Article by Daniel Rabanaque for economiasolidaria.org
The economic model of the Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE), based on solidarity, cooperation and democratic participation, is growing and expanding worldwide. In Europe alone, the current European Action Plan for the Social Economy puts the number of existing Social Economy entities at more than 2,800,000. Already in 2017, the Madrid Declaration for the promotion of the Social Economy in the European Union indicated that SSE contributed at least 8% of Community GDP and employed about 14.5 million people. In 2021, the “Transition pathway on proximity and social economy” It estimated the contribution of SSE to 10% of GDP in some States of the Union and at 6.3%, reaching 9% in some countries, the average weight of the labour force (equivalent to 5.5 million full-time jobs):
The Solidarity Economy, which focuses economic activity on the satisfaction of human needs, sustainable development and social justice, is playing a role of special importance in developing countries, where it favors the reduction of poverty and improves the quality of life of local communities through collective or community ownership, participatory management and equitable redistribution of benefits.
As an alternative to the dominant economic model, SSE has been expanding its reach around the world in recent years and increasingly gaining recognition as an important force in the economy towards a social transformation that allows for more sustainable, just and equitable societies. By placing the well-being of people and the planet as an objective of economic activity above the accumulation of private profits, the Solidarity Economy has become a guarantee of stable and quality employment, democratic participation in the company and commitment to the environmental and social environment.
In addition to the already traditional forms of organization, such as cooperatives, social enterprises, non-profit associations and community enterprises, the SSE ecosystem has expanded to incubators of social enterprises, ethical investment funds or networks of cooperatives and work integration companies or groups of producers and distributors with origin in popular economies, feminists and indigenous communities.
In this way, the Solidarity Economy covers more and more sectors and extends from agriculture and fishing to finance or the commercialization of renewable energies. It should also be noted that more and more international agencies and state or local governments are recognizing its importance in achieving sustainable development goals, poverty eradication or democratization of the economy by providing fair wages, decent working conditions and training and development opportunities for working people. In this sense, the impulses to SSE from the United Nations ( UN) (whose resolution will be published soon), the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the European Union have been of special importance.
In this sense and according to the International Labour Organization (in “Decent Work and the Social and Solidarity Economy“, 2022), national SSE legislation has been developed in Bolivia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Colombia, Costa Rica, Djibouti, Ecuador, France, Greece, Honduras, Luxembourg, Mexico, Portugal, Romania, Senegal, Slovakia, Spain, Tunisia, Uruguay and Venezuela. Other countries, such as Brazil, South Korea, the Dominican Republic and South Africa, are preparing national SSE policies. Some countries, such as Argentina (Entre Ríos, Mendoza and Río Negro), Belgium (Brussels and Wallonia), Brazil (Minas Gerais, among others), Canada (Quebec) and Italy (Emilia Romagna, among others) have adopted SSE legislation at the subnational level. In many countries, such as Chile, Mali and Nicaragua, government SSE authorities have been established by law.(1)
In Spain, the Strategic Plan for the Recovery and Economic Transition (PERTE) of Care and the Social Economy (May 2022) and the effort to have a new Social Economy Law. They are examples of the political commitment to the implementation and promotion of this transformative economic alternative.
In recent decades, the growing recognition of SSE has led to consolidations and advances around the world, especially in Latin America, Europe and Africa. We review in detail this expansion of the Solidarity Economy in the world paying attention to different geographical areas:
According to a report by the Latin American Observatory of Social and Solidarity Economy, in 2019 there were more than 1.6 million SSE companies and organizations in the region, employing more than 13 million people. Latin America is one of the regions where SSE has had the greatest expansion and consolidation. In several countries of the region, SSE has a long tradition and has a significant number of organizations and networks. In countries such as Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Uruguay, Ecuador and Bolivia, SSE has been recognized as a public policy and legal frameworks and support programs have been developed to strengthen it. The legislation in force as of February 2023 on SSE for Latin American countries can be consulted in ” The regulatory frameworks of the Social and Solidarity Economy in force in Latin America“ by Alberto García Muller (CIRIEC Colombia).
