This report is a summary in English of some sections related to social enterprises of the research carried out in the frame of the Finanza In project

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Funding Strategies for Social Economy

This report is a summary in English of some sections related to social enterprises of the research carried out in the frame of the Finanza In project:

Improving access to finance and microfinance – Some indicators to assess enteprises accountability and social value of profit and social micro and small enteprises”

Edited by Graziano Maino and Laura Papetti

The translation into English has been made by Fondazione Caritas Ambrosiana.


Promoting access to finance for social enterprises (SE) and of SMEs for a balanced territorial development: a project of growth between profit, no profit and banks

The reasons for the project Finanza In

A more accessible credit system favours not only SEs and SMEs, but also the surrounding territory. In fact, the stability and growth of these enterprises support personal and civil promotion, citizenship’s rights and social and economic welfare.

Improving the SEs and SMEs’ access to funding is also a growing opportunity for the credit sector. Following Basel II, in effect since the 1st of January 2007, banks have to modify the criteria and the conditions for fund granting. An individual rating system and an information classification system will be the tools to measure the potential risk of each enterprise.

The creation of an appropriate set of cognitive instruments represents the first step for the matching of supply and demand of credit. In this framework is born Finanza In: improving the access to finance of social enterprises and SMEs, a project co-financed by the Ministry of Labour and Public Welfare through the Equal Community initiative and realised by 12 partners from the Lombardia, Emilia Romagna and Sardinia regions.

The project aims at creating a model of actions and tools allowing the enterprises to approach efficiently and effectively the tools of credit on easy terms, offering to banks, SEs and SMEs the opportunity of knowing each other to build adequate operating tools.

In order to do that, it is necessary to offer to the credit system, besides the rating systems of Basel II, other evaluation modalities, introducing in particular the social added value.

It is also important the SEs and SMEs’ necessity of acquiring the required competences for improving the management and of developing the tools for the new processes of access to finance.

The promotion of a “cultural” change in the approach and the support to the reciprocal knowledge between banks and enterprises are the objectives of this research.

The reasons for this research

This research represents the first part of a complex project aiming at drawing up the enterprises and the credit sector.

The basis is evaluation: how to evaluate an enterprise? Which are its characteristics? Should only economic indicators be evaluated? The answers are in the identification of sensible areas able to represent tangible and intangible values and of socio-economic indicators complementary to the traditional ones. The leading thread is the enterprises’ responsibility of having both an economic and social role.

The research, carried out through a participated method, draw on literature, on experiences and less visible practices. It is a progressive research that collected indications to define an evaluation frame in line with Basel II and the needs of the SEs. Meetings with the partners, the territory, the universities, the professional accountants and the credit sector have been carried out.

The results were several: the tangible result of the set of indicators; the intangible results of the dialogue, the discussion between different partners, the informative function, the awareness of third parties and the direct confrontation with the credit sector.
"You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” (Mark Twain)


Intentions and objectives of the research

The research: a phase of the Finanza In project

The research is the first phase of a complex project foreseeing the following steps:

  • identifying areas and indicators for socio-economic evaluation;

  • making aware the interested actors about Basel II;

  • training of social enterprises: introducing managerial tools for planning, control and accounting;

  • training the credit system: knowing the specificity of SE to evaluate their value and reliability.

Aims and objectives of the research action


  • contributing to the evaluation of the social value;

  • favouring the interaction between banks and enterprises;

  • improving the opportunities of access to finance for SMEs and SEs.


The research wants to build and validate a set of social, organisational and relational indicators complementary to the traditional ones. These indicators could extend the evaluation made by the banks, highlighting performances, reliability and social value and could be used as well by the enterprises themselves to improve their managerial and promotional capacity.

