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SECON: A new initiative to boost social economy in EU regions

The SECON project, an initiative funded by INTERREG Europe, commenced with its kick-off meeting, on the 24th and 25th of May, marking the beginning of a collaborative effort to enhance the social economy in European regions. Coordinated by the Region of Peloponnese, the meeting brought together representatives from nine participating regions at Kalamata, Greece, to discuss project implementation and set the foundation for future activities.

SECON aims to drive policy improvement and facilitate the exchange of best practices to promote social economy within EU regions. Recognizing the potential of the social economy as a catalyst for sustainable growth and community development, the project intends to create an enabling environment that supports its advancement. To achieve this, SECON will embark on a comprehensive range of activities, including regional and interregional learning initiatives, the development of studies and reports, and knowledge exchange endeavors.

During the kick-off meeting, the participating regions, namely the Region of Peloponnese (Greece), the Verband Region Rhein-Neckar (Germany), the Province of Flemish Brabant (Belgium), the Harghita County Council (Romania), the Mazowieckie Region (Poland), the Oliveira de Azeméis Municipality (Portugal), the Riga Planning Region (Latvia), the Consejería de Agricultura, Desarrollo Rural, Población y Territorio – Junta de Extremadura (Spain), the Haskovo Municipality (Bulgaria), and KMOP – Social Action and Innovation Centre (Greece), engaged in productive discussions regarding the project’s implementation strategies and collaborative efforts.

The meeting served as a catalyst for robust discussions, fostering an atmosphere of collaboration and knowledge sharing among the participating regions. Each region’s unique insights and experiences contributed to the collective understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the social economy landscape.

“The Region of Peloponnese confronts significant social challenges, and it is crucial for civil society and local government to collaborate and offer grassroots solutions to address them effectively,” said Mr. Panagiotis Nikas, Regional Governor of Peloponnese, at his inaugural speech. Deputy Governor, Mr. Stathis Anastasopoulos, highlighted that “SECON presents an opportunity for us to identify institutional shortcomings and derive valuable insights to enhance the functioning of social enterprises. I personally believe that successful examples of social enterprises coming together and working collectively can yield superior outcomes for their members.”

“By prioritizing the promotion and advancement of social entrepreneurship, SECON aims to cultivate an environment conducive to innovation, collaboration, and sustainable development, ultimately benefiting individuals, communities, and the environment across participating regions,” said Dr. Yiannis Pappas, Head of Programmes at KMOP.

To ensure the effective realization of the project’s objectives, SECON will address various policy instruments that are central to the participating regions. These include the ROP Peloponnese 21-27 (funded by ERDF and ESF+), focusing on human resources development, social integration, poverty alleviation, and strengthening cohesion. Additionally, the project will incorporate the Regional Development Concept “Rhine-Neckar – Connect Innovation!” (Germany), the Multiannual Plan 2020-2025 of Flemish Brabant (Belgium), the Economic Development Strategy – Harghita 2030 (Romania), the Regional Program “European Funds for Mazowsze 2021-2027” (Poland), the Municipal Plan for Social Innovation (MUPSI) (Portugal), the Riga Planning Region (RPR) Development Programme 2022-2027 (Latvia), the ESF Operational Programme (2021-2027) Action 6: Access to Employment – Social Economy – Incentives for stable economy (Spain), and the Plan for Integrated Development of Haskovo Municipality 2021-2027 (Bulgaria).

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