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Social economy in the co-construction of public policy

This paper is a by-product of broader research on the État stratège and the co-construction of public policy (see Vaillancourt, 2008 and 2007b)

Yves Vaillancourt, 2008

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In this paper, we will be talking a great deal about the democratization of public policy in Canada. But we will be doing so with the intent of establishing bridges to the theme of democratization of public policy in Latin America. While our deliberations on public policy certainly build on the expertise we have developed concerning historical trends and recent reforms in social policy in Canada and Quebec, these deliberations are enriched by the fact that, for the past 15 years or so, to analyse the changes in the state and in public policy in our country more accurately, we have felt the need to monitor closely similar changes that are under way in a number of European and Latin American countries. In that context, we have made several study trips to Latin America and have been closely following developments in the Latin American literature on the democratization of the state and public policy, paying close attention to similarities and differences between societies of the North and those of the South. All this, while not making us a Latin American specialist, has nevertheless made us a specialist in public policy changes in the North who is interested in the North while being influenced by numerous discussions with stakeholders and researchers from the South who share similar research issues on the democratization of the state, the economy and society.1

In short, we will be reporting on some findings from our research on democratization of public policy. We will do so by referring to the findings of certain theoretical and empirical research on specific social policy reforms, paying particular attention to certain reforms in which co-operation is seen between the state and stakeholders in the social and solidarity economy. We will also do so by taking into account certain literature reviews concerning the participation of stakeholders from civil society, the market, the third sector and the social and solidarity economy in the democratization of the state and public policy. It must be understood here that in our research, a large part of the originality of our framework stems from the fact that we are seeking to make the link between various segments of scientific literature which often evolve hermetically. We are referring here to segments of literature concerning the reform of the state and public administration, civil society, the third sector and the social and solidarity economy. It seems to us that researchers and stakeholders specializing in the social economy, both in the North and in the South, would benefit from being more familiar with the expertise of researchers and actors specializing in the field of reform of the state and public policy and vice versa.2 The core of our thesis in the following pages will be to report on a number of our research findings, both theoretical and empirical, concerning the ―democratizing‖ impact of the participation by the social economy in the application and definition of public policy. In that regard, we will be prompted to differentiate clearly between two concepts that are often treated as synonymous, that of the co-construction of public policy, and that of its co-production. For us, the difference between the two concepts is as follows: co-production refers to participation by stakeholders from civil society and the market in the implementation of public policy, while co-construction refers to participation by those very stakeholders in the design of public policy. Thus, co-construction stands upstream from the adoption of public policy, whereas co-production lies downstream, at the moment of its implementation.