Third sector, cooperatives, social enterprises and social innovation are nowadays considered as very important subjects in academic literature, in the collective debate about public policies and in the Italian and international political context. The researchers of this action-research unit of ARCO are responsible for research, experimentation and scientific production about the role of third sector, the link between profit and no profit world, social enterprises, cooperative organizations and social innovation.

This group is one of the strategic units of the research laboratory ARCO ( Action Research for CO- development), which is is an academic laboratory of the University of Florence.

As a result of the high-quality research and consultancies carried out by ARCO in the last years, PIN Polo Universitario Città di Prato is accredited as Yunus Social Business Centre University of Florence under the patronage of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Prof. Muhammad Yunus.

This is the first centre in Italy accredited by the Yunus Centre in Dhaka and it works in order to spread the concept of Social Business in Italy and abroad and to offer strategic support to private subjects and public institutions who want to put Social Business theories into practice. In particular, the researchers of ARCO Social Economy Unit are working for the Pistoia Social Business City program realization, that is a multi-years program aimed at the promotion and support of Social Businesses in the Province of Pistoia.


  1. To contribute with passion and scientific accuracy to the academic and civil society debate on third sector, social oriented organizations, non-profit and social innovation.
  2. To develop and support innovative but practical proposals which can sustain the effective resolution of social and environmental local needs.
  3. To provide support for organizations and public institutions interested in promoting entrepreneurial initiatives that have as their main purpose the resolution of social and environmental problems.
  4. To support the promotion of a fair economy and to assist third sector organizations and social enterprises in the creation of social value for the community.


Social Economy Unit is coordinated by Marco Bellucci, Researcher at PIN S.c.r.l. and Project Manager of the  Yunus Social Business Centre University of Florence, with the scientific oversight of Luca Bagnoli,  Professor of Business Administration at University of Florence

The unit relies on a wide network of external experts depending on the subject and peculiarities of each activity. The Unit on Social Economy operates in close collaboration with the other Lab’s units – Impact Evaluation, Local Development, Inclusive Development – and it has access to a large number of high level academics and professionals, both in Italy and other countries.

Main activities and services

  • Research and studies on social enterprises, cooperatives, voluntary associations, foundations, networks of organizations, social innovation systems, clusters of solidarity economy and other complex topics related to the world of third sector, social economy, social business and social innovation.
  • Support to the elaboration and implementation of public policies in the field of social entrepreneurship, social innovation and facilitating systems through reports, studies, surveys, collection/analysis of data.
  • Project designing at local, national and European level in the field of social inclusion, social innovation, third sector and social entrepreneurship.
  • Planning and implementation of long-term organic programs of activities for the promotion of organizations that aim to find innovative social and environmental solutions to local needs.
  • Training and awareness raising on topics as social enterprise and third sector, business plan for businesses that meet the community’ s needs, solidarity economy and social innovation.

Principles underlying our work

  • We aim at combining robust scientific and academic expertise with active skills and experience of third-sector specialists in order to achieve greater accuracy, comprehensiveness and adherence.
  • Our action-research approach is based on multi-disciplinary analysis and cross-fertilizing theories, with an integrated and place-based perspective.
  • We believe in our own continuous upgrading and innovation in the methodological approach, based on international cutting-edge research, as well as that of our partners.
  • Our research aims to produce results that are relevant for policy makers and to contribute to the welfare of society.
  • Our enthusiasm inspires the desire to conduct a research that is really useful both from the point of view of the advancement of general knowledge and from the point of view of the preferences of the customer.
  • We reserve adequate attention to communication and dissemination of results in order to reach a significant impact.
  • Our studies and researches are independent and transparent.

Main partners

  • Local/National Governments, Institutions and Organizations
  • University Departments and Research Centres
  • Foundations
  • Trade and industry associations
  • EU Institutions
  • Italian Ministries
  • Networks of solidarity economy
  • Yunus Social Business Centre University of Florence

Contact Us

Marco Bellucci, Social Economy Unit Coordinator