It is, by now, common knowledge and somehow self-understood that when we talk about social economy, we are referring to initiatives that target groups who are having fewer opportunities when it comes to getting established in society. Social economy is often part of the response to the gaps in our social welfare systems.
One of the groups having difficulties in establishing themselves on the labor market (and thus in society) is represented by young refugees and migrants. Employment is widely recognized as crucial factor for the integration of migrants into host societies at global level (OECD and European Commission, 2016), but it is still difficult to reach it by first generation migrants and refugees because of 3 main elements: skills, knowledge of specific context and existing networks, access to funding. The entry channel is particularly important (focusing on the employability of migrants) because, if migrants in general experience stronger difficulties in entering the job market compared to natives, refugees tend to be in a worse position than the general migrant population.
EU has since long acknowledged the relevance of migrant entrepreneurship for their integration, for instance in the European Agenda for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals (European Commission, 2011) or in the EC Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan (European Commission, 2012). These documents highlight that there is a higher level of entrepreneurship among migrants than among natives, that can be explained by the higher difficulties migrants meet in finding employment compared to natives, which lead them to try the self-employment or entrepreneurship paths. These reports also stress the importance of support schemes and policies, to facilitate self-entrepreneurship. Also, at EU level, social enterprises are growing year after year and they proved to be more resilient during the last economic downturn. This is due to various factors, one being their capacity to adapt to socio-economic changes and to respond easily to the needs of clients/users – which makes them a good model when it comes to the development of self- enterprises for young migrants/refugees. In the context of the actual pandemic this is even more relevant.
Express – Exchange of Practices for Refugees and migrants’ Self-entrepreneurship is an Erasmus+ project (Young and Active) that started in September 2019 and has been prolonged to 31 October 2021.
Express project has a general objective to empower young migrants and refugees by creating and/or strengthening – where existing – supporting services for the development of self-enterprises.
This project has 3 specific objectives:
1) Allow partners’ organizations to develop and reinforce networks, increase their capacity to operate at transnational level, share and confront ideas, practices and methods and structuring an EXPRESS network between different type of organizations that are dealing or willing to approach work integration of young migrants/refugees through self-entrepreneurship.
2) Collect all practices shared among partners and covering the entire value chain for self- entrepreneurship schemes across Europe, that can be divided as follows: a. competence assessment of young migrants/refugees; b. training on self-entrepreneurship; c. mentoring scheme; d. informative campaign; e. networking activities; f. support to access financing/social financing.
3) Spreading knowledge, sharing project results to raise awareness and start-up a dedicated network (community of practices).
EU has since long acknowledged the relevance of migrant entrepreneurship for their integration, for instance in the European Agenda for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals (European Commission, 2011) or in the EC Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan (European Commission, 2012).EXpress – Exchange of Practices for Refugees and migrants’ Self-entrepreneurship
The partnership has, by now, developed a template for the collection and presentation of best practices, has collected more than 50 practices and peer reviewed half of them. There is also a Facebook page where some of the practices are presented and a corresponding Facebook group. A project website, where all the collected practices will be presented and accessible is presently under development.
The consortium operating in this project is composed by 7 partners (plus associated partners) and strongly enriched by their diversity, having documented expertise in specific fields of the services value chain used by the project: two VET organizations, one social enterprises, one EU network, two development agencies and one foundation. The partners are: Coompanion Gothenburg (SE), Demetra Formazione (IT), AKEP – Academy of Entrepreneurship (GR), Pfefferwerk Foundation (DE), REVES – Reseau Europeen Des Villes et Regions De L’economie Sociale (BE), CBE Sud Luberon (FR) and Sol.Co. Camunia – Solidarieta’ e Cooperazione (IT).