The social economy as a paradigm for the present and future of Europe: Elements for an Action plan
As the European Commission prepares to launch a new Action Plan for the Social Economy, together with Diesis Network and with the support of Social Economy Europe, we wanted to share some observations that we have drawn from our experience as practitioners and researchers.
The document “The social economy as a paradigm for the present and future of Europe: Elements for an Action plan” tries to outline the key elements of a vision that sees the social economy as a key link between the European Union’s root and its future. The position paper that we have elaborated in our opinion should be taken into account in the Action Plan, as a contribution to the Roadmap published by the European Commission on march 1st, 2021.
The approach of the Social economy today becomes even more promising and far-sighted since the Covid pandemic has been an exceptional training ground for grasping the importance of an approach that is not solely oriented towards profit nor based exclusively on the exercise of public authority. Thus the Action plan for the Social economy is an opportunity to recreate a balance between economic growth policies as an engine of fair and sustainable development.
The study on the impact of the Social Business Initiative is out
In 2011, the European Commission launched the Social Business Initiative (SBI), which established a set of concrete measures to create a favourable environment for the development of social enterprises. The study “Impact of the Social Business Initiative and its follow-up measures”, carried out by Spatial Foresight with Euricse and the European Center for Social Finance on behalf of the European Commission, analyses the impact of the SBI on the development of social enterprises and other social economy organizations and their operating environments at national and EU levels.
The study report, which is now available online, also includes an analysis of current needs and a set of options for future policy initiatives. The research was supported by numerous national experts who carried out additional research and interviewed around 300 stakeholders amongst national, regional and local authorities, academic and experts, social entrepreneurs and representatives of stakeholders’ organizations in 28 EU Member States and 9 neighbouring countries.
The study is a solid starting point in view of the preparation of the upcoming European Action Plan for the Social Economy, which will shape the future of the European social economy landscape.
According to the research findings, the SBI has managed to act on a wide range of fields, and contributed to the diffusion of the social enterprise concept across EU Member States. In the last decade, the SBI has spread the topic of the social enterprise as a specific institution. It has also contributed to raise awareness on the social economy as a broader dynamic in political debates. Social enterprises and other social economy organisations have gained in visibility and are increasingly considered as important actors, not only by policymakers in social policy, but also in other policies (e.g., regional development, cohesion, innovation, climate, and environment).
However, it also emerged how the lack of a clear overview on SBI-related objectives, initiatives, activities, and achievements has constrained the overall coherence of the SBI with other European programmes and priorities. “The need for more and better communication is a challenge not only for the SBI but for EU contribution to sectoral and regional development in general. All this has not prevented the SBI and its measures from being effective. However, any future initiative should build on the advantages of the SBI approach and try to overcome the drawbacks with a well-communicated and clear presentation of the overarching policy initiative and related policy measures”.
The study also highlights how the ecosystems of the social enterprise has increasingly become more complex over the last years. Any future EU policy framework needs to consider this increasing complexity and shall promote tailored solutions for different settings. Moreover, it shall not be forgotten that the support of social economy organisations is not an end in itself, but rather a means to strengthen its role in contributing to local and regional sustainable development, addressing social and societal needs, creating equal opportunities and access to the labour market, promoting social innovation and territorial cohesion, developing relational assets in industrial development etc.
Recognising the role of social economy organisations in transformative processes and addressing societal challenges is important. Future policy frameworks should create visible links between the social economy and other policy fields and strengthen the coherence between EU policy initiatives for the social economy and other EU instruments.
Coop cinema, the last episode about “Empowering the planet” rescheduled on the 27th of January
Renewable energy coops in Costa Rica and a cooperative of waste picklers in Argentina as fair models for a clean future of our planet. The third and last episode of Coop Cinema is about “Empowering the planet“. We will screen two documentaries featuring renewable energy coops in Costa Rica and cooperative Creando Conciencia in Buenos Aires (AR). On the 27th of January from 5 pm Around the Worldcollaborators and sponsors will be joined by Gianluca Salvatori, Euricse secretary general, to comment on the two documentaries and discuss the key cooperative themes with participants.
“Coop cinema” is a series of online events from October to December featuring screenings of a selection of documentaries produced by Sara Vicari and Andrea Mancori, each followed by reflections from our researchers on the key themes, such as cooperative models, governance, the future of work, and local development.
Please register here in order to attend the event.
It will create a fruitful discussion forum with representatives of international institutions, researchers and organizations that have a longstanding experience in supporting the development of SEs and similar organizations (more broadly, the social economy and the social and solidarity economy) worldwide. Presentations will shed light on both good practices of public policies that stimulate SEs and on key bottlenecks that are still preventing to fully harness their potential in addressing multiple needs arising in local communities.
