Social firms, what are they exactly?

For DOEN, these are enterprises that are committed to economic and social participation of vulnerable groups of people in Dutch society. We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to actively participate. Unfortunately, still too many people remain on the sidelines. They often lack education, qualifications or a (social) network. Also people experience obstacles because of mental or physical disabilities, which prevent them from fully participating in today’s complex society. Social firms provide these people with the opportunity to get back on board.

Would you like to see what kind of enterprises can count on DOEN’s support? Check out these examples:

So much talent is inactive
Koeckebackers works with young adults who have difficulty finding a paid job. They participate in a development program in the bakery or the bar. This increases their opportunities on the job market. “How is it possible that so much talent is on the bench, not employed, but could have a valuable role in the labour market,” asked Joep Lange, one of the founders. “We dream of a world in which everyone is free to be who they are and talent gets valued.”

The importance of a paid job
About three-quarters of the people with autism does not have a paid job. This is because they often are not understood in the workplace. Addy Borst, CEO of Carapax IT, wants to offer people with autism a place to work: “They are entitled to a place in society and having a paid job is an important part of that.” The enterprise has a wide-ranging offer of business services and aims to remove clients’ doubts to involve people with autism.

Working together on a special product
In production workshop Van Hulley, women with a distance to the job market turn worn dress shirts into new, hip boxer shorts. The women are very willing to work but often don’t have the necessary documents (yet) to fulfil their ambitions. Van Hulley offers them training and a place to gain working experience. The shorts that the workshop produces are high quality, very comfortable, and, above all, handmade with loving care. Van Hulley combines social and sustainable enterprising. Initiator Jolijn Creutzberg: “Van Hulley befits today’s increased attention for sustainability and responsible production. We sell a special product and, in doing so, make an important contribution to society.”

A few other examples

Good revenue model
What these social firms have in common is that apart from their social objectives they are financially sound companies. They are both social and commercial. There is a revenue model in place. An own income ensures the company’s continuity and further development. This enterprising approach is an important condition for DOEN’s Social Firms program. And if you are even able to include environmental sustainability into your plan, you will have our attention definitely!

Applying to DOEN?
Please first read the criteria of the Social Firms programme. 
If you would like to find out more or have a question, send an e-mail to Karin Hoekstra, Team officer,


Karin Hoekstra
Karin Hoekstra