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Common ground: an opportunity for dialogue and better measures to support social enterprise initiatives

6 December 2022

Doing social entrepreneurship nowadays in Bulgaria requires passion, commitment to a social cause and skills to deal with many challenges. Despite the difficulties - it is undeniable that the social added value of an entrepreneurial initiative not only helps specific people in difficult situations, develops knowledge and protects nature, but also contributes to the overall development and modernization of our society. Social entrepreneurs are successfully adapting to new challenges, but they need a good environment and development support to continue to create social added value for our society. This is what was agreed upon by representatives of the social enterprise community, representatives of the institutions in the face of the Operational Programme for Human Resources Development, the Fund of Funds, as well as funding organizations and instruments during a meeting in the framework of the initiative of the Bulgarian Center for Not-for-Profit Law LET'S GROW: "Financial Instruments for Start-up and Development of Social Entrepreneurship".

Key challenges that were shared:

Over the last 10 years there have been resources to support social enterprises mostly through EU funding - over 4,200 members of vulnerable groups have been employed, of which 2,000 have remained in sustainable employment. But social enterprises point to some barriers related to support measures to develop the environment. Only 9 social enterprises have benefited from financial instruments such as microcredit.

The narrow definition under the Social and Solidarity Economy Act is like a needle's eye through which many social enterprises find it difficult to pass in order to obtain this status and, on this basis, support.

You can read more about the challenges and recommendations for social enterprise development here.

The good news

Support with EU funds for social enterprises in the new programming period will continue in several areas:

  • Start-up support and capacity development - through seed capital, training, mentoring, etc.
  • Increasing the visibility and understanding of the role and importance of social enterprises, developing markets and increasing production.

Public consultation and stakeholder dialogue are foreseen for all measures.

In our opinion, the best news, which we rarely hear and therefore rated highly in this meeting, is the message from the state representatives - "We hear you. The feedback of all stakeholders is extremely important to us, and we believe that together we can plan and implement more successful measures to support both vulnerable communities and overall ecosystem development."

The Fund of Funds has also delivered important messages:
  • those on the ground - social entrepreneurs and financial operators - know best what can be effective and efficient in terms of support. It is therefore important that when planning support for ecosystem development, the recommendations of those involved in implementing the measures are heard;
  • to plan new or upgraded tools and measures, new channels of communication and discussion need to be opened and social enterprises need to rally around common recommendations to improve their development environment.

We also hear and support this message - good and cost-effective measures are those that come from the people for the people.

The meeting was attended by:

Nadia Shabani, Director of the Bulgarian Center for Not-for-Profit Law

Natalia Efremova, Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Policy

Martina Grigorova, Executive Director of SIS Credit and Plamen Yonchev, Executive Director of Microfund

Svetoslav Piralkov, Senior Manager Business Client Management, UniCredit Bulbank

Tsvetan Spasov, Directorate General "European Funds, International Programmes and Projects" at the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, Head of the Managing Authority of OP Human Resources Development

Kamen Slavov, Member of the Board of Directors, Fund of Funds

The experience of social entrepreneurs on the topic was presented by:

Maria Alkalay, Founder of BARABAR, a social enterprise of the Opportunities without Borders Association

Maria Metodieva, founder of the Miracle Garden, a social enterprise of the St. Nicholas the Wonderworker Foundation




The LET'S GROW initiative is a collaborative advocacy initiative of civil society organizations that develop mission-related entrepreneurial initiatives and aims to improve the operating and support environment for social enterprises in Bulgaria. So far, it has included Bulgarian Center for Not-for-Profit Law, Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation, Soshul Futures Foundation, Maria's World, Miracle Garden, Parallel World.