The Socio-Economic Performance of Social Enterprises in the Field of Integration by Work
PERSE was a four-year EU funded project aiming to examine the socio-economic performance of ‘work integration social enterprises’ (WISEs).
Against the background of economic crises, weakening social bonds and restructuring of the welfare state, almost all industrialised countries are currently witnessing a growth in the so-called ‘social economy’. Next to the business private and public sectors, the social economy (also referred to as ‘third sector’) embraces a wide range of community, voluntary and not-for-profit activities, non-governmental organisations and charities. The increasing number of economic initiatives within this sector has been called ‘social enterprises’ (SEs). They focus on social aims and are driven by a new entrepreneurial spirit. This third sector growth has given a new means of expression to civil society. The persistence of structural unemployment in many countries, the need to reduce public budget deficits and increase the number of active integration policies, plus the difficulties faced by traditional social policies have naturally raised the question of how far the third sector can find a remedy.
The main objective of the PERSE project was to further develop the theory of SEs and it focused on ‘work integration social enterprises’ (WISEs), which cover the major bulk of SE activity. The main goal of WISEs is to help poorly qualified unemployed people who are at risk of permanent exclusion from the labour market. Through productive activity, these enterprises integrate disadvantaged workers back into work and society in general. At the same time, WISEs produce (quasi)- public goods, which make their vision twofold.