Social economy encompasses a wide variety of companies, organizations and entities that carry out activities with economic value and share common objectives and principles.

Although these principles vary from country to country, we can summarize the main characteristics that differentiate social economy companies, organizations and entities as follows:

  • Value people above capital and economic profit.
  • Maintain a participatory and democratic governance.
  • Apply the results of the economic activity equitably and, where appropriate, for social purposes.
  • Generate a positive impact, pursuing either the collective interest of its members, the general economic or social interest, or both.
  • Maintain independence and autonomy from the public administration.


These basic principles determine an entrepreneurship model that assumes that:

  • Generate economic benefits is important, but the well-being of people and the community is even more important.
  • Democracy at work is as important as it is in other areas of life.
  • Benefits must be distributed equitably and contribute to the well-being of the people and their communities.
  • The purpose is to pursue social interest, the means is the enterprise.
  • Independence and autonomy depend on the capacity to generate valuable services and products for the community.

Based on these general principles, social economy organizations propose a “different model of doing business”, aimed at solving economic, social, and cultural needs of their stakeholders in their communities, rather than exclusively pursuing the maximization of profits.

In other words, for social economy organizations, the capital and the profit are means to the purpose of the community wellbeing and development, not purpose by themselves.

Social economy organizations are active in all economic sectors and can assume different legal formulas: cooperatives, mutual societies, foundations, non-profit associations, social enterprises.

According to Social Economy Europe, «Social economy enterprises and organisations are particularly active in certain fields such as social security, social and healthcare services, insurance, banking, renewable energies, education, training and research, tourism, renewable energies, consumer services, industry, agrifood, handicraft, building, cooperative housing, associated work, as well as in the domains of culture, sport and leisure activities.

The social economy is a highly innovative sector, developing new initiatives to meet today’s new challenges: rise of inequalities, sustainable development, population ageing in Europe, social exclusion etc.».

Social Economy makes a huge impact in EU: