WISE project (2008-2009)


SOS Malta is a partner to the PROGRESS project called WISE. CGM, as leading partner, coordinates the project together with DIESIS. The project involves 16 organisations from 8 member states and 5 European organisations.

It aims at analysing the NAPs for inclusion and the NAPs for employment in order to assess the current and potential role of Work Integration Social Enterprises (WISEs) to support the objectives of these strategies and to promote social inclusion and employment. Structural funds and in particular the ESF operational programmes will also be analysed to identify and evaluate the measures and the tools foreseen to support the development of WISEs. In each partner country, best practices of WISEs promoting social inclusion will be identified in order to show what works on the field and the kind of policy support needed. The main contribution of the project from a mutual learning perspective will be to assess the extent to which social inclusion policies and actions are mainstreamed into employment policies and structural funds programmes. In linking up the inclusion strategy with the employment strategy and structural funds this project will provide a key opportunity for mutual learning on how to achieve an effective mainstreaming of social inclusion. By concentrating on one specific form of social enterprise (WISE) the project will allow an in-depth mutual learning on the use of WISEs and the contribution they make to employment for people most distant from the labour market.

As final result of this process involving researchers and practitioners, Strategic Guidelines for integrated policies (ESF, ERDF, NAPs) will be elaborated, discussed with policy makers and disseminated in order to ameliorate the coordination of structural funds, employment and inclusion policies for a better inclusion of vulnerable groups, namely trough the tool of WISE.
The concrete outputs of the project are:
- National and regional reports
- Peer reviews
- Cross cutting reports
- Strategic guidelines
- European seminar
- National seminars/workshops
The project aims at promoting exchanges and mutual learning on policies, good practices and innovative approaches concerning the role and the effectiveness of work integration social enterprises (WISEs) as a tool for inclusion. It will foster the role and the recognition of WISEs in National Action Plans for inclusion and employment and in structural funds. It will also help governments and relevant stake holders to improve coordination and coherence between different policies and funding mechanisms. In fact, social economy and social enterprises are often regulated and supported by different policies and under different headings and definitions (social economy, third sector, etc.) without clear synergies and links. Many different key actors will be involved in the project to exchange ideas, information and experiences; practitioners and policy makers will discuss different approaches to work integration of vulnerable groups, both at national and local level. The project will increase awareness on the need to promote employment as a tool for fighting social exclusion and on the opportunities offered by WISEs in that direction.
Concerning the transnational dimension, it is assured by the participation of a large number of European associations and networks. The research covers eight countries, but European association will disseminate results and methodologies in the 27 member states.

Partners' involvement:

National partners
(Assoforr, Aster X, Barka, BDV, Coceta, CGM, Confesal, CSDF, Drom, Inforcoop, Idekoop, Legacoopsociali, PLS, SOS Malta) : they participate in the
Steering Group, the national analyses, the peer reviews, the cross cutting report, the final European seminar and the dissemination and mainstreaming of results at national level. In the countries where there is more than one partner, each partner leads one or more activities according to its main competences.

European partners (CECOP, DIESIS, EAPN, EMES and OECD): they participate to the Scientific Committee and Steering group, define the framework and the methodology for analysis, comment the analysis done at national/regional level, chair the peer reviews, comment and supervise the cross cutting reports, elaborate the strategic guidelines, participate to the final seminar and the dissemination of results at European level.

National institutions: they support the project, provide information and participate to national analyses and cross cutting reports, participate to peer reviews, European workshops and national dissemination and mainstreaming.

CGM, as leading partner, coordinates the project with DIESIS, participate to the Scientific Committee, is in charge (with DIESIS) of the project publications and newsletter, performs all the administrative and financial tasks of the applicant.

Unemployment remains a major concern for most EU Member States, with 8.8% of the EU25 labour force unemployed in 2005 (against 8.6% in 2001), and long-term unemployment rising from 3.6% to 3.9%.
It is in such light that the Lisbon strategy, re-launched in 2005, focused its priorities on growth and employment. It also reasserted the importance of its economic, social and environmental dimensions as well as the need to reinforce the European social model based on the quest for full employment and greater social cohesion.
Joblessness is not only one of the main causes of poor living standards but is also in itself a central dimension of social exclusion, since a job is a key determinant of people's ability to fully participate in society, build a social network and realise their potential. A job provides an opportunity, ideally, for the individual to develop his or her potential and integrate into society. Employment is therefore a sustainable way out of poverty and social exclusion when it lasts, when it pays sufficiently to lift workers out of poverty and when it has all those features, normally referred to as "quality in work", that promote the individual's future employment prospects, safeguard their health and safety, and enhance human and social capital.
As part of the European strategy for social inclusion, participation in the labour market featured as an important priority of the renewed National Action Plans for Social Inclusion adopted in October 2006 under the new streamlined OMC (open method of coordination). Furthermore, with the onset of the new programming period (2007-2013) various Member States progressed towards ensuring better coordination between social inclusion measures and the use of the Structural Funds, notably the European Social Fund. Reinforcing the social inclusion of disadvantaged people with a view to lasting employment is now a specific priority for the ESF. Action to develop preventative and active policies to integrate or re-integrate the socially excluded into the labour market can be supported under all ESF priorities for 2007-2013, underpinning the call for the mainstreaming of active inclusion policies in national policy-making.
In turn, Member States are increasingly focusing on "active inclusion" to strengthen social integration. There is a clear trend towards making benefits more strictly conditional on active availability for work and improving incentives through tax and benefit reforms.
Another important policy area which is gaining momentum across Europe relates to the social economy –the latter being an important source of jobs and entrepreneurship, including for people with poor qualifications or whose capacity for work is reduced. It can enable the most disadvantaged to exercise some kind of gainful activity or to create employment in peripheral areas and remote rural areas. It also provides vital social services and assistance that are often overlooked in the market economy and plays a key role in actively involving citizens within the community through their direct involvement in the management of the services.

Social  enterprises  are  not-for-profit  private  organisations  providing  goods  or  services  directly  related  to  their  explicit  aim  to  benefit  the  community.  They  rely  on  a  collective  dynamics  involving  various  types  of  stakeholders  in  their  governing  bodies,  they  place  a  high  value  on  their  autonomy  and  they  bear  economic  risks  linked  to  their  activity.

Social  enterprises  may  be  active  in  a  wide  spectrum  of  activities,  as  the  social purpose may  refer  to  many  different  fields.  However,  one  major  type  of  social enterprise  is  clearly  dominant  across  Europe,  namely work  integration  social enterprises (WISEs).  

The  persistence  of  structural  unemployment  among  some  groups,  the  limits  of  traditional   active  labour  market  policies  and  the  need  for  more  active  and  innovative  integration policies  have  directed attention at regional, national and European levels to  the  role  that  social enterprises  could  play  in  combating unemployment  and  fostering  employment  growth.

The  main objective  of  work  integration  social  enterprises  is  to  help  vulnerable  people, who are  at risk  of  permanent  exclusion  from  the  labour  market.  WISEs integrate these people into work and society through a productive activity.

National WISE Consultation Meeting organized in Malta on the 20th of May 2008

National Consultation Meeting Report (20th May 2008)

WISEs and their role in European policies. National Report - Malta 2008