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Edited by Alain Fayolle and Harry Matlay
Chapter 4: Concepts and Realities of Social Enterprise: A European Perspective
Jacques Defourny INTRODUCTION Although rarely used until the mid-1990s, the concepts of ‘social enterprise’, ‘social entrepreneurship’ and ‘social entrepreneur’ are now increasingly discussed in various parts of the world. The bulk of the literature is still being produced in Western Europe and the United States but those three ‘SE flags’ are attracting much interest in other regions, such Central and Eastern Europe, South-Eastern Asia (especially South Korea, Japan and Taiwan) and Latin America. In Europe, the concept of social enterprise made its first appearance in 1990, at the very heart of the third sector, following an impetus which was first an Italian one and was closely linked with the cooperative movement: a journal named Impresa Sociale (Social Enterprise) started to study new entrepreneurial initiatives which arose primarily in response to social needs that had been inadequately met, or not met at all, by public services (Borzaga and Santuari, 2001). In 1991, the Italian parliament adopted a law creating a specific legal form for ‘social cooperatives’ and the latter went on to experience an extraordinary growth. Around the same period, European researchers noticed the existence of similar initiatives, though of a lesser magnitude, in various other EU countries and in 1996, they decided to form a network to study ‘the emergence of social enterprise in Europe’. This network, which was named EMES and covered all of the fifteen countries that then made up the European Union, gradually developed a common approach of social enterprise. In the United States, the concepts of...
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