The recently launched COOPower project is the latest in a movement that could be transforming the way the business sector works in Cyprus.
The project aims to raise awareness of the value of co-operative and social economy enterprises as viable career pathways for young people, with a focus on those in Cyprus, Greece and Croatia. To achieve this, a group of early career journalists will use their creative talents to highlight the power of the social economy to create positive change.
The project is led by the British Council, which bases its work on the experience of the UK – recognised as a European leader in social enterprise, with 100,000 social enterprises contributing £60 billion to UK GDP.
A social enterprise is a business which contributes to tackling a social challenge and to society, both through the products or services it offers, and through the way it operates.
The British Council has worked with these business since 2009 to support the growth of social enterprise in more than 30 countries around the world.
Change is already happening here in Cyprus. The House of Representatives of the Republic of Cyprus recently passed into a law a bill allowing certain legal entities to be registered as social enterprises under certain conditions aiming at developing an alternative form of entrepreneurship in the country.
The British Council welcomes this action and expresses full support to the Cypriot government for the implementation and dissemination of their action plan on social entrepreneurship. It is an important step for recognising the importance of social enterprises and their positive impact. We hope this will bring more job opportunities for young people, opportunities for the ones who want to set up a business with a social focus and incentives for the involvement of people from vulnerable groups.
‘Social economy is an economic approach that favours decentralisation and local development and it is often driven by ethical values such as solidarity, equity, democratic governance, fair trade, reciprocity, human rights and redistribution,’ explains Maria Nomikou, the British Council’s Sector Lead on Youth, Skills and Inclusive Communities. ‘It should be, therefore, our duty to create enabling environments for social economy to thrive and we remain at the disposal of the Cypriot Government and the sector for collaboration.’
As the birthplace of the cooperative the UK has evolved into one of the most mature and innovative sectors in the world. It is this experience that draws attention from policy makers and social entrepreneurs alike looking at ways to grow and embed this is their own countries.
In Europe, the British Council has united strengths with governments, local authorities, policy makers, academics and the social economy sector promoting and supporting the movement.
- a technical assistance programme in Greece assisting the Greek Ministry of Labour in developing a strategy and support structures for the country’s Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE);
- the Building Resilience and Cooperation in Latvia project aiming to strengthen social inclusion and integration in local communities with people from different ethnic, economic and social backgrounds;
- a series of ‘Social Enterprise in Schools’ projects introducing the principles of social economy to secondary education and VET students in Malta, Hungary, Greece and Estonia.