By facilitating the active engagement of key stakeholders from Jordan, the seminar will enable to take stock of the expertise of the presenters, who will present the outcomes of selected projects and research actions with a view to suggesting possible strategies whereby to support the development of SEs as drivers for inclusive growth in Jordan. Adequate space will be devoted to questions, comments and requests for clarifications. Participants will be moreover invited to watch a few videos illustrating the story of innovative social enterprise initiatives that have been supported by the Mubaderoon project.
A selected number of public authorities, social entrepreneurs, and key stakeholders from Jordan will be invited to participate. The webinar will be however open to the participation of all potentially interested persons.
Mubaderoon project: The overall objectives of the project are to enhance the contribution of individuals and social institutions in supporting their communities through the provision of social solutions and services implemented through community-based poverty reduction initiatives and enterprises. As a consequence, this will promote the concept of social inclusion for those in need of care, especially youth/women by integrating them into a productive process that qualifies them to engage in a formal economic system, through the establishment and development of community-based entrepreneurial initiatives that foster community innovation. The targeted governorates are Amman (East Amman), Taflieh and Ajloun, with the aim to contribute to the improvement of social and economic services in their communities and the creation of formal employment opportunities (full/part time and voluntary work). This project is funded by the European Union – European Development Fund and implemented through Plan International – Jordan Office and partners, Ruwwad, Alfanar and Euricse.
SSE in times of great challenges: a strategy for inclusion and well-being
On 19th October our Secretary General Gianluca Salvatori took part in the GSEF Global Virtual Forum 2020. The central theme of the Forum was “Great Challenges, Greater Solidarity: Power of Community and SSE as a Path for Transformation”. Salvatori contributed his expertise in the first plenary session “SSE in Times of Great Challenges: A Strategy for Inclusion and Well-Being”.
Italy is one of the countries that, after China, was first and most violently hit by Covid-19, with a high price in terms of human lives. To fight the pandemic, we had one of the longest and most stringent lockdowns. The country has come to a complete standstill for more than two months.
As a consequence of the lockdown, we have suffered the impact of a severe economic crisis, which has produced deep effects in terms of well-being. Nearly 600,000 jobs have been lost since the lockdown began, despite subsidies that the government has given to businesses to compensate for losses and despite the ban on layoffs that is currently in place. Thousands of small family businesses have closed with the prospect of never reopening. And when we were starting to think about recovery, the second wave began. And this is the story of these days, which we are experiencing live.
A lesson for the social and solidarity economy
The first finding is that the pandemic has undermined the aspiration of the profit enterprise to replace the State in taking care of people’s well-being. In the last ten years, and especially since the 2008 crisis, the world of for-profit companies has developed a powerful narrative with which it has distanced itself from its past. Instead of insisting on the primacy of the shareholder and the maximization of profit as the ultimate goal of the company, the issue of social responsibility has taken hold.
From welfare to education, from gender inclusion to innovation in social services, the commitment of socially responsible companies can make a difference on every topic. This was the message with which the leaders gathered in Davos, the CEOs of the Business Roundtable, the leaders of large corporations – committed to redefining the “purpose” of their companies, so that it no longer coincides only with the interest of capital and investors – in recent years have hammered us.
Then came the pandemic and the world suddenly appeared in a different light. The role of for-profit enterprises in taking care of social well-being has no longer been at the center of the discussion. The state has taken backspace and power, because it has been realized that collective institutions were needed in the face of a collective emergency. This is precisely the second observation on which I would like to focus your attention. The pandemic, at least in Italy and in many European countries, has had the effect of bringing public action back to the center. Reminding us that we have entrusted to the public powers the authority to stop a business, close schools, freeze social life and confine ourselves indoors in our own interest. All tasks for which the market and its rules are not suitable. The Covid-19 emergency has brought the role of public health and the importance of universal access to assistance back into the spotlight. It showed the need for public subsidies to counter the effects of the economic crisis. It put back into perspective the presumption that private companies could act in the name of the public interest.
The striking role of communities and civil society
However, there is a third observation that emerges from the experience of the pandemic. In fact, if it is true that market forces have shown their limits and the role of the state has appeared fundamental, we have seen how decisive a third component has also been: I am referring to the role of communities and civil society. The orders and measures of the public authority were effective not so much for fear of sanctions but for the civic sense of the people, who accepted limitations and prohibitions in the name of the common good. This is perhaps the aspect that most struck the Italian case.
