Social Economy and Innovation

Designing Legal Frameworks for Social Enterprises



There is growing recognition across EU countries of the contribution of social enterprises to economic and inclusive growth and sustainable development. To support their expansion, 16 EU countries have adopted some form of legislation on social enterprises while the other 11 EU countries which have not done so, have designed explicit policies or strategies to boost their development.

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Why this Project?

The project supports the design and development of legal and regulatory frameworks that effectively allow social enterprises to thrive.

Taking into account different EU Member States contexts and challenges, social enterprises combine societal goals with entrepreneurial dynamics.

They exist in every European country and are an important part of the social economy, in which some 13.6 million Europeans work today.

Social enterprises cover a variety of legal and organisational forms. Some EU countries have introduced specific legal frameworks to support the development of social enterprises while other countries, have not done so.

The objectives of the OECD and EU are to improve legal frameworks to support social enterprise development by analysing current conditions, exploring ways to empower social enterprises, provide tools and guidance and disseminate the results to relevant stakeholders.


Legal Frameworks Manual

SE Legal frameworks manual cover

‌Based on consultations with more than 80 experts, policy makers and stakeholders from 10 European countries, this manual explains the rationale behind legal frameworks for social enterprises, identifies the critical factors for legal framework design and recommends actions to ensure legislation fully meets the needs of social enterprises.

The manual also provides numerous lessons learnt to flag good practices for success and help steer policy makers clear of preconceptions that can undermine regulation efforts.

It lays out the fundamental steps related to the life cycle of legal frameworks and provides options that policy makers can use in the design and implementation process.

Download the manual summary


Social enterprises work in many different sectors

Infographic picturing diversity of social enterprise activities: health and social services, trade and retail, culture, media, construction, tourism, education, renewable energy, manufacturing, banks, social finance, food, ICT services, recycling, green mobility, real estate


Participant Countries

Belgium Belgium

Denmark Denmark

France France

Italy Italy

Luxembourg Luxembourg

Netherlands The Netherlands

Poland Poland

Slovakia Slovakia

Slovenia Slovenia

Spain Spain 


Implementation Events

Publication launch: 28 April 2022 | Designing legal frameworks for social enterprises - Learning seminar | Agenda | Highlights

A total of nine focus groups were held in:

  • Belgium (19/11/20)
  • Denmark (4/2/21)
  • France (16/10/20)
  • Italy (18/12/20)
  • Luxembourg (22/10/20)
  • the Netherlands (12/2/21)
  • Poland (22/1/21)
  • Slovakia (26/2/21) and
  • Spain (22/12/20)

bringing together over 80 experts, policymakers and other stakeholders from the participating countries.




About the OECD Social Economy and Innovation Unit

The OECD began work on social entrepreneurship over 25 years ago. The OECD assists national, regional and local governments in designing and implementing strategies to support the SSE and social enterprises by providing them with tailored and evidence-based policy recommendations. The work supports the OECD’s Local Employment and Economic Development (LEED) Programme.  


If you are interested to learn more about the project or to get involved: 

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