What are Social Enterprises?

Social enterprises are businesses that tackle social and environmental problems. They create jobs and generate income like other businesses, but instead of channelling their profits to owners they reinvest them to support their social mission. In doing so, they are improving people’s lives in our communities and societies.

Our Work

We work with a range of stakeholders to deliver social enterprise activities across three core areas.

Policy Makers and Influencers

Under this policy-focused area of work, we help to develop the capacity of government and key policy stakeholders to support the growth of an enabling environment for social enterprise. This will include conducting a mapping exercise to generate the evidence for action, leading study visits to the EU, and convening policy dialogues that enable all stakeholders to collectively determine action.

Social Enterprise intermediaries

Our work to build capacity in the sector focuses on building the capacity of intermediary organisations such as incubators, educators, consultants, and investment and finance professionals. We offer grants to enable intermediaries and educators to provide enhanced business support to social enterprises leaders. Social enterprise incubators are supported through a sub-granting mechanism that includes mentoring and training and an exchange of good practices between the intermediary organisations in East Africa and, whenever applicable, counterparts from relevant EU member states.

Social enterprise practitioners

We also support the development of a social enterprise community in East Africa by providing a collaboration and partnership space for social enterprise and civil society organisation leaders to connect and network. We offer a platform to develop the capacity of social enterprises to better define their needs and share their experience through the creation of a network of SE practitioners across the wider East Africa region, and facilitate sharing with EU Member State counterparts.

Our Approach

A systemic approach

We will work with social enterprise practitioners, intermediaries and policy influencers to share knowledge and perspectives from across the social enterprise sector in order to support a more coherent and systemic response.

A collaborative approach

Collaboration is the principle that underpins all of our work. We will partner and collaborate with a range of actors in order to maximise our collective impact and build links between counterparts in East Africa and Europe.


We aim to connect our initiatives to existing agendas and priorities. As social enterprise responds to different local contexts, we will ensure that the sector is viewed and connects to a wider national reform agenda, development strategy or the Sustainable Development Goals.

Evidence based

Through the implementation of the pilot project to develop and demonstrate field-tested methodologies, we will strive to promote and strengthen an evidence-based social enterprise approach. To that end, we will invest significant efforts to building a robust database.

Our Programme in Ethiopia

Our intervention in Ethiopia kicked off by an analytical work, a survey sought to unfold the current state of social enterprise in Ethiopia. The survey maps the sector in the country including an assessment of the size and profile of social enterprises. This will in turn provide an evidence base to take to key players in the ecosystem to initiate dialogue and help establish a better enabling environment for social enterprises.

To demonstrate the impact supporting social enterprises can have in addressing challenges faced by vulnerable populations, the programme engages in building capacities of a range of social enterprise intermediaries such as Civil Society Organizations, educational institutions and business support providers. We support partnership between educational institutions, Universities and TVET institutions, in Ethiopia and from across Europe to demonstrate to education institutions the need to teach the skills required to lead social enterprises for employability and job creation.

Through our networking and partnership platforms in-country, regionally, and globally, we aim to further demonstrate the potential of the social enterprise sector both through providing learning opportunities but also through helping to support the identification of new markets for social enterprises in Ethiopia. This helps to incentivise philanthropists and social investors to bring more capital into the sector.