On January 28, 2016, the first European Forum of Social Solidarity Economy (EFSSE) took place in the Parliament in Brussels, promoted by parliamentarians of the European United Left and the Nordic Green Left (GUE / NGL), with the participation of more than 200 representatives and activists of networks and organizations of the SSE (including approximately thirty delegates members of the RIPESS Europe).

RIPESS Europe was invited to the opening session alongside parliamentarians and representatives of European networks (Social Economy EuropeCooperatives Europe). During the round table that followed, Jean-Louis Laville recalled the history of the evolution of the social and solidarity economy, and in particular social, cultural and political paradigm changes that have transformed the approach to and even the notion of economy.  The RIPESS EU Advisory committee of the network also produced a concept note on “Social innovation in Europe: what relation with Solidarity Economy?” (pdf), which was distributed during the meeting.

Riccardo Petrella unambiguously urged parliamentarians to “overthrow the table”, that is to engage in a radical change of methods and conception of the management of public affairs. Judith Hichman and Yvon Poirier drew a picture of the international opportunities including in the overall vision of a post-2015 development agenda.

Several workshops were held, in parallel with the Conference on common property, the role of new forms of financing, the innovations brought by the SSE enterprises, strategies to combat exclusion, democratic control in companies, current trends in regulations, communication, education and training tools, ecological issues, mapping and measurement of the SSE, with 9 workshops that were intended to identify the essential issues of the SSE.

Stakeholders in the afternoon conferences presented the achievements they had undertaken in their respective contexts or at the national level, and several political authorities intervened from the Basque country, Gothenburg (Sweden), Lodi (Italy), Barcelona (Catalonia), Ebanka (Croatia) and Brussels.

Politicians are starting to really consider the SSE as a solution, if not the solution to meet the needs of their territories.  The last session hosted exclusively the parliamentarians who have almost all declared that for them the support to social and solidarity economy was essential to resolve the problems caused by ultra-liberalism in Europe with the social consequences and ecological disasters, but that they were rather minority within the Parliament, although they are engaging to advance this taking of conscience and responsibility with their colleagues.

In conclusion, it should be noted that Podemos (Spain) and Syriza (Greece) played a leading role in the holding of this Forum, whose main organiser was Juan Peris – Mencheta Barrio, whom we invited to participate in one of the round tables at the Solikon Congress in Berlin, specifically on the role of the institutions for the promotion of the SSE.

For many participants, actors in the field, this Forum was the opportunity to enter the European Parliament, but especially to take the measure of the differences and similarities between initiatives of the countries who were present and meet with potential partners. This first forum should give rise to other initiatives by the parliamentarians that organized it and Eric Lavillunière, RIPESS Europe general coordinator, will follow the assessment process.

A link to the videos of the plenary conferences can be found here: EFSSE – European Forum on Social and Solidarity Economy