SOCIAL ECONOMY EUROPE
Cooperatives, mutual societies, associations and foundations (CMAF ) deemed it essential to establish a permanent dialogue on European policies that are of common interest. In November 2000, they set up the European Standing Conference of Cooperatives, Mutual societies, Associations and Foundations (CEP -CMAF ).
In January 2008, the CEP -CMAF changed its name into Social Economy Europe.
SOCIAL ECONOMY EUROPE is the EU-level representative institution for the social economy.
SOCIAL ECONOMY EUROPE aims to:
promote the social and economic input of social economy enterprises and organisations,
promote the role and values of social economy actors in Europe,
reinforce the political and legal recognition of the social economy and of cooperatives, mutual societies, associations and foundations (CMAF) at EU level.
Social Economy  enterprises and organisations are economic and social actors present in all sectors of society, which are set up in order to meet citizens’ needs.
Above all they are characterised by their purpose: a different way of doing business which continuously associates the general interest, economic performance and democratic operation.
Social Economy includes cooperatives, mutual societies, associations and foundations as well as new forms of businesses which share the values defined in Social Economy Europe’s Charter of principles.
Social Economy is everywhere, for anyone, at any time. Social Economy enterprises and organisations are particularly active in the following domains: social security, social and health services, insurance services, banking services, local services, education, training and research, social tourism, energy, consumer services, industrial and agricultural production, handicraft, building, residential environment and cooperative housing, associated work, as well as in the domains of culture, sport and leisure activities.
They are an integral part of the European social model and play an important role within the objectives of European policies, in particular for employment, social cohesion, entrepreneurial spirit, governance, local development etc… to which they actively contribute.
Social Economy is present in many different forms, at all levels, national and European, but its roots are local.
Social Economy creates new jobs and has the capacity to meet today’s challenges, not only through labour-intensive production, but also through new technologies. It also contributes to the social integration of vulnerable sectors of society.
By linking economic aspects with social aspects, by establishing partnerships with the public sector, private enterprises and trade unions with a view to developing areas and making them more cohesive, Social Economy helps businesses to gain a local foothold in a globalised economy.
A FEW FIGURES
Social Economy represents 10% of all European businesses, which means 2 million businesses employing more than 20 million workers or in other words, 10% of all jobs.
— In Spain, Social Economy represents 10% of the GDP, 51.500 enterprises and organisations which means a total of 2.5 million jobs. More than 10.700.000 people are linked to social economy;
— In France, 760.000 businesses which means almost 2 million salaried employees;
— The mutual health funds, which are brought together within AIM , provide social coverage to more than 150 million people in Europe;
— AMICE members directly employ over 320.000 people and insure over 100 million members and count over 20% of the European insurance market;
— Cooperatives represented in Cooperatives Europe comprise 250.000 cooperative enterprises, 163 million members and 5.4 million jobs;
— Associations, which are brought together within CEDAG , form a network of over 50.000 associations and 9 million members;
— Foundations are represented by the EFC that brings together foundation members from over 30 countries in Europe with assets totalling some 111 billion Euro, which support a range of organisations and services of general interest.
STRONG VALUES SHARED
Social Economy emphasises “a different approach to entrepreneurship”, based on the following common characteristics and values:
— the primacy of the individual and of social objectives over capital,
— the defence and implementation of principles of solidarity and responsibility,
— conjunction of member users’ interests and the general interest,
— democratic control by members, voluntary and open membership, management autonomy and independence with regard to the authorities, surpluses are primarily intended for sustainable development projects, for member services interests and for the general interest.
 Social Economy is often described as a group of four “families”: cooperatives, mutual societies, associations and foundations, which are forms of organisations and/or legal bodies; naturally this covers the designations used in different countries such as solidarity-based economy, third sector, platform or third system. Although this sector is not described as a “Social Economy “ in all Member States, similar activities, sharing the same characteristics, exist throughout Europe.