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Home / Resources / News / Putting a face on Europe’s social economy

Putting a face on Europe’s social economy

People naturally look for characters they can identify with. They have the power to personalize the story and deepen our connection with a particular issue. We know that identifying different types of unmet needs and capabilities can make use of customer segmentation techniques. But how about combining the data to reveal new needs & patterns, could these help create personas or characters people could relate to?

Our research created characters that help people put themselves in the shoes of the different situations that young Europeans face when trying to make a living. A report has just come out on the state of social economy across Europe. What’s fascinating is how the visualisation below helps bring to life the situation that social entrepreneurs face across each country.


The faces of social entrepreneurs in Europe
Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.
However, if we go deeper into the study, it argues that the social economy acts as a “buffer against the crisis”, based on the following assumptions, that the social economy:

“is difficult to relocate because groups of people are anchored in places and more resistant in view of its financial reserves, which they cannot be distributed to the shareholders”

What are the lessons the social economy should then learn from the Co-op Bank going into crisis and a member of Spain’s Mondragon co-op facing bankruptcy?

“because of its particular rules (non-profit, allocation of surpluses, double nature) the social economy cannot be bought out because there is no market for its shares”

Given that three quarters of the banking division of the Coop Group was bought out, does this mean there should be stricter rules to ensure social economies cannot be bought out, or greater power to their stakeholders to be able to hold them to account on how well they uphold their mission?

From what I’ve seen of the growth of the social economy and even greater growth in the interest in using the term is that it has created a certain degree of complacency about how “social” actors of the social economy are. The article by the Secret Social Entrepeneur echoes this. We could also ask the cooperative movement about how “cooperative” its members are.

By their very nature, the social economy depend on human behaviours and in particular their goodwill. Of course, humans are social animals, but their actions are influenced by a range of habits, attention & decisions, summarised by the RSA Social Brain Centre which affect our ability to be social and collaborative.

Perhaps behind the faces of the Europeans above, we should also look at their motivations for becoming social entrepreneurs and their behaviours as they go about doing business…and how these are affected by different factors (not only those experienced by the Coop)