The term “social economy” can be used to refer to the economic side of social work. Social work is organised by public sector services and facilities as well as non-profit and private-commercial service providers. The social economy also encompasses a wide variety of events, projects and organisations run by collective self-help initiatives such as cooperatives, as well as enterprises that serve the public good by meeting social needs. The structures of the social economy directly contribute to personal and social well-being. In the broad field of welfare, the social economy supports and cares for people, constituting a large sector in the economic system in terms of the number of employees and contribution to gross national product. The question of what can be considered part of the social economy is contentious and the subject of ongoing political and scholarly debate.
The theory of the social economy explores its structures and functions, examining its development at the macro level of its institutionalisation, at the meso level of its governance with respect to social management, and at the micro level in the empiricism of client-centred welfare production. The economics of services of general interest on every level and the conditions for running social institutions and services are discussed in this framework. The characteristics of the social care system here in Germany must be viewed in the light of European and international developments in public services, of the social and solidarity economy, and of social entrepreneurship.
The Expert Group for the Social Economy brings educators from social economy and social management degree programmes together with researchers in the field of social and healthcare service systems. The group meets for events devoted to agreed topics and promotes dialogue among its members. It works with the Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft Sozialmanagement/Sozialwirtschaft an Hochschulen e.V. and is a member of the Internationale Arbeitsgemeinschaft Sozialmanagement/Sozialwirtschaft (INAS) e.V.