Testimonial from our Czech Republic co-applicant: Markéta Vinkelhoferová, Project Corrdinator, Ecumenical Academy Prague (http://www.ekumakad.cz/)
SSE in Czech Republic
In the past years, we've seen a lot of social economic initiatives blooming in the Czech Republic. Especially since the economic crisis people started to realise the significance of such activities not only they create jobs for the disadvantages but also contribute to cohesion in the society.
The Czech Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs launched calls for proposal to help flourish social entrepreneurship in the previous Operational Programmes 2007-2013. Obviously the understanding of what a social enterprise means is now mostly following the Ministry's conception - i.e. integration of the disadvantaged (the handicapped, long-term unemployed, former prisoners and drug users) in the job market.
Recently, however, there has been a demand for broadening the conception of social economy according to proposals by Nadia Johanisová, a respected Czech ecological economist, to incorporate the environmental, cultural and other benefits for the society sustainable development.
The social entrepreneurship bill has been worked on by the Governmental Agency for Social Integration and it is hoped to get passed in 2016. To the Ecumenical academy's knowledge, the broader definition of social economy should be applied. However, more ministries are involved: the Ministry of Labour and Social Affair as well as the Ministry of Industry are involved in the agenda and there may be some changes in the wording of the bill. Ecumenical academy is a member of a Czech Network of social enterprises whose representatives are in a working group of the bill.
Example of a Czech SSE good practice
The best practice chosen is Fair & Bio cooperative running a Fairtrade coffee roastery as a social enterprise (partially employing mentally and physically handicapped) in a Central Bohemia town of Kostelec nad Labem. Not only matches all the social and solidarity economy principles but it is also a unique initiative within the whole Czech republic. It enhances solidarity and cooperation within the cooperative and the roastery itself through trainings and various events where the employees and members gather with other similar initiatives. They organise or attend public events with the special focus on the local community of a Central Bohemian region of Bandýs nad Labem-Stará Boleslav. They do operate in Prague as well.
The enterprise is collectively owned as it is a co-operative.
It is also highly self-managed – not only the co-operative member have a word in decision making according to the international acknowledged cooperative principle 1 member = 1 vote, but also the non-member employees including the disadvantaged (in their case up to their capacities) – these obviously do not vote but are invited to meetings and their opinion is taken seriously. The capital was partially built from below (membership investment) and partially from the European social fund (Operational Programme Employment).
The plant roasts merely organic coffee and is environment-friendly in its daily operation.
Thanks to the partnership with other NGOs in the Brandýs region, the cooperative tries to contribute to the sustainable community development, not only through awareness raising activities but also attempts to be part of so called community city planning where unemployment and inequalities are among the issues.
Through its awareness raising on the a broader concept of social economy with a long-term vision of social and economic change towards more just society, the Fair & Bio cooperative together with other agents the field (activists, NGOs, academics, and political actors) aim for more incorporation of citizens in the public life and beneficial initiatives for the society in the whole country.