That was the main issue discussed by the six representatives of Latgale region on 27th February in Kraslava. The discussion, which was organized by Ludza Society of Disabled and Euroregion “Country of Lakes”, focused on social entrepreneurship (SE).
The economic and financial crisis intensified different social problems in Latvia: unemployment and its consequences, problems connected to inefficient healthcare system in the country, immigration, social exclusion and environmental degradation.These problems are particularly seen in the region of Latgale. Social entrepreneurship is one of the ways to find a solution to social problems. Therefore Ludza Society of Disabled implemented the project “Work is life” and organized publicity and promotional activities regarding SE within the framework of the project, including two regional discussions – last year in Ludza and this year in Kraslava.
The insight into the development of SE in the world, in Europe and in Latvia was given by the participant of the discussion, the lecturer of LLU, Doctor of Economics Lasma Dobele.She explained that the SU is the “nature of the business, which priority is to solve important social or environmental problems in the society, ensuring the company’s financial existence and sustainability. In addition, it is important to engage into social enterprise individuals of socially sensitive groups of society.”
The discussion was moderated by TV journalist Lasma Zute who is monitoring the development of social business in Latvia. She could mention only one social enterprise known in Latgale – “SinaVita”.In this social enterprise, which was founded by Ludza Society of Disabled, people with disabilities, young mothers and unemployed people at pre-retirement age are given an opportunity to engage in knitwear production. The representative of “SinaVita” Ilona Senkova said that only self-employed people are working with the company, since SU is unable to provide social guarantees for employees because of lack of funding. Currently, there is no appropriate legal basis for the regulating of social entrepreneurship in Latvia. SU operate on the same principles as traditional enterprises and compete with each other.
In this country, there are only a few support mechanisms and a small number of financial instruments to increase business competitiveness and improve productivity, but they are not intended for the development of the business environment of SE.Ingeborg Linde, the expert of the Department of Labour Market Policy in the Ministry of Welfare,informed the participants about the support that the state is intending to provide in order to promote SE and told about pilot projects which will be implemented from 1st January 2016.The participants showed their interest in the terms of the pilot project and the forms of support.
Will social entrepreneurship contribute to the development of Latgale? The chairwoman of Latgale region Planning Development Council Alina Gendele answered this question in the affirmative. SU will promote employment and reduce social exclusion in the labour market, reduce poverty and promote business in general. But there is another sore point-are there people in Latgale who will be able to put into practise the idea of social entrepreneurship?
The participants of the discussion wanted to know if municipalities are ready to support SY. Alina Gendele replied that SU would definitely be able to get:
• Discounts for real estate tax;
• Informative support and assistance;
• Assistance regarding renting of premises and reduction of rental fees;
• Local expert advice.
As the topic was very urgent, the discussion was dynamic. A number of ideas regarding social entrepreneurship was generated, potential barriers were discussed and solutions to overcome them were offered. It turned out that there were people among entrepreneurs, who actually are engaged in social entrepreneurship, but did not realize it.
Participants of the discussion said that the government should urgently recognize and strengthen social enterprises as a special group, not only in order to distinguish this group from other types of business, but also because it is an effective solution to long-standing problems.
The expert Lasma Dobele added:” Socially vulnerable groups of society usually are not given an opportunity for development. SU could give these people the opportunity to contribute to their professional and personal rise”. Wouldn`t it contribute to the development of the whole region and the country?
The TV version of the discussion “Social entrepreneurship in Latgale – Opportunities and Challenges” can be seen on Latgale Regional television website www.lrtv.lv. Photos are displayed on the website of Ludza Society of Disabled www.ludzasib.lv.