A European approach to the development of educational support for social businesses. EU sector 3

The Third Sector model is becoming increasingly more attractive as a prime provider of services in particular for the public sector as it falls in line with Government initiatives across the European Union, for example The Big Society in the UK and other regional responses to the financial difficulties of the last five years. When trained appropriately these organisations can be as effective, if not more so, in the delivery of products and services for local communities as they are committed to their social purpose. This brings vast amounts of added value to their work and a significant contribution of social and economic capital to individuals , local communities and the wider society. They are also overlooked as a growing source of employment crossing over a range of more traditional sectors such as public services, niche design and manufacture and hospitality and health.

The project has been developed to overcome the lack of EU exchange of best practice and appropriate support models for social businesses, described within Objective 4, as a model of social business support (SBSM). The ultimate product is the OnlineIncubator which is the on-line platform hosting the SBSM and all of its functions: incubator for partnerships and mobilities; a model of European best practice for social enterprise support and training. The project partnership has been working on the proposal for several years and comprises SMEs (social enterprises), local authorities and a university. An essential outcome of this project proposal is access to greater mobility across the EU alongside the formal recognition of the lifelong learning that this will bring. New initiatives in training and business support models for social enterprises, voluntary/ community groups, co-operatives and regional hubs of expertise will be generated through this proposed initiative. New strategies for successful and innovative delivery will be developed and shared across the project teams.

The current partnership has evolved over several years of working on this project proposal. Initially the partnership developed from contacts made via the Ecorys database, or from previous project partnerships.

The innovative aspects of the project proposal are considerable and will lead significantly to the development of ‘future capital’ and European Added Value for each partner as a consequence of shared experience and best practice. The innovations within this project include the unification, development of shared good practice to support new start SMEs, social enterprises and the third sector; the sharing of good practice, especially with respect to innovative and interactive methodologies, for both TVET and adult education; the development of internships and work experience across the third sector of the EEA/ EU and the greater use of social media platforms for marketing, dissemination and communications which may not be innovative per se but is for the third sector