The word “Social Entrepreneurship” was almost completely ignored, or even unknown, until the mid-1990s, when, as in all the other contexts already mentioned, it was necessary to fill the gap that the state and corporations profitable areas could not cover, in areas of social need, judicial rights of the most disadvantaged communities and the creation of opportunities for weaker groups as specified by Marques (2010: 4). Thus, this practice was understood as a strategic and coherent way, according to the same author, to support the insertion and the professional reintegration, the insertion by the economy. The model adopted for this was that of the aforementioned Insertion Companies, which was already used in other European countries. The potentialities that were attributed to Social Entrepreneurship highlighted three major problems, as expressed by Quintão (2004: 18): the fight against poverty and social exclusion; employment and insertion socio-professional; and local and sustainable development. And Insertion Companies, in particular, contributed to introducing the notion of social purpose entrepreneurship as an instrument to fight poverty and unemployment (Quintão, 2008: 9).
“Defined as entities organized according to business logic of production of goods and services, in various sectors of economic activity, and whose purpose is to socially and professionally disadvantaged people in the labor market, through the development of a productive activity in real context” citing Quintão (2008: 3) who also adds that they started from a public policy initiative by the state, with the aim of introducing innovative trends in social policies.
Among the authors’ references, the already established connotation of the Social Enterprise to Social Entrepreneurship and its emergence should be highlighted, but over time, through programs to support the social economy and microenterprises, Social Entrepreneurship has consolidated and from the perspective of Marques (2010: 6), began to be observed more broadly and with a less limited view, regarding its protagonists and their sense of use.
According to Martins (2007), much has changed in the Portuguese social landscape in the last decade as interactions between civil society and the business world have multiplied in order to respond to a state of welfare that is often not dynamic and ineffective in resolving of social problems.
Social Entrepreneurship came to Portugal as a mentality and a way of being, and it has been noted in non-profit organizations, in established companies, through conventional entrepreneurs, state entities, among others. Social Entrepreneurship is in vogue, and terms such as flexibility, innovation, risk and creativity accompany it. Social entrepreneurs have developed skills and nowadays “start businesses based on a clear social mission, do not live on patronage or subsidies, use management tools to form and manage their social businesses, in short, believe and survive according to competition and quality laws ”(Martins, 2007), and good work has already been done by Portuguese social entrepreneurs.
Santos, from Insead, points out that Portugal has “very good initiatives”, “has a very important social sector, several very relevant social support organizations” (cited by Quedas, 2011). And a lot is due to private organizations that work to foster entrepreneurship in people and help them realize ideas, such as IES (Institute of Social Entrepreneurship) and CASES (António Sérgio Cooperative for Social Economy). ). Constantly, these organizations offer training in this regard, programs, financial incentives, partnerships, etc., to see entrepreneurial activity grow in Portugal.
Universities have also played a relevant role in the development of this area in Portugal, both in terms of education and research, and Daniel Traça argues: “the main goal is to influence society through our students” (quoted by Quedas, 2011), as Marques (2010: 4) states, one of the great objectives of Social Entrepreneurship is the involvement of communities in a set of activities that improve their well-being.
In Portuguese territory, entrepreneurship is important in the social development and current economies, in terms of job creation, innovation, wealth creation, and is still increasingly a career choice for a good and growing force.
However, national characteristics create obstacles to this emergency and that, according to Quintão (2004: 21), are: the heavy reliance on public funding by private social solidarity organizations; Third Sector composition strongly marked by the weight of religious institutions; the existence of training and professionalization needs of Third Sector organizations; and the weak dynamism of civil society and collective action.
To face these facts, and positively, Portugal has already developed a legal framework, albeit fragmented, and even instruments to foster Social Entrepreneurship (Quintão, 2004: 22), such as the aforementioned “Social Employment Market” ( MSE); the “Cooperative Development Program” (PRODESCOOP); legislation that recognizes IPSS (Private Social Solidarity Institutions); the “Patronage Statute”; programs such as Innovative Ideas Contests (promoted by IAPMEI – Institute for Support to Small and Medium Enterprises and Innovation, by NET – New Companies and Technologies S.A. and ANJE – National Association of Young Entrepreneurs); the launch of Incubation Centers; the Entrepreneurs Guides; CIS – Center for Social Innovation; CoopJovem – support program for cooperative entrepreneurship; and, among others, the creation of the National Council of Social Economy and the Basic Law of Social Economy – recently unanimously approved in the Assembly of the Republic.
Despite all these good results that have been achieved, Portugal still has a lot to learn and do in the area. Manuel Alves Martins, from IES, points out that in Portugal “individual protagonisms still often overlap with the objectives of the organizations themselves. We still live a lot on islands, we have no scale, we have little impact ”(cited by Quedas, 2011).
The levels of entrepreneurial activity in the country are low, according to data provided by the GEM – Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report which, in 2001, recorded that Portugal was at the 9th lowest level of entrepreneurial activity, according to Gaspar and Fé de Pinho (2007), improving its position in 2004. To this end, geographical, historical, educational, cultural and economic reasons are pointed out: “The phenomenon of entrepreneurship in Portugal is worryingly low, largely due to historical developments. Portuguese economy and society and also due to the low levels of innovation and access to knowledge ”(Gaspar and Fé de Pinho, 2007: 21).
In sum, and from the perspective of Quintão (2004: 21), the use of the designations of Social Enterprise and Social Entrepreneurship in Portugal is still low. According to a study by CIRIEC – Center International de Recherches et d’Information sur l’Economie Publique, Sociale et Coopérative (2000), this area was in Portugal, and it can be said that it is still in emergency because “ neither the notion itself nor its limits have yet reached sufficient consensuality to avoid misunderstanding and lessen controversy ”.