The public sector and social entrepreneurs

Social entrepreneurs often have services aimed at marginalised groups or excluded people. Collaborating with the public sector and selling services to the public sector are therefore often a natural part of their business models.

The public sector is under growing pressure to develop new and more efficient welfare services so that it can keep up with the changes taking place in society. This has led more and more municipalities to want to collaborate with social entrepreneurs.

Because social entrepreneurs are not a homogeneous group, it can sometimes be challenging to find a way of collaborating that works for both the entrepreneur concerned and the public sector. Numerous factors influence the collaboration options available, including the organisational structures, attitudes and financial positions of the parties involved, as well as legal questions and siloed thinking. Despite the challenges, there are more and more high-quality solutions to the issue, and many people are benefitting from this across Norway.

Read more about the defining features of social entrepreneurs here.

How can we buy services or products from social entrepreneurs?

Social entrepreneurs often find public sector procurement rules a hindrance and barrier to their ability to collaborate with the public sector. At the same time, many public sector procurers are uncertain how to go about collaborating with social entrepreneurs or buying their products and services, both from a purely practical perspective and in terms of the necessary legal requirements. We see this barrier as an untapped opportunity and have therefore taken the initiative of producing a legal guide (only available in Norwegian).

Legal guide

The legal guide (only available in Norwegian) seeks to set out for public sector contracting authorities the opportunity space they have within the limits of the Norwegian Public Procurement Act. It also seeks to set out how significant added social value can be created by making active use of the opportunity space that exists under the regulations.

The guide also provides answers to a range of questions such as whether social entrepreneurs are non-profit or commercial organisations, and how the opportunity space differs between the varying types of legal entity that social entrepreneurs use. The guide also provides information on how public sector bodies can enter into an agreement with a social entrepreneur, whether it is permitted to favour a social entrepreneur, and whether one can buy the services of a social entrepreneur without running a competitive tender process because the product or service sought is unique.

iMAL has developed a digital teaching aid intended to help all types of pupil to make progress with the alphabet, reading and writing from their very first day at school. Photo: Line L. Wendel.

Wide supportbase

In 2017 the Norwegian Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation produced an inspiration booklet (only available in Norwegian) on collaboration between social entrepreneurs and the public sector. The legal guide builds on this work and is supported by both the public sector and a range of organisations that specialise in social entrepreneurs.

Ferd Social Entrepreneurs created the guide in collaboration with the National Program for Supplier Development, the Norwegian Agency for Public Management and eGovernmentInnovation Norway, the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS), the City of Oslo’s Municipality Welfare AdministrationBærum Municipality and SoCentral.

Click the link to download the Guide to public sector contracting authority interaction with social entrepreneurs (only available in Norwegian).