A Welsh coalition has commissioned a £30,000 study to map the Welsh social economy and make recommendations on how financial support for social enterprises can be improved.
The research will be the first project of the Welsh Social Economy Network, a coalition of umbrella bodies including the Wales Council for Voluntary Action, the Welsh Co-op Centre and Groundwork Wales.
A team of consultants will work with Professor Dave Adamson of Glamorgan University to conduct the research. The Welsh Development Agency and an EU Objective One grant have supplied the funding for the project.
The study aims to encourage good practice and make policy suggestions to the Welsh Assembly Government on improving assistance to social enterprises.
"If the social economy is to develop, we have to look further than the nearest buck, think strategically and look at the bigger picture,
said project manager Hywel Davies.
"There is a basic lack of understanding about what the social economy is in both the public and private sector. If a social enterprise speaks to a bank about buying a building, they are asked why they don't maximise their profits, when a social enterprise generates a surplus, it is always reinvested in the organisation,
The study has been backed by the Welsh Assembly Government. Minister for Economic Development Andrew Davies said: "This represents a major step forward in realising the potential of the social economy in Wales.
"Since becoming economic development minister, promoting economic activity has become a priority and the social economy has a pivotal part to play in this.