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European public policies and Social Solidarity Economy

Convenors: Patricia Coler (UFISC), Bruno Lasnier (MES)

The political construction of Europe based only on the vision of the single market is now leading to a reduction of democracy and isolation. The neo-liberal decision on budgetary restirctions and public internetion are locking territories into a logic of privatisation and financialisation. The principle of competitive free trade is the dominant model, with regulations on State subsidies, undermining of the social model of Europe and the a-democratic negotiation of the free trade agreements such as CETA and TTIP that encourage the introduction of private arbitration principles and the definition by experts of a normative framework.

However civil society is also organising, mobilising at local and European level and developing new solidarities and cooperation. Citizen’s solidarity economy initiatives are trying to reinsert the economy into policies and at social level by inventing solutions in an ever-changing world. By linking different economic and democratic approaches, they are defending both principles and practice to build another approach to European policy.

European legislation and programmes that are both thematic and cross-cutting are starting to take social and solidarity economy into account. They are becoming progressively consolidated in the legislative and internal regulatory frameworks of States. The recent Luxembourg Declaration* encourages policy-making based on adapted ecosystems and that support social economy eneterprise initiatives. The European Structural Fund programmes for research and mobility can also contribute to supporting initiatives. State legislation on subsidies is becoming more flexible.

The different definitions that exist – social economy, solidarity economy, social enterprise, social entrepreneurship – all cover separate economic conepts. The term social enterprise as used by the European Commission heavily underlines the social ends in the definition; this excludes many cooperatives, mutual societies, associations and foundations, unlike the French law on SSE. Furthermore, according to accepted usage, very different kinds of public policy are proposed and implemented.

So what new European strategy is being built for the post-2020 period? What new orientations for solidarity economy can it support? What proposals for supporting solidarity economy initiatives at territorial should be included in European policies?

*Luxembourg Declaration – A Roadmap towards a more comprehensive ecosystem for social economy enterprises – http://www.eu2015lu.eu/en/actualites/communiques/2015/12/04-declaration-luxembourg/

Solidarity Economy, Agroecology and Food Sovereignty: building bridges and strengthening transformative solutions

Convenor: Judith Hitchman (URGENCI)

The Nyéléni Forum on Agroecology took place in Mali in February 2015. The Declaration clearly identifies solidarity economy as one of the keys for achieving food sovereignty. It is not a set of production techniques or mere production practices.

One of the key bridging movements between the food sovereignty and solidarity economy is Community Supported Agriculture. There are also other emerging trends that connect producers and consumers through direct or genuine short food distribution chains: local food coop shops, farmers’ collective shops.

This workshop aims to examine:

  • How the different forms of local solidarity partnerships between producers and consumers can influence policy makers and work collectively to build concrete solutions at territorial level

  • Ensure that small-scale food producers can earn a decent living

  • Guarantee that consumers have access to nutritional, healthy food that they can afford

  • How these local initiatives fit into the wider picture of solidarity economy and agroecology

It also aims to examine the threats as well as the opportunities facing the solidarity economy – agroecology – food sovereignty connections.

Panorama on solidarity economy in Europe

Convenors: Josette Combes (MES), Françoise Wautiez (Socioeco.org)

This project has been on-going for several years. The objective is to collect data that characterises all social and solidarity economy structures and initiatives in Europe.

A questionnaire was developed to gather all useful data to develop the panorama and contribute to establishing the specific characteristics of all new ways of working and organising economic and social relations in a world in transition.

A certain number of responses were collected, but it remains difficult to exploit the information, as they are not complete and there are also translation issues. The part dedicated to describing activities is incomplete or not filled in at all. An overview of the results will be presented using slides.

A working group session was held in Florence (Italy) from 4th-6th March 2016. It brought together French, Italian, Greek, Portuguese, Spanish, Catalan, British and Swiss members. The work focused on pooling the tools and approaches and reflecting on strategies to extend the work. The main conclusions concerning the needs and expectations of the networks were the following: a shared definition of SSE, more finely honed thanks to the network; a European calendar of events organised by members; feedback to the contributors on the Panorama results; definition of interoperability criteria to summarise the mapping; create an appropriate form for communicating the results; shared communication techniques, and a description of the network members and liaison platform.

The workshop plans to use these points to pose the following questions: how can the questionnaire be improved and better used? How can the different surveys be shared? What type of document would provide a more detailed description of the activities?

Impact & social audit

Convener: Berenice Dondeyne (ADEPES), Laure Aufrere (UFISC)

Initiatives that develop solidarity economy build their activities so that they contribute to the Commons. These organisations reflect on the impact their activities will have from local to global level? Increasingly, they also want to evaluate their social objectives. This is why they are initiating new, democratic ways of analysing and measuring the impacts; this is known as social audits.

What can we observe in solidarity initiatives? The ability to resist, resilience and innovation that aims to achieve human progress, inventiveness and the rediscovery of ways of doing things that encourage collective entrepreneurship. We can also observe the objective of territorial development and cooperation that run against the usual competitive logic. Many of these initiatives are in the economic field, but their scope is far broader, as they include the shared social impacts that lie at the heart of the activities in question.

How can we express these ways of doing things, and how can we translate the things that in solidarity economy activities always enable us to bear in mind that they should always be people-centered?

Social audit methods created by actors and solidarity enterprises aim to gain a better understanding of the impacts of solidarity activities by committing to a process to improve practice, and an on-going democratic appropriation of the social ends involved.

We wish to jointly discuss and examine the specificities that lie at the heart of our economic initiatives as well as the way in which governance is considered by the internal and external stakeholders, and to see how responsible practice can be implemented at territorial level.


The objective is to work towards the recognition of solidarity economy at European level – and to assert it in a positive way, with all the hope it represents. We shall also consider the economic criteria – something that is obviously necessary – but that that should not be linked only to the “financialised” view of SSE organisations.

We propose to share our practice and way of doing things and begin work on sharing, to express our values and solidarity know-how. We wish to

  • Create a space within RIPEES EUROPE for the exchange of solidarity practice

  • Develop a collective voice to defend them

  • And build a shared project for the 2017 – 2020 period.

Inter-cooperation, co-construction, networking among RIPESS EU members

Conveners: Georgia Bekridaki (Solidarity for All), Jason Nardi (Solidarius Italia)

The necessity of this workshop came up in previous meetings (in Florence, in Berlin, in Greece) as a constant need among members not only to explore the possibilities for potential cooperations and contributions, but also to get to know each other in depth, to promote the European dimension of current socio-economic situation, to share the knowledge which every partner obtain.

Mapping the current and the permanent needs of our networks, share the best practices/papers/ documentation on SSE issues, match the above needs, share common operational tools (ripess.eu website, socioeco.org, solecopedia and others), open an internal debate on SSE theory or approaches (social impact, meanings on profits, labor and employment concepts etc), set a working method for all these could be a good starting point.

Rethinking the economy, work and solidarity enterprises in an environment of transition

Convener: Eric Lavillunière, INEES

In order to achieve our objective of systemic change, we need to reconsider the most fundamental aspects of the economy (meaning the capitalist economy), that is based on individual private enterprise and free, undistorted competition. This system that is supposed to provide people with well-being, is based on unlimited growth (on a planet of limited resources) and produces inequalities (unemployment, important differences in income, poverty…), environmental degradation (climate change, over-use of raw materials, loss of biodiversity…) and fierce competition that produces wars, causes people to withdraw from the community, and an increase in fundamentalism. Read more

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