Cyprus has a long history of cooperative tradition, mainly in the banking sector, as well as a strong sector of volunteer and charity organisations. Social entrepreneurship, however, is a relative new term for Cyprus, introduced in the public sphere in late 2008 and first appeared on the governmental agenda in 2015-2016. Efforts to promote the field of social entrepreneurship are recorded as far back as December 2008, with the presentation to the Cypriot public and policy makers of a Work Integration Social Enterprise (WISE) from France. In the same year, a comprehensive study was completed on behalf of the Social Welfare Services on the implementation of social economy programmes for the activation of vulnerable groups of people, which explored social entrepreneurship as an approach. In 2010, in an effort to create more awareness of the field, the first Conference on Social Entrepreneurship was launched in Nicosia. Between 2010 and 2013, efforts to promote the sector took place mainly in the form of conference and training events and were the result of private efforts.
Since 2013, social economy/social entrepreneurship has been included in the Government’s agenda for the Economy. Within this scope, the Ministry of Labour and Social Insurance has been working to develop a funding programme for newly formed social enterprises. This programme is of primary importance for the growth of the sector as it can launch social enterprises by providing initial funding in the form of grants and/or fund activities of social economy. It also has the capacity to provide definitions for social enterprises and accordingly define the future of social entrepreneurship in the country.
Most of the social economy organisations in the country can be classified under two categories: cooperatives and non-profit voluntary organisations, NGOs. Most of the NGOs are legally registered under the Associations and Foundations Law (57/1972) and are running by elected councils. Standing to the most recent data, there are 185 NGOs registered under the Associations and Foundations Law.
As social entrepreneurship is a recent phenomenon, Cyprus has no legal, regulatory or fiscal framework for social enterprises. In addition, there is neither a strategic plan for the development of social entrepreneurship, nor a recent completed mapping that will provide the necessary information on the number, size, and scope of social enterprises. Yet there is growing interest in the country on social entrepreneurship, and the current economic crisis provides an opportunity to push the sector forward and create the ecosystem that will enable its growth. In regards the government policy on this field, at present there is no integrated theoretical framework for social economy.
Furthermore, there is also an official institution, the Pan Cyprian Volunteerism Coordinative Council, which has a broad role for the coordination and development of the voluntary sector and volunteerism in general. This organisation is expected to provide essential support to the Cyprian Social Welfare Services, as a consultant in terms of policy making.
Even though there is still work to be done to get the social economy of Cyprus at the level of other countries, the exchange of practices with them would definitely bring an improvement of the social economy situation in the country. For now, some of the working best examples of social enterprises in Cyprus can be seen below:
Set up in July 2010, this non-for-profit environmental organisation aims to actively contribute towards a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment. The activities of Anakyklos in this field include the following:
– Informing and sensitising the public with special emphasis on school-students on matters related to the environment, reuse of clothes, and the reduction of waste.
– Creation of biological vegetable gardens in schools and other institutions.
– Operation of projects for the useful employment of unemployed young people, such as local authority run vegetable gardens, picking of fruit, etc.
– Preservation and distribution to growers of local seeds and biodiversity.
The most important activity of Anakyklos is the Textile Collection and Recycling Project. By collecting and recycling used clothes, shoes, linen, and other items, they contribute to the reduction of the volume of waste that ends up in landfill. These items are given to people in Cyprus and abroad who cannot afford to buy new clothes. Some of the items that cannot be reused are processed and turned into wiping cloths, fibres, insulation, and other materials. With appropriate recycling, only a small proportion, around 2% will end up as garbage.
Cans For Kids is a registered charity formed in 1990 to organise the collection and recycling of aluminium cans in Cyprus. To encourage people to save their cans, it was decided to use the proceeds to purchase medical equipment for the children’s wards at Cypriot hospitals. Since its inception, more than 25 million cans have been collected, and over €260,000 euros worth of equipment has been donated to the Makarios Hospital in Nicosia, which is the central paediatric hospital in Cyprus, treating seriously ill children from all over the island. As well as upgrading the equipment – and therefore the standard of care – in Cypriot children’s wards, Cans For Kids raises awareness of the benefits of recycling by visiting schools to give talks and show the Cans For Kids video explaining why we should recycle aluminium.
“Agia Skepi”, a long term Therapeutic Community for adults, is a private non-for-profit organisation founded in 1999. It provides services to long term depended substance users and their families in an inpatient and outpatient setting. The main goal of the program is total abstinence from illicit drugs and alcohol. Since 1999 more than 800 people received services. The organisation receives a limited amount of governmental aid and is mainly sponsored by the “Association of Friends of Agia Skepi” who has been struggling for years now, through fund raising to keep the Therapeutic Community alive. As part of this program, members of the community farm the land and produce a range of organic products such as fruit, vegetables, dairy, eggs, and bread. The products are sold commercially through major supermarket chains operating in Nicosia and Limassol.
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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