Last November, Social Firms UK was invited to attend the 4th Annual Convention of the Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion in Brussels.
The focus of the Convention was on social innovation and how new creative ideas can contribute to address social needs, create private-public partnerships, promote social entrepreneurship and make a better use of available resources to give support according to individual needs.
The President of the European Parliament,Martin Schulz, addressed the opening ceremony (you can read his speech here), together with the new Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills & Labour Mobility, Marianne Thyssen (you can read her speech here).
Social Firms Delegation
The small group of delegates from the UK included Ian and Theresa Bates from Social Firms England member Frame of Mind, who presented at a side event alongside colleagues from Croatia and Sweden.
The European Network of Social Integration Enterprises (ENSIE), Social Platform, the European Confederation of Cooperatives active in industry and services (CECOP), Eurodiaconia, and the European Network of Cities & Regions for the Social Economy (REVES) jointly hosted the side event ‘Social Economy Enterprises and public procurement: a win-win combination for social inclusion!’.
Theresa shared with the audience how social firms can help promote social inclusion in the fight against poverty. When the floor was opened to questions, it was highlighted that businesses like Frame of Mind, and the Croatian social cooperative Humana Nova could achieve a lot more if they were properly supported by local and national authorities.
Jens Nilsson MEP (S&D, Sweden), former mayor of the city of Ӧstersund, stressed the added value of partnership of local authorities with the social economy and the importance of responding to the real needs of the population with public procurement, rather than applying a purely market-led approach.
The session focused on the opportunities afforded to EU member states under the new Public Procurement Directive that was in adopted in February 2014, and the panel’s guidelines for member states.
Following the side event, the organisers released the following statement:
“The new directive provides opportunities to public authorities to achieve sustainable development objectives – including on social policy ones – when they buy goods, services and works from external parties. It is now up to member states not to close a window opened by EU legislators when they implement the directive in national laws. Reserved contracts, more emphasis on quality rather than price in the assessment of bids, and more opportunities to include social considerations in the procedures are considerable achievements for the social sector, social economy organisations and society in general. We encourage member states, regional and local authorities to work in partnership with civil society organisations and social economy enterprises to maximize the impact of the directive.”
The text of the Joint Statment can be downloaded here.