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International Forum on the Social and Solidarity Economy

Event Date: 
October 17, 2011 (All day) - October 20, 2011 (All day)

This event aims, among other, to bring together key players in the social and solidarity economy from countries across the North and South and their partners in government, labour movements, research institutes and international organizations and help strengthen partnerships between civil society and government that support the social and solidarity economy in the various participating countries. Deadline for early registration: July 22, 2011

Also, the Forum aims to highlight successful partnerships, particularly in the development of public policy and to encourage the exchange of ideas around the theme of the social and solidarity economy at the international and inter-regional level.

General themes of the forum

The Social and Solidarity Economy
The social and solidarity economy complements the public and private sectors. It is part of a plural economy. The social and solidarity economy is made up of collective enterprises engaged in the production of both goods and services in the public interest. It collaborates with different levels of government.

In other words, the social and solidarity economy includes all non-profit organizations, cooperatives, mutual companies and associations. The activities of these organizations are based on values of solidarity and democracy and they contribute both to social well-being and economic growth. They respect the following functioning principles and rules:

the main purpose of a social/solidarity economy enterprise is to serve its members or the community rather than merely generate profits;
organizations are autonomous from the state;
they integrate a democratic process of decision involving users and workers into its statutes and in its operations;
people and labor are prioritized over capital in the distribution of its profits;
activities are based on the principles of participation and individual and collective responsibility.

Dialogue between civil society and government, public-community partnerships (PPC) and co-construction of public policies

The lack of collaboration between public and civil society sectors increasingly appears as the most critical challenge for the social and solidarity economy in international debates between practitioners, researchers and other actors in the field. Today, the necessity of strengthening partnerships between social and solidarity economy actors, civil society movements and government is largely recognized as necessary for the social and solidarity economy to reach its potential. It is from this consensus that the idea to organize an international forum on the question was born, the main theme of which will be: The need for a State – civil society dialogue to develop public policies for the social and solidarity economy.

Co-construction practices have been long recognized in various fields. More recently, they are found in discussions on new forms of governance along with notions of policy dialogue and communities of practice. One of the great challenges of this Forum will thus be to introduce and discuss methods and practices facilitating this co-construction of public policies.

Working themes

Research material prepared in advance will foster the discussions and debates of the forum. These working papers will provide comparative perspectives on policies and experiences of public/community partnerships that have succeeded in facilitating the creation of social and solidarity economy enterprises and in increasing their capacity to meet social and economic development goals. More precisely, there will be five working papers on the five specific themes, one cross-cutting paper as well as six national case studies (South Africa, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Mali and Spain).

Territory and local development

The social and solidarity economy is above all the outcome of collective action at the local level, and the most successful initiatives are rooted locally. This theme will be central to the Forum, and it is within this theme that the role of public powers and local actors will be broached.

Innovation and collective entrepreneurship
The social and solidarity economy is characterized by new entrepreneurial initiatives in every sector, through a collective approach which includes social, economic and environmental commitments. Innovation is at the core of this collective entrepreneurship. Whether it be new legal forms, new partnerships being developed, new ways of meeting needs or new production modes involving further workers, there is no doubt that the social and solidarity economy generates innovations. These innovations are developed within many sectors (housing, tourism, etc.) and often lead to the implementation of public policies that ensure them a better stability.

Solidarity finance and trade

Access to capital suited to the needs of the social and solidarity economy remains the greatest challenge in every country. Also problematic are the availability of suitable financial products, tools for supporting emerging enterprises, marketing, market access, etc. Within this theme, researchers will explore the links between the social and solidarity economy, local markets, procurement programs, and responsible investment.

Work and employment
Wherever it develops, the social and solidarity economy addresses a need for job creation. It also promotes democratization in the work place. In southern countries, processes of formalization of popular economy activities leading to the creation of decent jobs are increasingly taking this path. Additionally, in several countries, the labour movement plays an active role in the development of the social and solidarity economy. For this reason, the role of unions in the support of social and solidarity enterprises creation and local and regional development must be analyzed in more detail.

Food security and sovereignty

The issue of food security and sovereignty is approached very differently in countries in the North and in the South. Several developing countries have designed and adopted food security policies thanks to a dialogue with civil society organizations. Within this context, this theme will study the emergence of social and solidarity economy enterprises producing and transforming food, and beyond that the contribution of the social and solidarity economy to food security and sovereignty.

Palais des Congrès
Montreal, Quebec

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