Article by Christian Felber, ECG and Jason Nardi, RIPESS Europe

The 3rd Economy for the Common Good International Conference (ECGIC)  is meeting in the beautiful dutch city of Leeuwarden. During the three days, representatives from different approaches of alternative economies will meet and discuss about the most impactful future-fit economic models, learn from successful sustainable practices and tackle the question: “How can regions leverage a multi-stakeholder perspective to shift from quantitative GDP-led growth towards sustainable growth of their non-monetary ‘area capital’?”

As global social and ecological problems are getting more severe, the search for future-fit economic models becomes more relevant. Which models are available already? How holistic, and how practical are they? What are their commonalities, and how could they collaborate and create synergies, and join forces in bringing forward a change in the legal framework of the economy? While economic science is shifting from the neoclassical mainstream towards a more plural combination of heterodox schools, collectively moved forward by organizations like Rethinking Economics or ISIPE, the discussion of new models that could be implemented on the policy level and put into practice is still at its beginnings. ECGIC 2024 wants to contribute to making some of the most holistic and practical „new sustainable economic models“ more visible and engage them in collaborative exchange. As a result, the scientific community should get a more solid base to explore (the combination) of these models on the levels of theory, policy, practice, and public dissemination.

ECGIC 2024 brings together top representatives of the sustainable economic models to have a panel discussion not seen before: the Care Economy, Doughnut Economics, Social Solidarity Economy, Postgrowth Discourse and the Economy for the Common Good bring their insights to the table and converge them for a sustainable economy.

SSE Social Balance meets Common Good Balance
A specific session will be dedicated to social impact and RIPESS Europe co-organised it with the Economy for the Common Good (ECG).  Both movements have sustainability reporting tools: RIPESS Europe’s members “social balance/audit” and ECG’s “Common Good Balance Sheet” (CGBS). As non-financial or sustainability reporting becomes increasingly common internationally and mandatory in some jurisdictions like the European Union’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), framework developers are seeking collaboration to create synergies and define future mandatory standards. They aim to distill “meta requirements” for a user-friendly, viable, proportionate, holistic, ambitious, and effective legal instrument, drawing from an IASS study by Felber et al. RIPESS and the ECG are set to introduce their tools, learn from each other, and explore mutual recognition, collaboration, and joint development in the future.

Historical and Epistemological Evolution
Before exploring the “balance” tools within their networks, it’s essential to consider the historical and epistemological evolution of measurement, evaluation, social impact, and social utility. Evaluation methods have evolved from an increasingly heteronomous, externalized, and institutionalized approach, risking a shift from evaluating effects to measuring performance. The concepts of social utility and social impact have demonstrated the porosity of these notions, placing them on different axes such as private/public and social economy/lucrative economy. Three transformations have led to the notion of social impact: controlling effectiveness and causal link, result-based financing, and the notion of social entrepreneurship and capitalist management methods.

Approaches in Social Solidarity Economy
In the RIPESS European network, there has been a focus on comparing approaches, methodologies, and tools within their existing network. Players in the Social Solidarity Economy (SSE) aim to identify, value, measure, and report on what makes them socially useful. Three main evaluation approaches are distinguished in: external evaluation, joint evaluation, and self-evaluation. The social utility approach (mainly from France and Belgium) aims to uncover the hidden face of a company’s economic value, express, promote, and account for the positive external economic effects of the actions and products of an SSE organization.  One aspect of focus has been the work on the skills, competences and know-how needed to support social impact/utility assessment, which were developed through the DEVISUS project[1].

Progress Approaches and SSE Balance/Audit
The progress approach aims to improve efficiency, practices, and clarify goals on an ongoing basis, promoting continuous improvement without guaranteeing compliance with a standard or seeking approval. In Spain, for instance, the Social Balance Sheets and Social Audits serve as an accountability tool within the SSE network REAS. They collect data from various networks to define common accountability methodologies, establishing a basic body of indicators and a technological platform for data collection, aggregation, and exploitation.  Over and above these common indicators, each territory has its own Social Balance/Social Audit itinerary according to the reality of its territory. Equity, decent work, environmental sustainability, cooperation, commitment to the environment and fair distribution of wealth are the 6 SSE principles on which the Social Audit/Balance Sheet tool is based to evaluate business practices. With a total of 47 questions and 53 indicators, companies reflect on their practices to learn about the impact of their activities on people and the planet.

Common Good Economy Principles
The ECG is based on the concept that the economy should be driven by values like human dignity, solidarity, justice, ecological sustainability, transparency, and sharing of decisions. The Common Good economy views business as serving society and meeting basic human needs while responding to social and environmental challenges. The purpose is to serve the Common Good, and an enterprise is expected to generate profit to achieve this end.

Tools for Citizens and Enterprises
Through the lens of values, the company questions how it relates to its stakeholders. The qualitative-quantitative report generated by the Common Good matrix can be used not only for businesses but also for families, organizations, and public entities. Recently, the Italian ECG and Solidarity Economy Network collaborated on the “family” / citizen version of the Matrix for the Common Good.

Overall, the comparison of the CGBS and the SSE social balance/audit provides insights into the distinct approaches to assessing the impact of economic activities. The two movements, ECG and SSE, are exploring potential collaboration and knowledge exchange to enhance their respective assessment frameworks for evaluating social and economic impact. This collaborative effort has the potential to contribute to sustainable and socially responsible business practices that prioritize societal wellbeing and environmental sustainability.

[1]General info:
More info in French: