for social entrepreneurship

Mapping social businesses in Belgium


Mapping social businesses in Belgium

Research project for the King Baudouin Foundation. Belgium is toiling under an enormous burden of debt, and government cuts have been essential. Meanwhile, though, the figures for poverty and unemployment are spiralling. How can we maintain social cohesion in society at a time when budgets have shrunk?

One possible answer lies in social innovation and social entrepreneurship. Social businesses can play an important role in our economy. They can contribute to the emergence of a more caring shared value economy, in which societal and economic progress are (once again) much more closely and positively related to each other. 

The social business scene in Belgium is definitely changing. In 2013, our team conducted an analysis of social entrepreneurship in Belgium. The SELUSI research consortium – to which we belong – has previously done the same thing in Hungary, Romania, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. So far we have interviewed a total of around 700 social entrepreneurs in Europe. With the data we aim to build the first systematic, detailed and representative database of social businesses in Europe. The result is a unique insight into the phenomenon of social enterprise across different country contexts.

The interviews with 78 Belgian social entrepreneurs from all over the country lead to seven key findings:

  1. The stereotypical social business is a myth
  2. Social businesses are more market-oriented than is generally assumed
  3. Social businesses are neither new nor small
  4. Social impact is a key innovation driver
  5. Social entrepreneurs put their values into practice
  6. Regional activities are no obstacle to upscaling ambitions
  7. Policy recommendations are pragmatic but also visionary


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