Among the most outstanding advances in the region are the strengthening of worker cooperatives, the promotion of social enterprises, the promotion of solidarity financing funds and the development of cooperation and mutual support networks rooted in popular, informal or feminist economies. Efforts have also been made to make SSE visible and strengthened in political and social spaces.
On the African continent, the Solidarity Economy is gaining increasing recognition and support from governments, civil society organizations and local communities. Currently, there are 22 networks for the promotion of SSE on the continent (GSEF, 2023). Countries such as Cape Verde (2016), Cameroon and Djibouti (2019), Tunisia (2020) and Senegal (2021), have developed public policies and legal frameworks for the promotion and strengthening of SSE (idem). Networks and platforms have been created to support SSE and projects and programs have been promoted in areas such as sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, community tourism and social and labor inclusion. In addition, there is a growing interest in the development of solidarity currencies and financial systems, such as social currencies and community banks, which promote solidarity, cooperation and financial inclusion of communities and marginalized sectors.
In a closer sphere, the North African region has been recognizing SSE with public policies and the development of legal frameworks and support programs for its consolidation. Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria have promoted the creation of networks and platforms to support SSE, the promotion of worker cooperatives and social enterprises, and the development of sustainable agriculture and community tourism projects. Solidarity financing funds and training and technical assistance programmes have also been created to strengthen SSE.
In addition, the 6th edition of the Global Social Economy Forum, GSEF2023 Dakar, will take place from 1 to 6 May 2023 in Dakar (Senegal). The event, one of the main international events on SSE, is co-organized by the City of Dakar and the Network of Local Actors and Authorities for the Social and Solidarity Economy (RACTES), in collaboration with the Ministry of Microfinance and the SSE of Senegal.
Another territory in which SSE is gaining more and more relevance is Asia, especially in countries such as Japan, India, China and, above all, South Korea. In Japan, for example, a strong cooperative movement has developed and numerous consumer, work and housing cooperatives have been created. In India, a growing network of social enterprises is being promoted and work is being done on the development of programs and public policies for the promotion and strengthening of SSE. And in China, there is growing interest in developing fairer and more sustainable economic systems, which is leading to the promotion of SSE in areas such as agriculture, renewable energy, and social and labor inclusion.
In South Korea, the advances of recent decades have occurred especially in the field of worker cooperatives and social enterprises. In this country, a favourable legal framework has been developed for the creation and consolidation of SSE organizations and training, technical assistance and financing programmes have been created to strengthen them.
The International Labour Organization is developing the program ” Strengthening the Social and Solidarity Economy in Asia“ whose results will provide better data on the state of SSE in the container. ILO action focuses on China, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines and South Korea, and is being extended to Cambodia, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Mongolia, Thailand and Vietnam.
According to RIPESS, the presence of the Solidarity Economy in Oceania is reduced to Australia, where the New Economy Network Australia (NENA), created in 2017, brings together 354 organizations. Its annual meeting will take place in Canberra during the month of November.
In Europe, the Solidarity Economy has become an important force in the economy of many countries. According to the report of the Economic and Social Council of Europe, in 2020 there were more than 2.8 million SSE companies and organizations in Europe, generating annual revenues of around €2 trillion and employing more than 14 million people.
SSE has a long history on this continent and, especially during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, has received important boosts. In several countries of the region, SSE has been firmly recognized as a resilient, stable and democratizing alternative. Important networks and platforms of support and cooperation between SSE organizations have been promoted through public policies and legal frameworks or support programs for their consolidation.
Among the most outstanding European advances of the last decade are the strengthening of cooperatives, the promotion of social enterprises and the promotion of solidarity financing funds. Circular economy, renewable energy and sustainable tourism projects have also been developed, and legal frameworks and public policies for the promotion of SSE have been improved at the local and regional levels.
(1) For all the legislations around the world, see the SSE legislations page on socioeco.org