The time of the pandemic has been an exceptional training ground for grasping the importance of an approach that is not solely oriented towards profit and not even based exclusively on the exercise of authority. In more theoretical terms, this period has made it clear that the space between the state and the market is not purely marginal but plays an essential function. Many of the services that are essential to people’s well-being – from care to education – can be produced in this space where social and solidarity economy organizations operate.
New opportunities for SSE development
When the effect of public subsidies ends, the role of the social economy in countering the loss of jobs will be decisive, as had already happened after the 2008 crisis. The need to enhance health, social care and education services will offer great opportunities for further development of the social and solidarity economy. In a complex society like ours, with growing social needs, the return to the scene of the state in a central position will not be sufficient to guarantee equitable social development. After many years of thinking centered on the virtues of the market economy, it will not be the pandemic that will make us believe that the solution is a return to public management of the economy. For this reason, the approach to the social economy today becomes even more promising and far-sighted.
One of the effects of the pandemic will be the acceleration of the transition from a vision of welfare centered on the state to a vision centered on the whole society, the so-called welfare-society. In which the production of care and assistance services will be distributed among a plurality of different actors, among which a crucial role will be played by the organizations of the social and solidarity economy. This forecast is based on the fact that we are experiencing a constant transformation of care services in the sense of their greater personalization. This trend requires a reading of the needs attentive to the context of specific communities.
To give you an example deriving from the Italian experience: the Covid-19 emergency has highlighted that an efficient hospital system, based on a system of large centralized institutions, is not enough to fight an epidemic, but an equally efficient local medicine is needed. Today we understand that prevention and monitoring are indispensable weapons to tackle the pandemic. But this means a community health model more than a centralized and verticalized health model. The role of local healthcare is therefore extremely important, integrated with a network of home services. In Italy the vast majority of these services are provided by social economy organizations, which are therefore called upon to perform an essential function.
A new approach to get out of the crisis
To get out of this crisis, an approach to designing services is needed that actively involves users, starting from a meticulous knowledge of the communities to which they are addressed. The ability to include a variety of actors in the design, enhancing their skills and resources, will be crucial.
This orientation does not only concern the production of social services but also applies to many other sectors of economic life, in which it is important to establish a pact of trust between producer and consumer. This applies for example to the agricultural industry, where the issue of food safety requires an alignment of interests between producers and final consumers; it is also true for the banking industry, where the relational dimension is a necessary element to facilitate access to credit by the most fragile social categories; and we could continue, with many other examples in which the social economy approach responds to the real needs of our post-Covid time.
Euricse joined the Spatial Productivity Lab at the OECD
Euricse joined theSpatial Productivity Lab at the OECD Trento Centre together with an international network of other leading research institutions such as the University of Trento, the Bank of Italy, Sheffield University and Ohio State University. Euricse will focus on the field of social economy and its role in enhancing local productivity. As a first step of this collaboration, Euricse is collaborating with SPL on a study on behalf of the Ministry of Economic Development on the productivity of Italian cooperatives.
The OECD LEED Trento and the SPD
The OECD LEED Trento Centre for Local Development was created in 2003 with the mission of building capacities for local development in OECD member and non-member countries. As an integral part of the OECD’s broader work on productivity, the Spatial Productivity Lab looks at the mechanism that policy makers can leverage to promote “catching up” of the lagging behind regions in terms of productivity and to what extent aggregate productivity depends on the economies of agglomeration generated in cities.
Italian cooperatives, a new focus
Starting in 2020, the Spatial Productivity Lab will also focus on productivity and innovation of Italian cooperatives. To reinforce this new field of activity, Euricse is joining the network, sharing its research skills, knowledg and experience relevant to the concept of spatial productivity.
“Euricse will be happy to contribute to this initiative and to share with other members of the network our knowledge and expertise on the role and characteristics of social economy organizations”, commented the president of Euricse, Carlo Borzaga.
UN Inter-Agency task force on SSE, the International Conference in Geneva
The General Secretary of Euricse, Gianluca Salvatori, participated on the 25th and 26th of June at International Conference on SSE in Geneva. This event is part of a series of conferences resulting from the Call for Papers “Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals: What Role for Social and Solidarity Economy?” launched by the United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on Social and Solidarity Economy (UNTFSSE) in 2018. Salvatori spoke on a panel dedicated to “SSE and South-South and Triangular Cooperation“. The Conference was hosted in Geneva during the celebration for the Centenary of the International Labour Organization.
Below we are publishing an abstract of his speech.
The development of SEE through social urbanism
In Latin America – in countries like Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia – experiences have emerged through government programs, framed within the design and application of their policies public, developing strategies within the discourse of solidarity economy with the objective to improve the quality of life of people. Probably one of the most innovative and original aspects of the development strategies of a social and solidarity economy consists in the structural relationship with the policies of social urbanism.
