Social economy and social entrepreneurship have been continuously fostered in Bulgaria in recent years. This is due to their potential to find solutions to society’s problems, create sustainable jobs, facilitate social and labour integration, fight against poverty and social exclusion.

In the Bulgarian legal framework, there is no unified definition of social enterprise. The rules that regulate their status and activities are not consistently clarified. Despite the lack of normative definition, the practice in Bulgaria shows that organisations developing social entrepreneurship exist and they declare themselves as social enterprises.

The National Social Economy Concept provides the following definitions related to the social enterprise:

  • Social enterprises could be cooperatives, businesses, and organisations duly registered under national law, whose business aims at social and humanitarian effects and which reinvest their profits for social causes in favour of the community;
  • Social enterprise is a business with leading social objectives whose surplus is reinvested back into the same business or in the community;
  • Social entrepreneur is a person who mobilises resources and uses opportunities to meet existing social needs, building strong and sustainable organisations that are set up as social enterprises;
  • Social entrepreneurship is a business that develops, funds, and implements solutions to social, cultural, or environmental causes, so that the main priority are the people and their needs.

Practice shows that the basic legal forms of social enterprises in Bulgaria are:

  • Non-profit organisations that can perform business activities directly; it is this economic activity that would determine a NGO as a social enterprise, if it is aimed at a social objective;
  • Cooperatives of people with disabilities and other types of cooperatives that provide social services or goods to vulnerable, marginalised people: disadvantaged or isolated persons.

Social enterprises have the capacity to become promising partners of the authorities both at national and local levels regarding resolving of pressing social issues. This partnership should be stimulated, but for that purpose modifications of the existing legislation need to be elaborated in order to create more beneficial economic environment for social entrepreneurship.

Bulgaria has launched several strategic frameworks in order to boost social entrepreneurship and social innovation initiatives at a national level:

(1) National Social Economy Concept (2011) is the key strategic document that sets the policy framework with regard to social entrepreneurship and the social economy more broadly. It is complemented by Action Plans for 2014-2015 and 2016-2017.

(2) National Youth Strategy 2010-2020, adopted by the Council of Ministers, states that Bulgaria should improve the economic activity and career development of young people and promote social entrepreneurship among them.

(3) National Strategy for Reducing Poverty and Promoting Social Inclusion 2020, the priority of which is to provide opportunities for employment and income growth through active involvement of citizens in the labour market. Among the key proposed measures is promoting entrepreneurship, including social entrepreneurship initiatives.

(4) Strategy for Employment of People with Disabilities 2011-2020, which aims to provide opportunities for people with disabilities of working age to effectively exercise their right to free choice of career development, to improve the quality of life, and to achieve full inclusion in public life.

Despite all the steps taken so far, there remains the need for a more comprehensive and focused national policy to support social enterprises as tools for social inclusion and labour integration. However, the social economy still finds a way to improve on itself, as well as on the society it works in, and the results can be seen in the following successful stories:

NadEzhko Social Bakeries

The NadEzhko bakeries, developed under the company NadEzhko, are part of the Bread Houses Network and offer an innovative mix of an organic bakery with interactive bake-house and a community centre, where people of all walks of life, socially excluded groups and people with disabilities mix to regularly make, bake, and break bread together.

The company sells both high-quality breads and other boutique foods and unique services (Bread building team building; Theatre of Crumbs events; Bread in the Dark/BIND, led by blind people). The company’s 10 unique methods of bread-making with diverse art forms are proven internationally as a new form of art therapy “bread therapy”. The NadEzhko bakeries are planned as a social franchise, with bakeries serving also as local community and social integration centres. The bakeries have the mission to train and employ as bakers low-income people and orphans, as well as people with diverse special needs and potential to develop good social skills, to be community workshop facilitators in the collective bread-making events.

Samaritans Association

Samaritans Association emerged in 1998 with the main mission to work for full inclusion in society of disadvantaged children, youth, and families in the municipality of Stara Zagora. By 2007 the association has realised more than 35 projects and initiatives of public importance to support vulnerable children and families.

The association operates a centre for social and educational support to vulnerable groups of children, crisis centre “Samaritan House”, and complex for social services. Activity of the social enterprise is involved in manufacturing and marketing of apiculture products and beekeeping equipment and technology, and began operating in 2003. The main purpose of its creation is to develop economic opportunities and skills of the organisation to generate revenue from the production and marketing of honey, other bee products, beekeeping equipment and technology to ensure the financing of social services provided by the organisation.

Synergia Foundation

The Synergia Foundation was established in early 2015. As a public benefit NGO, its mission is to improve the well-being of visually impaired people by implementing successful social entrepreneurship practices and fostering dialogue and interaction between citizens, businesses, state and NGO sector.

The Foundation also works for the accessibility of art, as well as for social innovation as a culture. Initiated projects by Synergia unite the efforts of the NGO sector and the business in realising mutual socially responsible actions. The Foundation also employs and has as volunteers visually impaired people.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Erasmus + programme under Grant Agreement No 2016-2-RO01-KA205-024839.
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