Over the course of the last decade social enterprises have come to play a key role in the management and delivery of social and labour market services in Europe. While much research has been devoted to documenting the rise of these institutions, their implications for contemporary
debates about social inclusion remain elusive. In the first half of the chapter a framework which connects the unique institutional capacity of social enterprises as hybrid organisations to a growing concern for the welfare and well‐being of marginalised service recipients is
developed. More specifically, the model links two key dimensions of performance ‐ social production and social mobilisation ‐ to two forms of empowerment critical to the fight against social exclusion: consumer empowerment and civic empowerment. In the
second half of the chapter this model is applied to an empirical analysis of Italian social co‐operatives in two regions in northern Italy, Lombardia and Emilia Romagna. Based on the empirical findings, the key factors influencing social co‐operatives'
ability to empower users is considered and, in light of relatively poor performance overall, potential means of improving their empowerment capacity in the future are suggested.