1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Blogs and Think Pieces by Keyword - Informal economies

  • Paving a national avenue on top of a complex network of trails: Contentions around mineral extraction in Ecuador (23 Jul 2014) | Duygu Avci
    Since his election in 2007, Ecuador’s president Rafael Correa has embarked on a post-neoliberal development strategy based on mineral extraction. The main justification of the government for promoting mineral extraction is that it will serve the ‘national interest’ and provide the resources to finance social policy. Although mineral wealth, if properly managed, can contribute to social development, pursuing this strategy at all costs might indeed prove counter-productive for the long-term development of the country. In some particular places, extractive activities might threaten diverse social experiments with alternative models of development, and harm processes of institutional innovation and social learning. What can be learned from such social experiments can potentially be important for facing future development challenges in a world characterized by complexity and uncertainty. A more integral development strategy should take such complexity and uncertainty seriously and allow diverse social experiments to multiply and flourish.
  • Incorporating the Informal Sector in Social Protection Programmes for Universal Realization of the Rights to Social Security (5 May 2014) | Barbara Caracciolo
    In the majority of cases, informality is not a choice but rather a necessity for those unable to access formal jobs or any kind of social protection. Yet, current social protection systems have mainly been designed for workers in the formal economy who are less vulnerable than those in the informal economy. This think piece presents international instruments which can help to improve the situation, especially if the participation of informal workers themselves can be meaningfully implemented.
  • Social Economy Policies in Argentina: Potential and Limits for the Development of Associative and Cooperative Work (7 Mar 2014) | Malena Victoria Hopp
    This think piece analyses the potential and limits of Social Economy policies implemented in Argentina since 2003. The hypothesis that guides this work suggests that the main limits seen in the development of the Social Economy sector are due to the secondary role occupied by Social Economy in the government's social-economic strategy. This relates to the particular institutional framework of the programmes promoting associative and cooperative work. They are mainly implemented by the Social Development Ministry, a state agency which historically provided social assistance.
  • Message from the Director, Sarah Cook: New Year’s Greetings from Geneva, and Welcome to the First UNRISD E-Bulletin of 2014 (28 Jan 2014) | Sarah Cook
    UNRISD enters 2014 with a renewed sense of purpose and energy that comes from having celebrated its ...
  • What Do Cooperatives Have To Do with the Post- 2015 Development Framework and Proposed Sustainable Development Goals? (27 Sep 2013) | Emery Igiraneza
    Cooperative enterprises are instrumental in providing opportunities for productive employment as well as offering services such as health care, education, credit, improved infrastructure and sustainable energy. They are guided by values of social dialogue and democracy, and are often rooted in local communities, making them a sustainable option for achieving development. However, recognition within UN processes crafting the post-2015 framework of the current and potential role of cooperatives in achieving sustainable development, reducing poverty and creating employment is patchy. To remedy this situation, the ILO, in collaboration with the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA), UNRISD and other partners has launched an initiative to assess and promote the contribution of cooperatives to sustainable development.
  • Kenyan Businesswomen Transforming Slum Economies through Complementary Currencies (24 Jul 2013) | Morgan Richards, William Ruddick
    Are complementary currencies the next step in building the Social and Solidarity Economy and could Kenyan women be demonstrating a new development model for a failing global monetary system? This think-piece examines the case of the Bangladesh community, an informal settlement in Kenya, using a complementary currency system which enables female business owners to build resilience, avoid economic downturns and juggle family care and business profits. After promising initial outcomes, the Central Bank of Kenya initiated charges for forgery in May 2013.
  • Legal Frameworks on Social and Solidarity Economy: What is the Role of Civil Society Organizations in Policy Making? (29 May 2013) | Rafael Peels
    To respond to the fragmented landscape of legal frameworks on Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) a variety of countries have been taking initiatives to create overarching legal frameworks that apply to the whole sector. One field within the sector that is characterized by much confusion and that receives little attention is the political participation of non-state actors in recent legal developments concerning SSE. In other words: how do various legal frameworks take into account the policy participation of SSE organizations? In this think piece, I take a closer look at five recent legal initiatives in Spain (2011), Ecuador (2011), Greece (2011), Mexico (2012) and Portugal (2013) and can show that approaches differ in these countries.
