The article describes how the social cooperative has become instrumental in the expansion of the social economy in Italy. It reports the contribution these associations have made to broadening the concept and parameters of volunteer organizations, providing basic social welfare services and integrating many disadvantaged people into the active society. By virtue of their ability to activate wider social projects, this type of social enterprise could be of interest and relevance to other countries (following this example, in 2001 the French government created the Sociétés coopératives d’intérét collectif), but they call for adequate competencies and protection under specific laws because, on the whole, they are too small and depended on public contributions.
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