Worldwide, the attention and interest in social entrepreneurship has increased enormously in recent decades. Social entrepreneurs are actors who apply the principles of entrepreneurship to achieve a social goal. It may concern private entrepreneurs who also want to meet social needs, as well as people from the social sector – which has a classic not-for-profit character – who work with principles from the entrepreneurial world to pursue their social objectives. The social economy, which aims to create inclusive employment for people at a distance from the labor market, is one of the sectors in which social entrepreneurship plays an important role.
In the academic year 2019-2020, 42 master students worked alongside the employees of six Antwerp social enterprises with the particular aim to foster social inclusion and social well-being via active employment. Our students worked more than 40 hours nex to the workers of social organizations/companies Flexpack, Steunpunt tewerkstelling, Levanto, Met Sense and Wotepa. The central question of our projext was whether we can solve the problem of the exclusion of significant groups from the regular labor market through entrepreneurship in the social economy. Via the actual experience of actually working alongside social vulnerable actors an via critical (personal and academic) reflections – both by group conversations and personal diaries and many debates between organisation-student and docent, our students questioned the existing structures regarding subsidies, target group policy and regulation as well as the (personal) value of work for people with a social vulnerability.