Social and Solidarity Economy: A Pathway to Socially Sustainable Development?
Think pieces for the UNRISD conference “Potential and Limits of Social and Solidarity Economy”. 6-8 May 2013
As the international community attempts to tackle a complex set of twenty-first century development challenges, attention has focused on the possibilities of more integrated models of development. This think piece argues that both the concept of sustainable development (centred on economic growth, and social and environmental protection) and the classic model of what can be termed “embedded liberalism” (centred on the welfare state and the decent work enterprise), are found wanting from the perspective of integrative development. In today’s world five key dimensions need to be addressed simultaneously: economic development, social protection, environmental protection, gender equality and sociopolitical empowerment. The field of Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) seems to have considerable potential in this regard. Can that potential be realized?
As SSE diversifies and expands, it is inevitably drawn closer to both states and for-profit enterprise. Whether SSE can can grow and retain its core values and identity will depend very much on the nature and terms of its relations with other sectors. It will also depend on its capacity to organize beyond the micro- or local level and cohere as a movement at other (national, regional and international) scales. The reflections in this think piece suggest not only that policy makers should be paying far more attention to SSE but that they also need to be broadening their approach beyond a focus on the economic empowerment of individuals, and more toward groups and political empowerment, and beyond social and environmental protection toward equality and emancipation.