Re-enchanting Europe with Social and Solidarity Economy

In order to strengthen the capacities of SSE actors in the Paris region and help them gain a better understanding of European issues, the Atelier, a SSE resource centre in the Paris region, the Réseau des Territoires pour l’Économie Solidaire and REVES organised a prfoessional forum on November 20th last at the Paris Town Hall. The theme was dedicated to the European question “SSE + Europe!”. The idea was to give SSE actors the opportunity to exchange with European leaders on the potential cooperation through European programmes that would help SSE to scale up in Europe. There was much discussion on the need to connect different levels, and the European leader called upon actors to seize all possible opportunities provided by the programmes.

In the various workshops – about 10 in all – the speakers presented the various programmes, especially FEDER-FSE 2014-2020 and the programmes dedicated to gender equality, to social innovation, urban development (URBACT) and culture. RIPESS Europe was invited to speak in a workshop on “How to prepare and be supported to cooperate and build collective projects at European level”. There was a focus on support for cultural actors with Julie Mailhe, the coordinator of the French Street Arts Federation and International Federation of Art in public space (IFAPS, created in March 2015)., and Stephanie Thomas, president of the European network LIVE DMA. The workshop was moderated by Alban Cogrel of UFISC, who are RIPESS Europe members. Generally speaking, the observations are quite alarming: Cultural projects are receiving less support from public institutions at all levels. European and international groups aim to support easier collective development of shared projects and confront this situation: the cultural issue of the fundamental role of the Arts in Public Space as part of the Commons and cultural responsibility at territorial level, the democratic issue of improving this aspect through greater cooperation and participation of the public as well as taking bottom-up processes and involvement of the public into account; the issue of the political economics of resisting the liberalisation of exchange; the issue of structure to fight against marginalisation and destabilisation of companies and initiatives, and enabling new ways of production to be taken into account by strengthening cooperative processes; and finally, the issue of collective organisation to network the various actors.

RIPESS considers culture as one of the most efficient means of mobilising citizens to undertake change in the collective imagination, setting aside the old approaches of infinite growth in favour of an economy that balances human needs with those of the survival of the planet. We also increasingly see the birth of initiative composed of several different activities (restaurant + bookshop + culture for example), in order to become financially independent.

In the final round table “What levers of development should be proposed at European level for SSE?”, although Europe was considered as a suitable level, it was emphasized that the group of experts (GECES) plays an important role at the level of the Commission to advocate for more favourable policies for SSE, the general trend is still to support funding for entrepreneurial initiatives to the detriment of citizens’ approaches that all too often are too small-scale to gain access to funding, given that European funds generally require advance cash-flow. It is also important to bear in mind the threat posed to social and solidarity economy activities by the trade treaties (TAFTA, TTIP)