On the 11th and 12th of October 2022 alongside CEIS, we hosted a delegation from Sweden on a study tour. Following the event, we caught up with group leaders Asa Bengtsson and Anders Bro to find out what’s next for progressing Sweden’s social enterprise movement.
Purpose of the Visit
The group led by the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR) included representatives from SALAR and 11 municipalities across Sweden. The group are part of a project led by SALAR to look at implementing a handbook ‘New path to innovative welfare solutions – a handbook on collaboration with social enterprises’ they commissioned Anders Bro, Region Orebro County to write on how Swedish municipalities can develop their collaboration with social enterprises.
The handbook cites Scotland as ‘an interesting example of how social enterprises play an important role in society and how the Scottish Government has actively and purposely invested considerable resources in supporting the emergence and development of social enterprises for several years’.
With the project due to come to an end in December 2022, Asa and Anders decided to lead a visit to Scotland first and foremost for the group to learn more about what the Scottish strategy for social enterprise looks like and how it is implemented. But also, how the public sector cooperates with social enterprises and what the ecosystem looks like.
Planning the Trip
Taking this brief, CEIS planned a two-day visit with Scottish Government Third Sector representatives, local authority representatives and Councillors, social enterprise intermediaries, networks and leaders. The brief also took into account the engagement with and understanding of social enterprise among the group, as well as the population and geographic coverage of the municipalities represented.
In organising the visit, Jo Seagrave, Events and Marketing Manager at CEIS commented “It has been wonderful working with Asa and Anders to plan this trip. Our approach is always to ensure we meet the client’s brief with regular check-ins but to also support and showcase our vibrant, passionate and impactful social enterprises. As well as providing platforms for social enterprises to share their stories and impact, we paid smaller social enterprises for their contributions and used social enterprise caterers, venues and cultural tour suppliers.
While many in the group reported that they learned a lot and were impressed with both the Scottish strategy and its implementation, they were blown away by the passion, enthusiasm and honesty of our social enterprise practitioners. For me that is the real joy in organising these visits.” [See a full list of social enterprises engaged in this visit below]
So, What’s Next for Sweden’s Social Enterprise Movement?
In talking to peers who met with the group during the visit, many connections have already been made and plans are hatching. With the Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) returning to Europe next year, it seems like a great time for SALAR and the visiting municipalities to push the social enterprise movement forward and capitalise on relationships made in Scotland.
On talking about the visit, Asa Bengtsson reflected “Even though we had good insight into what could be done at both national and municipal level in Sweden before our trip, we are even more strengthened in the opinion that we need to work long-term to get the idea of social enterprise into municipalities, and in Sweden as a whole and ultimately, increase the understanding of the role the social economy sector can play in our country.
Against the background of the trip to Scotland, we see how important it is that politicians are in favour of social enterprise. Regions and municipalities need both conditions and support, perhaps even national guidelines for social enterprises to have the same conditions around the country. At the national level, we also need to review whether laws should be adapted, and authorities should be given extended and relevant financial conditions.
We also feel there is much that could be done in schools by introducing knowledge of social enterprises and social economy there.
For us at SALAR we must continue our local and regional development work. Meanwhile, we anxiously await the new government’s initiative and ambitions around social enterprise, which will also guide SALAR’s next steps. Much remains to be done.
Overwhelmingly, we are very satisfied with the work CEIS carried out. The two days were very well planned, and our group was delighted by the programme. We would happily recommend CEIS and engage with them on future visits. In fact, Anders has already recommended their services and they’re planning a visit in November!”