What is the Social and Solidarity Economy?

The Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) is a set of socioeconomic initiatives from organizations and companies which have specific social goals, all of them oriented by the principles and values of cooperation, solidarity, equity, inclusion, sustainability, participation, democratic self-management, and engagement with the community, strengthening the social weave and promoting social change.

The Social and Solidarity Economy is mainly about constructing an economy centered on social protection and equality. The Social and Solidarity Economy movement, which is growing globally, reaffirms the social control over economy, prioritizing social goals above benefit maximization. It acknowledges the collective action key role and active citizenship for the economic and politic empowerment of the disadvantage groups in society, revitalizing the concepts of ethics, cooperation, equity, and democracy in economic activity.

The SSE initiatives are quite diverse and are present in all sectors of economic activity, but they all share common elements which define the transformative character and shared principles:

Democratic and participative management. Instead of the hierarchical organization model where a few people control, manage and decide over resources, heritage, information and the future of most people, the Social and Solidarity Economy introduces democracy on economy and companies.
Human-needs oriented. The SSE regains the economy primal function, putting it at the service of people in order to equitably managing the resources and sustainably exploit them, as well as creating a production model which turns labor into an instrument of satisfaction of human needs.
Commitment with the community. The SSE organizations contribute to improve society through the creation of jobs, provision of services, rooting in the territory, support to social causes, financing solidarity initiatives in countries with deep inequalities and collaborating with transformative social movements.

“Social and Solidarity Economy encompasses organizations and enterprises that: 1) have explicit economic and social (and often environmental) objectives; 2) involve varying degrees and forms of cooperative, associative and solidarity relations between workers, producers and consumers; 3) practice workplace democracy and self-management.

SSE includes traditional forms of cooperatives and mutual associations, as well as women’s self-help groups, community forestry groups, social provisioning organizations or ‘proximity services’, fair trade organizations, associations of informal sector workers, social enterprises, and community currency and alternative finance schemes”.

Peter Utting, former Chair of UNTFSSE and UNRISD Deputy Director 1.

1 United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD)
  United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on the Social and Solidarity Economy (UNTFSSE)