The research’s design

The research draws on formal knowledge (managerial and academic literature) and on tacit knowledge developed and used by the actors involved in the relationship between banks and enterprises (banking businessmen, entrepreneurs, professional accountants and researchers). The research has been participated and wanted to collect as much as possible points of view, experiences and observations. The expected results are:

  • Identifying key areas for evaluation;

  • Selecting the indicators;

  • Arranging and grading questions in an articulated set.

The result will be submitted to representatives of the credit sector and of SMEs and SEs.

The project partners operate in Emilia Romagna, Lombardia and Sardinia.

Documental research

  • Analysis of the scientific and managerial literature;

  • Examination of the approaches for the improvement of the organisational performances (EFQM, ISO9000, SA8000, Balance Scorecard, Intangible Balancesheet, VA.R.I. model by Banca Etica, CSR-SC model).

  • Comparative analysis of the social balance sheets produced by SEs and SMEs.

Elaboration and group in-depth examinations with the project partners

Partners worked together and divided into thematic groups following six steps:

  • analysis of the eight files and of the synthesis file elaborated on the basis of the documental research. At the beginning different files were structured for different themes: strategy, professional resources, innovation, communication and marketing, customers and quality, relational capital, responsibility, equal opportunities and the synthesis file.

  • Selection of the dimensions and sub-dimensions and unification of the produced files.

  • Breakdown into three general files: micro-enterprises, SMEs and social cooperatives.

  • Refining, completion and first validation of the files.

Interviews with professional accountants

The produced files have been submitted to seven professional accountants. Professional accountants play an important role: they orientate the enterprises and are the first consultant to be listened not only for technical but also for strategic advices. They own informal knowledge, they are trusted by banks and by entrepreneurs and they influence their decisions suggesting choices and tools.

Focus groups with representatives of the academic, credit and social enterprise sectors

Some meetings have been organised with university professors (technical scientific committee of the project), banks’ representatives and social entrepreneurs. The focus groups contributed to the files’ contents and to the questionnaire, realising a synthetic version for the banks and a more analytical one for the social enterprises.


Social, organisational and relational indicators

The identified indicators don’t allow establishing with absolute certainty the conditions of an organisation. They seem able to describe important aspects. If the performances of a certain enterprise are excellent in the areas identified, then it is probable one can trust that organisation, but that is not sure. It is worth to mention that the researched areas and sub-dimensions are many and the indicators’ objective is to identify not the univocal and evident information, but the positioning and the overall conditions of the evaluated subjects.


Reliability can have at least two meanings:

  • One, more technical, refers to the capacity of the enterprise to receive credit and respect the due payments. The maximum reliability is reached when guarantees are offered. It is considered a good indicator the absence of precedent credits overdue.

  • The second, wider, informs that an enterprise is trustable because it is engaged on different strategic fronts and the results are appreciable.

The use of the files allows to identify not the first meaning reliability, but the second. The files can identify strengths and weaknesses, indicating the overall state of the enterprise concerning the social, organisational and relational dimensions.
Report card

Concretely, the research’s aim is to verify the possibility of identifying an effective set of indicators. We used the metaphor of the report card. We tried to build a tool to count the positive and negative judgements and to provide a unitary representation of an organisation. Just like the result written on the school report card, the result of the files don’t express an absolute value, but a judgement that has to be verified. The use of the files doesn’t solve the problem of the evaluation of the intangible assets, but it can contribute to the development of relationships based on the knowledge of the subjects in numerous relevant areas.

The result of the research

We produced six baskets of indicators: three for the banks, three for the SMEs and the SEs.

  • Banks indicators: files to evaluate the reliability of micro-enterprises and files to evaluate the reliability of social cooperatives;

  • Indicators to monitor the organisational results: baskets of indicators for the micro-enterprises (60 indicators); baskets of indicators for the SMEs (about 100 indicators); baskets of indicators for the social cooperatives (a little more than 100 indicators).

