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On the road towards reinforced cooperation: Emerging structures for coproduction between the public sector and the social economy

4th CIRIEC International Research Conference on Social Economy University of Antwerp, 24-26 October 2013

Anders Bro, Claes Gunnarsson, Olle Westin, October 2013

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Summary :

The social economy in Sweden is a part of the frame of society primarily based on democracy and social purposes. The organizations within the social economy (e.g. cooperatives, voluntary organizations and nonprofit associations) are neither coupled to public nor to private profit driven business. They are freestanding, mainly financed by member subventions but also through different forms of mandates and financial support from the public sector.

However, new forms of collaborative arrangements between the public sector and the social economy are needed. The social economy in Sweden is increasingly compelled by expectations and inquiries from the public driven sector to take on extended assignments or to modify improved contractual agreements. A onesided view, where municipalities and country councils mainly are seen as benefit deliverers is expected to be replaced by a more reciprocal composite model of cooperation.

In one of the Swedish regions – the Örebro region, a center for Social economy and social innovations is going to be established as a result of a long term development work during the last three decades. To understand the emergence of the actual situation there is a need to describe and analyze the history of development activities carried out. This is done by the empirical examples given in the study that shows a multi-facetted interplay between individual actors and support structures emerging social economy.

The purpose of this paper is hence to investigate and describe the emergence of these support structures and to contribute to a deeper understanding of this process. An integrative frame of reference is chosen through the lenses of governance and value creation theories.

The result indicates new forms of public governance. The public sector finances the operations and partly controls it through specific contracts/agreements, but ongoing operations take place outside the control of the public sector. This study shows that transitions according to ideal types put attention on different patterns emerging support structures which emphasize the interface between sector domains and the social economy.

Approaches on networked governance that account for value creation are particularly needed in future research to gain more knowledge about collective forms in multi-level transitions and the new role of the social economy.