7 February 2022

Social Economy Action Plan – an opportunity for philanthropy 

The publication of the action plan is a moment of celebration for the philanthropic and wider social economy sector, which has long advocated for such a policy. Philea is very pleased to see the Social Economy Action Plan bring the wider social economy to the next level. The new Action Plan sets out to overcome barriers to cross-border philanthropy/foundation action, as well as to stimulate an overall enabling environment for the sector and new collaboration opportunities with EU policy makers. In doing so, the Commission responds to several of the key recommendations of our sector contribution to the consultation.

With the action plan to support the social economy, the European Commission proposes a new set of measures aiming to create the enabling conditions for social economy, including foundations and philanthropy, to fulfil its potential to contribute to fair, sustainable and inclusive growth. It also delivers for the philanthropy and foundation sector the opportunity for a better enabling environment, as well as co-funding and co-investment opportunities and tools. The relevant measures include:

  • Publishing guidance clarification rules on the tax treatment of cross-border public benefit donations affecting foundations and associations and the improved implementation of the non-discrimination principle (page 7).
  • Launching a study on national social economy labels/certification schemes mapping those existing in Member States, identifying good practices and common features and criteria. This will also aim to provide a common approach and guidance to Member States and explore the possibility of mutual recognition (page7).
  • Performing a specific study on philanthropic donations in the EU (page 22)
  • Launching a study providing comparative analysis of the legal regimes and landscapes of associations in the EU (page 5).
  • Launching a new study to collect quantitative and qualitative information on the social economy covering all EU member States (page 22).
  • Proposing to the Council a recommendation to develop social economy framework conditions by 2023, by adapting legal frameworks to the needs of social economy entities, including philanthropic organisations.
  • Launching a dedicated co-investment mechanism with foundations and philanthropic organisations around target mission areas, with the aim of encouraging engagement around sustainability, inclusion, social innovation, housing and homelessness, media pluralism, and developing social impact ecosystems (page 16).
  • Creating a equity based pilot in the news media sector through Invest EU. Depending on Market interests, the Invest EU Advisory Hub may support the setting-up of cross-border investment platforms that would group together partners interested in investments in the social economy (page 16).
  • Launching transition pathway for the “proximity and social Economy” industrial ecosystems (page 17).
  • Launching an action on innovative financing in the New European Bauhaus Lab aiming at creating a pilot project for mobilising philanthropic contributions (page 18).
  • Enhancing collaboration between the public sector, philanthropic and social investment actors, to better catalyse available resources and enable the uptake and replication of social innovation (page 20).
  • Proposing in 2022 a European Social Innovation Catalyst Fund under Horizon Europe engaging citizens, academics, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, impact investors and public administrators, with the aim of supporting the replication and scaling of successful innovations to advance the objectives of the five EU Missions (page 21).

At the launch event of the Social Economy Action Plan at the end of last year, organised by European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit, Philea member, the Mozaik Foundation (Bosnia and Herzegovina), represented by Vesna Bajsanski-Agić, Executive Director, spoke along with other social economy entrepreneurs from across Europe. Vesna shared some of the Foundation’s innovative efforts to promote the social economy and welcomed the action plan’s recognition of philanthropy’s increased relevance as a sector at the EU level. Social Economy Europe (SEE), of which Philea is a member, took the floor through its President Juan Antonio Pedreño, marking another moment of recognition for our collective advocacy work. Professor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhamad Yunus also joined the event and shared some reflections about the importance of social economy actors worldwide.

Hanna Surmatz, Philea, in her capacity as a member of the European Commission Expert group of Social Economy (GECES), had the opportunity to pose some follow-up questions to Commissioner Schmit and Director General at DG grow Kerstin Jorna, with regard to the SEAP and Transition Pathways at the January 25th GECES meeting. The European Commission acknowledges existing barriers to cross-border foundation/philanthropy action and issues with the tax treatment of cross border donations to public benefit organisations in other Member States and promises guidance on the matter as well as the launch of a specific study on philanthropic donations. Commissioner Schmit also mentioned that foundations play an important role in providing grant funding for the social economy, social innovation and other EU policy objectives and confirmed that the launch of dedicated co-investment mechanisms with foundations and philanthropic organisations around target mission areas is in the pipeline. Finally, Kerstin Jorna invited philanthropy and foundations to engage around the transition pathways including the “Proximity and social economy” ecosystem as well as other pathways. 

The Philea team is engaging with different EU policy makers around the implementation of the SEAP.


Hanna Surmatz
Head of Policy