At the end of the research, we understood that:

  • evaluations are complex, not mechanical processes, integrating quantitative and qualitative, standard and subjective valuations;

  • banks know a little about the social enterprise sector; their classifications don’t consider social cooperatives and the third sector is often confused with volunteering;

  • SMEs and SEs present structural, organisational and relational weaknesses, sometimes relevant;

  • There are no prejudice barriers against a reciprocal knowledge between the credit and the social enterprises sector.

We found availability and willingness to face problems concretely through process of competences and instruments improvements. The issue of access to finance is in the first ranks of the agenda of organisation representing the no profit sector and it rises the interest of networks, consortia and the credit system.
The co-produced research is now given to the work groups involved in the planning and implementation of the following phases of the project, to contribute to the preparation of training courses for managers and entrepreneurs, debates and accompaniment and visibility actions for SMEs and SEs.

Structure of the research report

The report is divided in two parts:

  • The first presents the achieved results, explains the methodological and operational choices, presents some considerations and names the consulted books, texts and websites.

  • The second presents the materials produced during the research. It collects the reports on the comparative reading of social balance sheets, on the documental analysis that has been made, on the indicators initially submitted to the work groups. This part intends to report intermediate materials that are input of the next phases. It is useful in order to examine the development phases of the research an to use them for the organisations: the files about the comparative readings of the social balance sheets, as well as the synthesis of the interviews to the professional accountants and the files about the considered managerial models, are really long, but some organisation could use ideas and questions that have not been included in the final version The result of the preparatory work is presented to complete the final report.

INDICATORS - Preliminary indications
How the files can be used

The files can be conceived as a brief and functional dossier ready to use. Some project partners are working to create an informative program to facilitate the use of indicators. The idea is that one point is assigned for every affirmative answer and no point is assigned for every negative answer. Of course, evidence must be given for every affirmative answer by producing documents proving that the enterprise really meets the requirements. The result of the compiled file will be a score for each area and the total score. The synthesis data, below the evaluation file, could be completed by a folder containing the documentation related to the result areas. This counts of course in an evaluation perspective. And what if the use of the files (of the baskets) had an internal purpose of organisation improvement produced thanks to the observation and the consideration of key aspects emerged from the files?

The files structure (social enterprises)

Ownership structure and governing bodies

  • company structure

  • governing bodies: composition and tasks

  • internal confidence

  • relationship with the credit and insurance system

Organisational learning, definition of strategic policies and care of the internal processes

  • learning by doing

  • caring the organisational operation

  • identifying the organisational strategies

Professional resources

  • working conditions

  • training and updating

  • attention to the staff and awarding system

Quality and customers

  • Identifying the key customers

  • Testing the satisfaction

  • Research variety

  • Developing continuous relationships

  • Making forecasts

  • Researching the products and services’ good quality

  • Relationship with the suppliers

  • Relationship with the consumers protection organisations

Marketing and communication

  • Communication planning

  • Communication to the customers

  • Institutional communication

  • Relationship with the communication technologies

  • Marketing


  • Innovation areas

  • Services and products innovation

  • Economic resources for innovation

  • Organisational and professional resources for innovation

  • Partnerships

  • Product/service innovation returns

  • Process innovation returns

  • Technological innovation

  • Innovation strategies

Relationship capital

  • Attention to the context and to the stakeholders

  • Relationship with the local community and with the territory

  • Relationship with entrepreneurial and trade associations

  • Non-economic relationship of collaborations with local institutions

  • Relationship with education and training institutions

  • Relationship with the competitors


  • Conscious choices

  • Certifications

  • Health and safety

Equal opportunities

  • Women and men: gender opportunities

  • Youth and elders: generational opportunities

  • Origin: inclusion opportunities

  • Opportunity of social and working integration

  • Specific questions for the social cooperatives B

  • Further elements related to equal opportunities

Enterprises indicators
Evaluating the reliability of the social enterprises (social cooperatives A and B)

For a qualitative evaluation complementary to economic evaluation, as provided for by Basel II.