Medellin has got 2,5 million inhabitants. Due to the violence in the agricultural areas, connected to the drug trafficking and to the threat of paramilitary and guerrilla organizations (like Farc), there has been a huge population shift in urban areas. In a few years Medellin has practically doubled its population. The new arrivals went to occupy the peripheral areas on the steep hills around the city.
Urban scholars and practitioners today look up to Medellin as one of the most progressive cities in the world. Winner of an impressive amount of awards, Medellin truly became a model to follow when it comes to addressing urban challenges like violence, insecurity, poor education, and lack of mobility, which all reinforce the spatial and material inequalities in our cities today.
A “methodology of partnership with the community” in order to upgrade informal settlements was followed by the two mayors, Luis Perez and Sergio Fajardo, who were elected respectively in 2000 and 2004. Investing in a cable car to connect the slums to the city centre was the first step, fighting the marginalisation of the populations living in the informal settlements (“comunas”) on hillsides of Medellin and representing half of the entire population of Medellin. Then followed the “integral urban projects” (PUIs) – “projects that incorporate multiple programs simultaneously, from transport to landscaping, from street lighting to cultural centres” – implemented between 2004 and 2007:
“the Parque Explora, a park with a free science museum in it;
the Botanical Gardens, site of the octagonal Orquideorama; ten new school buildings;
five ambitious library-parks in the comunas of Santo Domingo, La Quintana, La Ladera, San Javier and Belén;
a cultural centre in the run-down district of Moravia;
and the completion and extension of the Metrocable
Framed by the drug trafficking problem for almost a decade (1985-1993) – that reoriented in greatly measure the social structure, cultural behavior and in general the economy of the city. Then, a socio-economic crisis experienced between 1995 and the beginning of this century, with unemployment levels above 20% (1999), had a great impact as well. The “Plan Decenal de Economía Social y Solidaria para Medellín 2016-2025”, written by Gaviria Correo and Alcalde de Medellín, has no precedents in the country and involves all subjects that are part of this sector: Cooperatives, Mutuals, Corporations, Associations, employee funds, Pre-Cooperatives and Foundations, among others. The Decennial Plan is rooted on a wider set of public policies, starting from the early 2000s, that aimed to support the social and solidarity economy through an original combination with participatory local planning related to the “social urbanism”.
The Medellin case shows that tackling the complexities of peripheral urban informal settlements requires:
The investments in innovative mobility systems (cable car), renewal of educational facilities like schools and libraries and the beautification of public spaces, have gone hand in hand with strategies of intervention from the perspective of the social and solidarity economy.
The introduction of new governance models that, beyond the public and private dychotomy, recognize the importance and value of the ESS.
The strengthening of associative productive units (UPAS) of solidarity economy, with the objective of strengthening the business fabric of the informal settlements of Medellín through the generation of income and decent jobs.
“Social Urbanism” is the best practice that Medellin showcases in the international community, proving the positive impact of the construction of social infrastructure, which allows for an improved access to education, mobility, and safer public spaces. The Medellin experience has provided a role model for many other cities, specially in the Global South.
Social Economy, Salvatori in the European Commission’s expert group
Gianluca Salvatori, Euricse Secretary General, has been appointed member of a new expert group on “Social Economy and Social Enterprise” set up by the European Commission’s Social Business Initiative (SBI). The purpose of this new group will be to discuss and agree on developing and strengthening activities related to the development of the potential of the social economy and social enterprises, aiming to promote innovation and positive impact on the economy and society at large. The expert group’s actions will focus on 5 pillars: access to finance, access to markets, better framework conditions, new technologies and social innovation, as well as the development of an international dimension.
ILO academy on Social and Solidarity Economy – 6th edition
Puebla, Mexico 23rd-27th November 2015
The International Labour Organization and the National Institute of Social Economy of Mexico (INAES) are organizing an Academy on Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) that will take place in Mexico, from 23 to 27 of November 2015, at the Ibero-American University in Puebla. (more…)
Giulia Galera elected member of the new EMES Board of Directors
We are pleased to announce that our researcher Giulia Galera has been elected new member of the EMES Board of Directors, which was nominated by all members of the the network in October 2015. The election process lasted five months with open call for candidates from around the world and a final e-voting system in place. (more…)
The Role of Social and Solidarity Economy in employment generation
A panel by Euricse and ILO for the 3rd World Forum of Local Economic Development
Euricse will participate in the 3rd World Forum of Local Economic Development (Turin, 13-16 October 2015) organizing together with the ILO the panel The role of social and solidarity economy in employment generation. (more…)