Article by Günther Lorenz, TechNet Berlin

Not entirely without our TechNet’s influence and in cooperation with important people and organizations, some improvements for the SSE in Germany in recent years have been achieved.

Technologie-Netzwerk Berlin e.V. and Social Entrepreneurship Netzwerk Deutschland e.V. have been running the Social Economy  Berlin platform ( for several years, which is co-funded by the Berlin Senate for Economic Affairs, Energy and Public Enterprises:

Social Economy Berlin is an overarching platform. We ourselves come from the environment of social solidarity-based companies and social entrepreneurs / social startups and bring together the actors from these areas. A first networking meeting took place in September 2020. For us, effective and active networking means that the actors of social enterprises from Berlin know each other, feel a sense of belonging, and there is an active network for exchange, knowledge transfer and support with questions and problems. As a networking point, we have set up contact points for the actors of the social economy in Berlin.

At the same time as these activities, we are developing a Berlin strategy and an action plan to strengthen the ecosystem of the social economy. We approach associations and intermediaries in the sector and conduct interviews with relevant stakeholders – in other words, a broad work to promote the social economy and join forces.

In addition to greater public awareness of social enterprises, the aim is to firmly anchor the social economy in economic policy (Berlin Land and districts). For example, we are committed to adapting the criteria for public procurement in favour of the social economy – as a forward-looking form of economy.
We strive to train the employees of the Berlin Economic Development Agency on the topic of social economy in order to strengthen awareness and skills in this area as well.
In short, we want to establish advisory and support programmes and make the social economy more visible in administration, economic development, education, and civil society through communication.

In Germany, there is no particular legal framework for the SSE. SSE Organizations may take all legal forms which may fit to their purpose. As in other countries, we got the whole Social Economy family of co-operatives, mutualities, associations and foundations in Germany. They have got their own legal form whereas not all of them would see themselves as a SSEO. Thus, most of SSEOs organize themselves as associations, some as limited companies, few as coops or foundations.

In Germany, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action has started a National Strategy for Social Enterprises this year:

“…There are a growing number of companies in Germany that, as companies and social startups oriented towards the common good, focus their corporate purpose on solving social challenges, be it with an ecological focus, social – or both. (…)

Whether they are concerned with establishing fair supply chains, generating renewable energies jointly, integrating people with previously unequal starting conditions into the labour market or producing products in the circular economy, they are all united by the fact that a positive social impact for their companies takes precedence over maximising monetary gain. This often results in social innovations – at the same time, companies create jobs and sustainable economic growth. It is particularly often women who, as founders, combine economic success and a sense of community.

Germany has a long tradition: Since the 19th century, Germany has been a centre of social innovation and companies oriented towards the common good, in which, for example, today’s health insurance was created, the independent welfare system was established, and the cooperatives have their origins”.

In this context, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action has launched a new programme that can be used by SSE actors:

The REACT with impact funding guideline supports companies oriented towards the common good in two ways:

  • The funding programme “REACT with impact – Promotion of Social Entrepreneurship” supports companies and social start-ups oriented towards the common good on the one hand in obtaining tailor-made consulting and support services from recognised consulting firms and, on the other hand, in strengthening their investment readiness, i.e. their attractiveness for investors.
  • The call for funding “Strengthening companies oriented towards the common good through basic support services” makes it easier for entrepreneurs oriented towards the common good to access offers from regional and local actors such as incubators, start-up centres or networks, for networking, support or low-threshold advice from companies oriented towards the common good.

Although this programme is not only centred on the needs of the SSE, but it also opens up opportunities to apply for and to foster this sector. TechNet has successfully applied for projects in both sub-programmes.