Ownership structure and governing bodies

The composition and the trend of the enterprise’s social base are elements to be considered in evaluating its reliability. Reading the ownership structure means answer to the question: “Whose is the enterprise? Who has expectations on performances and behaviours, who invests on it and on its future?”

Company structure

  1. Legal nature, specifying the typology of the social cooperatives (A, B, mixed).

  2. What was the trend of the associates in the last three years (entries and withdrawal)

  3. Which is the number of associates by categories (working associates, voluntary partners, legal persons, others typologies of associates) in the cooperative the 31st of December? Specify the trend in the last three financial years.

  4. Which is the average length of social association with the enterprise and by categories of associates? (Seniority of every associate/aggregate data)

Governing bodies: composition and operation

  1. Do audit bodies exist?

  2. If yes, which ones? (Board of auditors, auditor, auditing company)

  3. Composition of the board of directors by associate typology (specify if there are non-associated administrators).

  4. Has at least the 50% of the associates participated (on average) to the meetings of the last three years?

  5. Do associates’ commissions/working groups exist (specify composition, number of meeting per year)?

  6. Are internal communication strategies set about the enterprise activities, about the decision made by the governing bodies, etc.?

Internal confidence

  1. Is social borrowing practiced? (How many associates lend in relation to the share base? Which is the trend of the social borrowing in the last three years? Specify the aim of the social borrowing)

  2. Are there projects funded by subsidiser associates?

  3. Is the refund made and how is it finalised?

Relationship with the credit and insurance system

  1. Are insurances subscribed to protect against the risks (beside the ones prescribed by the law)?

  2. Does the cooperative propose/use supplementary allowance systems?

Organisational learning, definition of strategic policies and care of the internal processes

Reliability depends on the enterprise’s capacity of learning by difficulties, problems and experiences, by the attention to the internal operation processes and by the ability to focus the strategies and the policies.

Learning by doing

  1. Do the governing body dedicate some time to the evaluation of the enterprise’s overall performance?

  2. Is any occasion of discussion with external experts planned?

  3. Does the enterprise organise any discussion within the sectors or working groups with the attendance of operating figures and managers?

Caring the organisational operation

  1. Has the management adopted decision and implementation models for the key processes?

  2. Does the enterprise plan occasion of discussion with the attendance of managers and directors?

Identifying the organisational strategies

  1. Does the governing body submit annually a long-term strategic plan to the assembly?

  2. Is budgeting made?

  3. Does the assembly vote the budget?

Professional resources

The productive organisation that takes care of, valorises and involve the staff should be considered reliable because it creates favourable productive conditions and it generates engagement and adhesion to the enterprise project.

The enterprise that understands the individual and professional needs of its own staff and that engages itself in guaranteeing good working conditions favours involvement, growth and competitiveness.
Working conditions

  1. Is the reference contract applied?

  2. With regard to the external workers (temporary contracts, contracts for a specific task), are the assignment letters subscribed?

  3. Have been carried out surveys about the satisfaction and the evaluation of the working conditions?

  4. Has the organisation established procedures for the selection of new professional figures?

  5. Do the new professional figures have entry accompaniment modalities?

Training and updating

  1. Did the managers make at least the 1% of the hours of work of training during the last year?

  2. Did the operating figures make at least the 1% of the hours of work of training during the last year?

  3. Is any annual training plan maiden?

Organisation’s attention to the staff and awarding system

  1. Are non-occasional or extemporary awarding systems applied? (Specify which ones)

For example:

  • grant of extra allowance over minimum pay;

  • grant of benefits;

  • leaves for associates and employees;

  • advance against wages/termination indemnity;

  • others.

Quality and customers

The organisation that has the strategic objective of offering good-quality services or products and that is able to respond to the customers’ needs can be considered reliable.

Identifying the key customers

  1. Has the enterprise identified the categories of customers in order to define the level of service or product? Can it certify it?

