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Research on Cooperative and Social Enterprises in Transition Contexts

Final Report Summary - RECOSET (Research on Cooperative and Social Enterprises in Transition Contexts)

Over the last few years the interest in cooperatives (coops) and social enterprises (SEs) by national governments and supranational institutions1 has increased significantly thanks to the demonstrated ability of such institutions to tackle social and economic problems that public agencies and for-profit enterprises cannot address effectively. Coops and SEs significantly contribute to socio-economic development, support employment growth, and sustain a more balanced redistribution of wealth in both EU/AC and TC. Against the background of overcoming research fragmentation in this key research area, RECOSET succeeded in establishing a multidisciplinary network. Under the coordination of Euricse, RECOSET network groups together research centres from Italy (EURICSE), Belgium (CES), UK, (CRU), Serbia (UBFP-ISR), Armenia (ICARE), Belarus (ORACUL), Ukraine (SESPS).

RECOSET’s exchanges helped TC researchers become more familiar with concepts, analytical frameworks and policy instruments specifically aimed at better investigating and exploiting the contribution of coops and SEs for a more inclusive and cohesive society. Thanks to the transfer of knowledge supported, TC researchers were able to: strengthen their knowledge on the competitive advantages of coops and SEs when compared to public and for-profit enterprises, and position the path of development of coops and SEs at country level in a broader international context. To this end, seconded researchers participated in study visits to selected organizations in Italy, Belgium and Serbia. Examples of successful study visits are the Cantina d’Isera ( , Wine Production Cooperative and Melinda ( , leading Consortium of Apple growers, both located in the Trentino Province, Italy, which gave stimulating insights to seconded researchers particularly interested in supporting the growth of agricultural cooperatives in Armenia.
EU/AC researchers were offered the opportunity to broaden the geographical reach of the studies so far accomplished, by focusing on countries where research on coops and SEs is rather scarce.
Individualized training programmes were developed by both EU/AC and TC host institutions to accommodate seconded researchers’ skills and interests. Among the relevant initiatives accessed by seconded researchers worth mentioning are: lectures and meetings with key experts, seminars on relevant topics (“How to conduct a case study”); participation in major national and international events (Venice Conference, March 2012; “Promoting Social Entrepreneurship in Europe”, Brussels 18 November 2011; Republican Social Forum Gomel, Belarus).
Drawing on a shared understanding of coops and SEs, each seconded researcher managed to map the evolution of such institutions in the host country and identify the key factors that contribute to shaping the emergence of coops and SE initiatives. Each researcher conducted a case study analysis of 2 representative organizations according to a shared protocol (EMES Protocol developed by Euricse and EMES) that clearly focused on the history, life cycle, core business model, institutional/governance structure, external relations and policy environment characterizing of each initiative. Two events were organized to stimulate a fruitful exchange of views among RECOSET researchers on work advancements: the seminar “Assessing the potential of social enterprises in former Soviet Union Countries. The cases of Belarus and Ukraine” in December 2011 and the final Conference “Cooperatives and Social Enterprises in Europe and in Transitional Contexts” in Belgrade in June 2012.
The papers delivered (Total number of Working Papers in progress and finalized: 6) confirmed the interest of TC researchers in developing also practical recommendations on how to create an enabling environment for cooperative and social enterprises; hence emerges the strong policy implications of RECOSET both for policy makers and practitioners.

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