The Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) exists in various forms across the globe. Social economy, solidarity economy, popular economy and third sector are only a few of the terms used to refer to a concept that designates enterprises and organizations that, through the production of goods, services and knowledge, pursue explicit social and, often, environmental aims and foster solidarity. Because of their responsibilities and agendas, the many SSE stakeholders (including policy makers, academics, workers’ and employers’ organizations and SSE practitioners) do not necessarily communicate, leading to policies disconnected from local realities. This is even more so for SSE stakeholders in the Global South, who have little opportunity to influence policy, and those in greatest need of favourable SSE policies.
Towards a Solution
To address this challenge, the International Labour Organization (ILO) introduced the Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) Academy to:
- Contribute to a better understanding of the SSE concept;
- Emphasize the relevance of SSE as an alternate/complementary development paradigm, both within the ILO’s Decent Work Agenda and the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, specifically Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 8: Decent work and Economic Growth;
- Build new and strengthen existing SSE networks;
- Facilitate sharing of best practices and knowledge; and
- Create and foster an SSE community of practice.
Thanks to scholarships funded by the ILO’s SSTC programme, the ILO SSE Academy includes participants from the Global South. Covering travel, accommodation and participation fees, the scholarships allow selected individuals to attend the Academy and share knowledge, best practices and challenges with other SSE stakeholders they usually would not have the opportunity to meet, thereby breaking down the barriers that usually exist among them, in line with SDG 17, target 17.9 (Enhance international support for implementing effective and targeted capacity-building in developing countries to support national plans to implement all the sustainable development goals, including through North-South, South-South and triangular cooperation). The Academy’s flexible and interactive dynamics allow for an enriching experience for both new and experienced SSE stakeholders. It includes a series of plenaries that set the scene for the elective sessions, which are designed to generate deeper discussions and interactions on specific topic within the Academy’s broader theme.
The Academy also features field visits, during which participants gain a first-hand view of concrete SSE initiatives in the host city and country. Field visits allow participants to discuss directly with SSE stakeholders and take stock of local experiences. This allows the policy makers in attendance to translate their realities into their policy-making, fostering a bottom-up approach. Furthermore, participants gain access to the Distance-Learning Platform before the Academy, so all participants can become familiar with the basic principles and notions of SSE. South-South and triangular arrangements can expand the impact of the Social and Solidarity Economy in national contexts by building regional and interregional networks and platforms for knowledge and experience-sharing. Many SSE networks already exist among countries from the South, for example, the Latin American Coordination Bureau of Fair Trade (MCLACJ), MERCOSUR Solidario, ASEC network in Asia and RIPESS.
The participants are asked to write an article about SSTC in general and the Academy’s theme specifically. Articles have addressed topics such as youth employment, sustainable development, social innovation for decent work, local development, innovative SSE ecosystems and the future of work. The articles are used to stimulate discussions during the sessions of the Academy, including the elective session on SSTC.
The Academy is demand-driven, with the constituent asking the ILO to host an Academy in its country. Nine academies have been held (Turin, Italy; Montreal, Canada; Agadir, Morocco; Puebla, Mexico; Campinas, Brazil; San José, Costa Rica; Seoul, Republic of Korea; and Luxembourg City, Luxembourg). The 10th Academy will take place in Spain in 2018.
In some instances, the Academy has led to further development cooperation projects with the funding ministry or directly with constituents themselves.
Sustainable Development Goal target(s): 8.3, 17.9
Countries/territories involved: Global (as of now Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Italy, the Republic of Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico, Morocco, South Africa, Spain)