Future Opportunities and Challenges for the Social and Solidarity Economy

On Thursday 23rd February, more than 140 participants joined the webinar on “Future opportunities and challenges for the Social and Solidarity Economy” which was organized by INSPIR/WSM, RIPESS, WEIGO and the IYCW. We first discussed the future challenges for the different SSE actors (civil society, trade unions, small scale SSE collective and cooperative producers and employers, ILO and other UN institutions, states, regional bodies, local authorities). These discussions were based on the 2022 International Labour Conference’s General Conclusions and the International Labour Organization Action Plan.

First, we asked participants to define the Social and Solidarity Economy with one word. The answers were: “humanity, solidarity, democratic economy, social purpose, sharing of wealth, contributory, human centered, reparative, collective ownership, sustainable, possible, community, non-profit, economic sustainability, post-capitalist, cooperation, principles, equality, values, alternative, future, support, just, co-construction.”

The floor was then given to guest speakers.

First, Simel Esim (Program Manager, COOP Unit, International Labour Organization) who is leading the ILO’s work for cooperatives and the Social and Solidarity Economy, spoke about the resolution adopted by the ILO: “The resolution includes a tripartite definition of the SSE, and a joint work with governments and organizations identifies the contribution of the SSE to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, especially in terms of advocacy.” She also mentioned some of the challenges: “There are obstacles to sustainable development implementation, such as inadequate funding, legislation, etc. To improve social dialogue and collective bargaining for workers, there is a need to expand social dialogue and successful SSE practices.”

Toni Moore (International Trade Union Confederation, ITUC) then took the floor, insisting on the model of economy that people need in the world of work today and that we can find in the SSE: “In 2022 when talking about the SSE and the adoptions made by the ILO, it was clear that the established system had failed, so we need to establish a new model built on inclusiveness and sustainable development”. She also mentioned how trade unions need to react and stand on the same side as the SSE: “The international trade union movement is interested in the development of workers, and this has to do with the SSE and moving from the informal to the formal economy. The objectives of the SSE are allied with the objectives of the trade union movement and must be based on collectivism.”

Chantal Line Carpentier (United Nations Task Force on Social and Solidarity Economy) mentioned the different steps that the UN has taken and the need for more co-responsible countries to take part in the adaptation of the ILO resolution, highlighting that “by 2024 the world needs to be conscious that we need a new economic system.”

Sonia Georges (SEWA, India, an association of self-employed women) emphasized the necessity “to ask how to involve the state, which is an important actor. States must be involved in the debate and the implementation of means. New forms of social dialogue and new forms of governance need to be created through different means, and social support needs to be provided for the different SSE norms that go along with regulating a legislative framework.”

 The last part of the webinar focused on examining the possible positive impacts and challenges for grassroots organizations.

Janhavi Dave, from Homenet organizations, confirmed that “workers are recovering very slowly, they are at the same levels as before the covid crisis. This sector has not been able to recover like the other.” and she also stressed the need “for collaboration policies and for huge investments to be successful.”

José (YCW Chile) presented the YCW Chile action on urban family farming along with their demands related the SSE. He mentioned the challenges that they face including lack of space to grow food, lack of space for the community, lack of knowledge on sustainable agriculture, the environmental damage caused by the commercial forestry models and the communities, and how people feel limited in their way of living. That is why people need access to credit, social protection, capacity building, training centers, legal advice, citizen participation, curricular inclusion, environmental care, responsible consumption, commercialization, gender equality, gender economic empowerment, gender economic autonomy.

Finally, Fatimata Dabré (MUFEDE-B) presented the MUFEDE-B and how they are working with women to generate income and access to social protection and job creations.

At the end of the webinar, participants were asked if they could briefly explain what the social and solidarity economy urgently needs to develop and overcome difficulties: “customers, government support, work on social terms in public procurement to support SSE, political will of governments and market control, good policies, accessible funding and good governance, prioritization of public finances towards the SSE via multi-partner partnerships and calls for projects.”

In a nutshell, we need to try to connect the work of the organizations in the field because there is little understanding, and it is important to bring the debate carried out in the regions to the national and continental levels, together with a strategy to be designed and applied at the different levels for the SSEs to make a difference.

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