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Work integration social enterprises

People are society's most important resource. To make the most of everyone's potential, sometimes extra support is needed to find the right place in the labour market. That is what work integration social enterprises (WISEs) offer.

What are work integration social enterprises?

Work integration social enterprises, WISEs, conduct business activities, meaning they produce and sell goods or services. They can be anything from hotels or property services to farming or art. But unlike other businesses, their overall aim is to integrate people into society and the world of work through work and participation; people who, for various reasons, find it difficult to get or keep a job. Thus, a WISE must always have at least two business concepts or activities.

A work integration social enterprise must:

  • aim to integrate people into the labour market and society.
  • sell goods and services to customers. These may be work integration services, café activities, farming, sewing, car washing, hotel activities, office services or other activities about which the employees have knowledge.
  • be organisationally independent, i.e. run as a separate business. Never owned by e.g. a municipality.
  • involve employees through ownership, contracts or similar.
  • mainly reinvest its profits in its own or similar activities.

Such enterprises always focus on employees' needs for work and participation, with the main aim of integrating people into the labour market and into society.

Running a WISE

There is no specific regulatory framework or business form for work integration social enterprises (WISEs). As it is important that as many employees as possible are involved and have responsibility for the development of the enterprise, they are often run as cooperatives. Most of them are organised in the form of an economic association, but they are also run, for example, as a non-profit association or as a limited company with limited profit distribution.

When enterprises have a dual business concept, there is a need for good cooperation with many partners: the public sector for work integration services, and the business community, companies and individuals for the other business concept that the enterprise is pursuing. Different skill sets are therefore needed within the enterprise to keep track of the many regulations and contacts that the enterprise needs to deal with.

Skoopi, the Swedish interest association for work integration social enterprises, creates contacts between WISEs, conducts projects and training, and works to influence the conditions for running WISEs.

Skoopi, the Swedish interest association for work integration social enterprises (in Swedish)