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Scaling the impact of the social enterprise sector

The number of social enterprises in The Netherlands has grown by more than 2,000 in the past five years. But very few aim for the type of scale that would actually solve the societal issue they address. What is holding them back?

Social enterprises play an important role in solving societal issues, spurring the use of renewables, enlarging labor market participation, and improving health and wellbeing. And they’re more popular than ever in The Netherlands. Between 2010 and 2015, the annual turnover of the country’s more than 5,000 social enterprises increased by 70 percent to €3.5 billion. While the Dutch job market lost 70,000 jobs during that period, social enterprises created more than 25.000 jobs.

Yet most of this growth comes from new enterprises. Existing enterprises show only limited growth, partly because they are hampered by the belief they can’t earn money and have social impact, despite the contrary being true: that increasing turnover enables more social impact. It’s not only this mindset that holds them back. Existing social enterprises also need funders who can help them professionalize beyond the start-up phase. They need to better attract people with the right type and level of skills, and would benefit from innovative investment models and stimulating policies. And, finally, they need to improve impact measurement to attract bigger funders and government support: Only half of the social enterprises that responded to our survey indicated that they measure their impact in any form.

Our new report, Scaling the impact of the social enterprise sector, sheds light on the state of the market, its challenges and opportunities, and offers recommendations to entrepreneurs, financiers, government, and support networks.

To download the report, please click on the link below.