Social and Environmental Policies As Context for Systemic Social Innovation: Comparing Networks of Re-Use Work Integration Social Enterprises in Belgium and the UK.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 09:44
Location: Hörsaal 11 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Pieter COOLS, University of Antwerp, Belgium
Stijn OOSTERLYNCK, University of Antwerp, Belgium
This paper analyses how the historically grown institutional arrangements of welfare regimes and more recent evolutions in local, national and European policies shape the form and trajectory of social innovations. We do this by comparing the evolution and current governance challenges of two large networks of work integration social enterprises (WISE) in the reuse sector in Belgium (Flemish region) and the UK: namely De Kringwinkel (KW) and Furniture Reuse Network (FRN). Both pursue a more sustainable and circular economy, combining the aims and policy instruments of waste reduction, of provision of jobs and work experience for the long-term unemployed and the sale of low price quality second hand goods. We observe that differences between the networks such as heterogeneity in organisations and involvement in poverty reduction reflect differences in the respective countries’ welfare mixes. The Flemish KW combines government supported job creation and regional waste reduction policies (setting re-use targets and incentives for local authorities), which explains the rather successful mainstreaming and professionalization of the sector. In the UK, FRN is more rooted in the charity model, makes use of short-term ‘workfarist’ programs and engages more systematically with the private sector while the government does little to promote re-use social enterprises and cuts funding for schemes that could enable local cooperation. This helps to explain more heterogeneity within the network in terms of professionalization and relations with local authorities. Still, due to EU legislation and directives (for instance on waste reduction) and EU level lobbying (on reuse, social enterprise and public procurement) both networks pursue similar strategies in terms of setting up new activities and raising public awareness. As for current governance challenges, we highlight the differing impact of tendencies towards more strict activation policies, austerity policies and relatedly, internal and external pressure to become self-supporting social enterprises.