• About UPF-BSM
  • Programs
  • Faculty and research
  • News & Events

Co-operative social entrepreneurship

29 Junio - 2021

Ramon Bastida Vialcanet
Vice-dean for Knowledge Transfer
Director of the Postgraduate Course in Social Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Development


In recent months, we have been confronted with a global pandemic to which much effort and resources have been devoted and against which we are still struggling. But beyond COVID-19, there are other urgent challenges facing the planet.

L’emprenedoria amb impacte es basa en la creació d’empreses que busquen solucions als reptes socials i mediambientals a través d’una activitat econòmica viable

Climate change forces us to take action to reduce the level of global warming; the ageing of the population requires developed countries to take measures to guarantee care, support, and quality of life for the elderly; and poverty and inequalities require finding a global solution, as stated by the United Nations in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Their achievement, however, will only be possible if there is collaboration between multiple stakeholders:

  • Public sector: through the adoption of appropriate public policies and the necessary funding for their deployment.
  • Civil society: on an individual or organized level, people must contribute to the increasing pressure from and raise awareness of social and environmental challenges
  • Companies: they play an important role through the activities they carry out, generating economic, social, and environmental value.

Balance between economic and social value

In 2011, Harvard Professors Porter and Kramer presented a new paradigm of corporate value creation, which they called Shared Value. Currently, there is a very important trend in the business world that shares this new paradigm and considers that companies must create economic value to guarantee their economic viability, while at the same time creating social value in their community and contributing to reducing their impact on the environment in order to fight climate change.

Impact entrepreneurship is based on the creation of businesses that seek solutions to social and environmental challenges through viable economic activity

In addition to this current, there is a growing trend towards the creation of companies by people with a high level of environmental awareness and appreciation of the challenges facing the planet. The result is a significant increase in entrepreneurship with impact.

This entrepreneurship is based on the promotion of businesses that seek solutions to social and environmental challenges through an economic activity that guarantees viability and survival.

Key points before starting up

It should be borne in mind that social enterprises are hybrid organizations, as their mission is to contribute to solving a social or environmental challenge and, at the same time, to ensure that they generate sufficient economic resources to be viable and survive. La Fageda is a good example. Its mission is to create jobs for people with functional diversity by marketing dairy products.

Measuring social impact is essential for social enterprises, both to improve their management and to obtain funding

On the other hand, the measure of social or environmental impact generated is important for any company, but for those of a social nature, even more so. There are internal reasons for this, related to improving the management of the company, and external ones, such as obtaining funding from entities and individuals who invest in companies that can demonstrate the impact generated. A good example of this is the Ship2B platform, which brings together impact entrepreneurs and investors who are committed to projects that offer a demonstrable social or environmental return. The cooperative group GICOOP is another good example.

Another relevant aspect of social entrepreneurship is the leadership and management skills of the people who are part of it. Often, the work teams of these companies include people from vulnerable groups, such as migrants, people at risk of social exclusion, or people with social diversity, among others. We see this in companies such as La Fageda, Grup Teb, or La Casa de Carlota. In this regard, it is crucial that the management team has specific knowledge to deal with all the situations that may arise.

The cooperative example

Good examples of social entrepreneurship can be found in the field of cooperatives. One interesting initiative is Suara, which specializes in caring for people, and which decided to opt for social entrepreneurship a few years ago.

In 2018, SuaraLab was created, a social innovation laboratory that offers various support services to entrepreneurs to make their projects a reality. The cooperative currently has several projects incubated, such as “Deixa’t Cuidar”, an in-house physiotherapy service, and “De pis en pis”, a platform that connects people who are looking for accommodation with those who are offering shared flats, with the collaboration of an intra-entrepreneur from Suara, with whom they work side by side.

In social entrepreneurship it is crucial to have a management and leadership team with specific knowledge to deal with all situations that may arise

Another initiative that has emerged from the public sector is the network of 14 cooperative athenaeums spread throughout Catalonia, which support entrepreneurs in the process of creating projects with an impact. In 2020, they contributed to the creation of 131 social economy enterprises, including cooperatives, associations, foundations, and mutual societies. This is the case with La Feixa, a cooperative supermarket dedicated to the marketing of local products in Mataró, and the Cooperativa Energètica del Pedraforca, which aims to produce solar energy to supply the village of Saldes by building a solar park on land provided by the town council. We are getting closer every day to overcoming the pandemic, but many other challenges remain for those who want to create an impactful business project.

You may also be interested in

Subscribe to receive our news in your email inbox