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The Concept and Practice of Social Enterprise. Lessons from the Italian Experience

Carlo Borzaga
  • European Research Institute on Cooperative and Social Enterprises (Euricse) University of Trento
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Giulia Galera
Published Online: 2015-05-06 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/irsr-2012-0019


Social enterprises are increasingly regarded as successful mechanisms for reconciling equity and efficiency with the creation of economic and social value, and they can be interpreted as concrete expressions of a growing sense of social responsibility on the part of citizens. Research conducted in various geographical contexts corroborates that social enterprises are a structural trend, which cuts across countries with diverse characteristics. Following a historical contextualization of the social enterprise, the article focuses on a conceptual analysis. Next, attention is paid to the diffusion of social enterprises in the enlarged Europe, including countries where social enterprises have been acknowledged; countries where social enterprises are increasingly regarded as a unique way whereby unmet needs can be addressed; and countries where social enterprise-like initiatives happen to emerge despite the predominance of unfavourable conditions. Finally, attention is paid to social enterprises in Italy and specifically to the key factors explaining their success.

Keywords: social enterprise; cooperative; community engagement; decentralization of public competences; umbrella organizations; welfare system reform


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About the article

Published Online: 2015-05-06

Published in Print: 2012-06-01

Citation Information: International Review of Social Research, Volume 2, Issue 2, Pages 85–102, ISSN (Online) 2069-8534, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/irsr-2012-0019.

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© Carlo Borzaga et al. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License. BY-NC-ND 3.0

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