstitutet 2002)

15 Query  Can social enterprises both create participation for excluded people and – at the same time – offer effective workfare-measures ?

16 Two competing discourses of the social enterprise  The self-governing discourse  Excluded people make their own solutions  Self-help  Challenges the paternalism implied by welfare solutions traditionally offered by the public sector  Mobilises excluded groups  The exclusion discourse  An efficient labour market policy tool  People learn to take responsibility, becomes self- sufficient  Combat social exclusion  Economically viable for the society

17 Key differences  The identities of people within the social enterprises are negotiated  From being people who has the capacity to create their own solutions ( acting agents )  To being people who need societal support ( objects of change )

18 Different ideological implications  From being individuals who make changes of the institutional environment – and challenge prevailing power structures, the social entrepreneurs are framed as…  …people who shall be changed in order to be able to “ fit into ” society and into the labour market, i.e. already existing institutional structures

19 Ideological dilemma of the social enterprise  To conduct ‘ treatment ’ of benefit- recipients according to prevailing labour market policies and to allow excluded groups to form their own ‘bottom-up’ solutions according to ideas based on solidarity, self-help and participation

20 Therefore: important to look into constructions of the social enterprise – and its implications  How are different social enterprises presenting themselves?

21 A double speech  The success story  Benefit-recipients become businessmen  Excluded people have recourses and abilities, which are utilized  The treatment story  T he client is in focus – not the businessman  The human-service content of the services provided by social enterprises are emphasised:  “We address needs” (rather than recognize abilities)  “…offer structure and support” (rather than utilize recourses)

22 Negotiated institutional legitimacy  The various stories offers different ways to shape legitimacy for social enterprises, as  …innovative businesses and job creators  …alternative and efficient rehabilitation actors  The narratives offer various possibilities to handle the ideological and institutional dilemmas of the social enterprise

23 Conclusions…  Consistent ambiguity regarding the social enterprises role as job-creators and rehabilitation actors  Creates queries regarding the quality of the work integration solutions provided by social enterprises  Need for a more critical debate regarding the social enterprise as the grand solution to today’s social ills

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