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Social Keys for Social Entrepreneurship
Start date: Nov 3, 2014, End date: Nov 2, 2017 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Social Economy is one of the most important economic sector in Europe, with a significant occupational relevance. Based on available evidence, it is estimated that the social economy in Europe – measured as the aggregate of cooperatives, mutuals, associations and foundations – engages over 14.5 million paid employees, equivalent to about 6.5% of the working population of the EU-27. The social economy has increased more than proportionately between 2002-03 and 2009-10, increasing from 11 million to 14.5 million jobs. The significant contribution of the social economy to economic development and wellbeing has been confirmed by the recent economic crisis that has highlighted social economy and entrepreneurship generate new employment and help preserve existing jobs, as in the case of the conversion of existing corporations into social economy organisations. The facts demonstrate how social economy and social entrepreneurship respond to emerging social needs, for example, in Italy between 2007 and 2011 employment in cooperatives increased by 8% while it decreased in the economy as a whole by 1.2% and in private enterprises by 2.3%. Furthermore, social economy organisations effectively foster entrepreneurship and business creation; bringing economic activity in areas that are neglected due to low profitability and by bringing an entrepreneurial culture in sectors that were traditionally considered outside of the scope of entrepreneurial behavior. Among the key challenges for social economy organisations there is the lack of specialized training and education in the sector. To overcome this challenge is necessary a better capacity building for social economy organisations, starting with specialized programmes. Several universities, often in partnership with social economy organisations, are launching new research centres devoted to social economy issues like social enterprise management or social innovation. However, it is also worth mentioning that most social entrepreneurs generally are not university graduates and if they have had a training, more often it was a VET or adult training. The very large and diversified range of activities and professional figures related to social economy across European countries and regions often are not clearly defined in terms of learning outcomes but also frequently regulated, in terms of access to training and qualification opportunities, in a way that in fact is very limiting the mobility beyond the VET systems “edges”- confines of national and regional VET systems, barriers to the mobility within a particular VET system, obstacle to mobility outside the formal education. For the EU to strengthen its social economy sector, it requires knowledgeable workers in the field. However, workers within the social economy sector are at present finding obstacles to pursue further training due to lack of recognised qualifications in this field. Besides, workers within the social economy sector are unable to reap the full benefits from their work experiences as these are also not being recognised. Moreover, many European VET providers offer learning opportunities in the concerned professional field, but these VET courses are based on knowledge rather on competences, and the assessment of them is often not conducted on the field of related performances. This lack of competences needed by the labour market make more difficult the employment of the trainees, and the employees in keeping their job and improve their employability. Considering this situation and particularly the labour market needs and the limitations to learning and work opportunities, and to mobility across European VET systems, several VET providers (in particular those offering learning opportunities in social economy professional field, enterprises operating in social economy, their representative organisations and the sectoral trade unions, and also public institutions having regulatory competence on VET and social economy) considering this situation and particularly the limitation to learning and work opportunities and to mobility beyond the VET systems, sustain together this Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership aimed to develop and test in different European countries, starting from the shared design at European level of common competence standards (utilising the competences/skills/knowledge approach established by the EQF – European Qualification Framework) according to learning outcomes (formalised by means of a Memorandum of Understanding ECVET), coherent common VET curricula and courses (to be supported through transnational learning activities during the project, also adopting Learning Agreements ECVET and Europass Certificate Supplement to sustain transparency and recognition of learning outcomes) focused on work based learning, virtual mobility, open educational resources and virtual laboratories/workplaces adapted to labour market needs, for the qualifications in the social economy sector.
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