30 March 2021

Towards an EU Action Plan for social economy

The European Commission is preparing an action plan for social economy, which will be launched this year. This plan seeks to boost the contribution of social economy actors to a fair and sustainable growth in Europe. It will enhance social investment, support social economy organisations to start up, scale up, innovate and create jobs. We have prepared a clear set of recommendations to policy-makers on how to engage with philanthropy in the social economy sector “Foundations and philanthropic actors and the Action Plan for the Social Economy”.

by Hanna Surmatz, Philanthropy Advocacy

With this policy paper, we aim to feed with the specific perspective of promoting an enabling operating space for foundations and philanthropy into the debates and consultations that will lead to the release of the envisaged Action Plan for the Social Economy in the fourth quarter of 2021. The Action Plan is a central part of the Commission’s Fair Economy Package, which aims at implementing the policy objective for 2019-2024 “An Economy that works for people”.

This paper actually comes at a  moment in which the European Commission has launched a  roadmap  consultation to collect the inputs and proposals of all social economy networks, stakeholders, public authorities etc. This consultation will be open until the 26 April 2021. We call on all Dafne and EFC members and the wider social economy community to actively participate in this consultation (more information here) and shape the future of EU policies for the Social Economy from the perspective of foundations.

We have also contributed to the longer Social Economy Europe (SEE) policy paper on the Social Economy Action plan, which is available at the SEE website here (EFC is a member of Social Economy Europe board). With this paper, we wish to highlight the specific entry points for philanthropy and foundations into the Social Economy Action Plan.

Foundations and philanthropic actors are acting in the social Economy sphere in a dual capacity:

  • As social economy actors in their own right
  • As funders/investors and partners of social economy actors

Foundations and philanthropic organisations play a role for European social economy with a wide spectrum of activities from re-granting to grass-root level organizations all the way to venture philanthropy, from innovative grantmaking to impact investing and social finance.

Download our policy paper on the Social Economy Action Plan here.

The policy paper includes the following 5 sections:

I. The role of the foundation and philanthropy sector in Europe


II. Barriers to foundation and philanthropy cross-border work


III. Key recommendations to enable Philanthropy and foundation work


In line with our Philanthropy Manifesto, we call for the Social Economy Acton Plan to consider the following policy actions to help mobilise more private resources for public good and social economy:

      Recommendation 1:  Recognise philanthropy and engage with philanthropy

      Recommendation 2:  Facilitate cross-border philanthropy

      Recommendation 3: Promote an overall enabling space for philanthropy

      Recommendation 4: Co-grant and Co-invest for public good and civil society


IV. Call for coordination, implementation, and follow-up of the Action Plan for the Social Economy


V. Some background information on EU policies for the social economy and philanthropy and list of resources


We hope that the EU Social Economy Action Plan will contribute to increased visibility of foundations as social economy organisations and as supporters of wider social economy and that it can help remove the legal obstacles impeding philanthropic organisations ability to operate – including cross-border –  in the Single Market. Given the great diversity of our sector, we consider that the Action Plan can also promote the ability of foundations and philanthropic organisations to engage in a wide spectrum of activities from re-granting to grass-root level organizations all the way to venture philanthropy, from innovative grantmaking to impact investing and social finance also in partnership with public actors.


Hanna Surmatz is legal expert, Co-lead of Philanthropy Advocacy and Enabling Environment Manager at the EFC.