  2. Have been strategies differentiated by customer typology?

Testing the satisfaction

  1. Has the organisation activated structured and periodic modalities to investigate the customers’ expectations and satisfaction?

  2. Does the organisation systematically notice dissatisfaction, complaints or returns from its customers?

  3. Has the enterprise received any award, satisfaction certificate, mention, newspaper’s positive comment?

Researching variety

  1. Does the enterprise have a variety of customers/consignors (does it avoid situation of dependence from a single customer/consignor)?

Developing continuous relationships

  1. In the last three years, how many customers (percentage) applied to the organisation in a continuous way?

Making forecasts

  1. Has the enterprise collected signals and/or made business forecasts?

  2. Has the enterprise collected general data about the trend of its sector?

Researching products and services’ good-quality

  1. Does the enterprise participate to any official quality trademark of the sector or of the territory?

  2. Is the enterprise certified according to recognised quality systems?

  3. Does it utilise evaluation systems for the organisation and the provided services? (Specify which ones)

Relationship with the suppliers

  1. Has the enterprise adopted a system for supplier selection and monitoring?

Relationship with the consumers’ protection organisations

  1. In the last three years, there was no litigation with the consumers association.

  2. In the last three years, was any project or collaboration with consumers association realised?

Marketing and communication

Structured communication, promotion and marketing activities highlight the effort of making visible the enterprise activity: an articulated and continuous engagement should generate confidence.

Communication planning

  1. Has the enterprise established a communication plan?

  2. In the last three years, have economic resources been invested in communication activities?

  3. Is there a specific evaluation for the returns of the communication activities?

  4. Is the enterprise web site realised?

  5. Is it periodically updated?

Communication to the customers

  1. Do structured modalities of information and communication to the customers exist (for example, informative, promotional and illustrative material about the enterprise activity)?

  2. Do structured modalities of information and communication to other stakeholders exist?

  3. Does the enterprise update the mailing list of current and potential customers?

Institutional communication

  1. Does the enterprise make, together with the balance sheet, an analytical report that explains the contents and the meanings?

  2. Does the enterprise write the service papers?

  3. Are social accounting systems adopted?

  4. Are environmental accounting systems adopted?

  5. Does the enterprise participate to events, fairs, happenings to promote its image and its products/services?

Relationship with the communication technologies

  1. Does the enterprise make press releases? (Specify the frequency and the modalities)

  2. Does the enterprise buy any page on specialised review or local magazine?


  1. Has the enterprise established a marketing plan?

  2. In the last three years, have economic resources been invested in marketing activities?

  3. Does the enterprise have any employee dedicated to communication and marketing?

  4. Does the enterprise seek expert advices about marketing?

  5. In the last three years, did the enterprise organised meeting with the customers in order to promote its activity?


An enterprise runs serious risks if it doesn’t innovate. The possible innovation areas are services, products, processes, the reference market, the technological endowments. To meet the innovation needs, the organisation has to identify a project, to invest financial resources and to dedicate adequate professional resources. The file tries to answer to the following questions:

  • in which business areas is the innovation focalised;

  • with how many economical resources;

  • with which organisational and professional resources;

  • with which partners and networks;

  • with the attention to which processes.

Innovation areas

  1. In which of the following areas the enterprise can prove its effort for innovation:

  • organisational innovation;

  • product/service innovation;

  • process innovation;

  • market innovation;

  • technological innovation;

  • ICT innovation.

Services and products innovation

  1. Can the organisation show any innovation introduced in the last three years?

Economic resources for innovation

  1. Has the enterprise allocated a percentage of the turnover to innovation?

Organisational and professional resources for innovation

  1. Is there a working group dedicated to innovation?

  2. In the last three years, have new professional figures been involved?

  3. In the last three years, has the enterprise realised internship or traineeship finalised to innovation with universities or research institutes?

  4. Which is the percentage of time of work (on the total time of work of the enterprise) dedicated to the design and the realisation of innovations?

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