In North Macedonia, social enterprise and social entrepreneurship emerged in the third sector discourse during 2009-2010. The concept of “social enterprise” was introduced by the third sector to refer to the work integration social enterprises which emerged from: i) associations providing work engagement for disadvantaged people (mostly for Roma and persons living with addictions) and ii) associations working on deinstitutionalisation of persons with disabilities or providing day care services for the same target group. As a result, the general understanding of the concept of social enterprise among policy makers, the donor community, civil society and social enterprises remains limited to work integration social enterprises. The rise of the concept is mainly attributable to some recent developments. These include limited public support for the services provided to associations and the decentralisation of social welfare. At the same time, attention from a foreign donor community, especially the European Commission, continues to increase.
On national level, there is no agreed definition of social enterprise, social entrepreneurship and social economy among stakeholders or within the Government. The social enterprise concept modestly appears in part of the public policy, but the political recognition of the sector is far from adequate, strategic and visionary. The government introduced social entrepreneurship in its work program for the first time (2017-2020), envisaging the adoption of a law on social entrepreneurship, which would facilitate access to the labor market for socially disadvantaged groups of citizens. It is stipulated that disadvantaged groups will be able to manage the enterprise, to make decisions for managing the realized revenues and investing them in social purposes. In the official government strategies, however, the concept of a social enterprise was for first introduced in broader strategies for cooperation with the civil society sector (2012- 2017), where a more general measure for the development of a wider concept is foreseen: social economy. The measure envisages activities that explicitly target CSOs with economic activities, leaving aside other models that form the spectrum of social enterprises. The same vision is also present within the current strategy (2018-2020) in which social enterprises are seen only as a mechanism for ensuring financial sustainability for the civil sector.
Taking into consideration this gap, the first National Strategy on Social Enterprises which is expected at the end of December, 2019 recognizes and builds upon the following definitions on social enterprise, social entrepreneurship and social economy:
· According to the European Commission’s Social Business Initiative (SEC(2011)1278), a social enterprise is an operator in the social economy whose main objective is to have a social impact rather than make a profit for their owners or shareholders. It operates by providing goods and services for the market in an entrepreneurial and innovative fashion and uses its profits primarily to achieve social objectives. It is managed in an open and responsible manner and, in particular, involves employees, consumers and stakeholders affected by its commercial activities.
· The term “social entrepreneurship” emerged in the 1990s in Anglo-Saxon countries. It covers a broad range of activities and initiatives, including social initiatives occurring in profit-seeking businesses, institutionalised entities explicitly pursuing a social goal, relations and practices that
yield social benefits, entrepreneurial trends in non-profit organisations, and ventures developed within the public sector. Such initiatives can be undertaken by individuals, non-profit organisations, public agencies or non-profit organisations in partnership with for-profit enterprises in an attempt to balance corporate profit with a commitment to social responsibility.
· The term “social economy” first appeared in France at the beginning of the 19th century. This approach indicates that the major goal of the belonging organisations is to serve members of the community rather than to seek profit. Moreover, the social economy relies on democratic decision-making processes, which represent a structural procedure to control the actual pursuit of the organisation’s goals. Among the organisations belonging to the social economy one can find associations, cooperatives and mutual organisations and, more recently, also foundations and social enterprises.