  • Want to really help expand Social and Solidarity Economy? Then start rethinking money! (30 Apr 2013) | Christian Arnsperger
    The Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE), while not exclusively non-profit-oriented, is a deliberately low-profit endeavour. By this I mean that SSE businesses generate profits within strict constraints pertaining to criteria linked to social and solidarity-related values. As a result, their net financial surpluses are often lower than they would be in a similar business that did not embrace such constraints. Low-profit enterprises include both (i) non-profit businesses deliberately choosing to reinvest gross surpluses into the business and drive net profits down to zero; and (ii) what one might term pure SSE businesses producing a good or service whose very anchoring in social and solidarity-related values implies that it will not be produced by any for-profit firm.
  • Social and Solidarity Economy: A Pathway to Socially Sustainable Development? (29 Apr 2013) | Peter Utting
    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?
  • Are Mental Models Shaping SSE Reality? Conceptualizing, Measuring and Evaluating SSE Performance (10 Apr 2013) | Benjamin R. Quiñones
    Using the results of action research conducted by the author, this think piece explains the potential and limits of a tool for conceptualizing, measuring, and evaluating SSE performance, based on a common understanding of SSE indicators. Upon determination of strategic dimensions of a shared vision of SSE, an evaluation tool was developed by constructing indicators for each dimension and providing a performance scorecard. The Asian Solidarity Economy Council (ASEC) pilot tested the evaluation tool on a limited scale of 15 case studies: nine from Indonesia, five from the Philippines and one from Cambodia. The action research illustrated the usefulness of supply chain analysis in SSE performance evaluation and its advantages over the individual enterprise method of analysis. But the evaluation tool could still be improved. ASEC welcomes the collaboration of other organizations and networks in extending the action research to other countries.
  • “It is the powerful farmers who really enjoy the group”: Inequality and Change in Uganda’s Coffee Cooperatives (10 Apr 2013) | Karin Wedig
    Despite the recovery of agricultural cooperatives in sub-Saharan-Africa since the 2000s, knowledge about their social and economic effects in liberalized agricultural markets remains inadequate. Evidence from Uganda’s coffee sector indicates that today’s cooperatives create net benefits for small producers by contributing to an improved capacity of disadvantaged groups to defend their interests. However, high risks and inadequate financial services in weakly regulated agricultural markets create barriers to economic organization for small producers, and some become too poor to organize. Furthermore, intraorganizational inequalities limit access to cooperative benefits for some members. New evidence from Uganda (Wedig, forthcoming) indicates close linkages between existing inequalities and the lack of a larger institutional framework which would allow disadvantaged members to defend their interests vis-à-vis stronger economic actors at the local level. Thus, community-based organizations seem to be particularly vulnerable to alliances between better-off producers and primary-level cooperative managers, which contribute to the reproduction of elite bargains.
  • Worker Solidarity Confronting the Crises of Capitalism: Bottom-up Solidarity Economy and Political Ecology in South America (9 Apr 2013) | Cristián Alarcón, Cristobal Navarro
    In times of combined social-ecological crises of capitalism there is an urgent need to link solidarity economy to the understanding of ecological processes. For example, if solidarity economy practices remain linked to oil consumption and ecologically unequal exchange, the fundamental contemporary problems of unsustainable patterns of production and consumption continue to be reproduced. Insights from political ecology are a way to fill a gap in terms of awareness about social-ecological relations in the understanding of and theorizing about solidarity economy. Concrete examples from South America reveal the importance and potential of linking solidarity economy to political ecology.
  • An Impossible Marriage: Solidarity Economy and Monetary Economy (26 Mar 2013) | Anitra Nelson
    Can a forest or a human life be reduced to a price? Can one hold, or balance, contradictory values? If not, then those who advocate a Social and Solidarity Economy must address the generally intractable conflicts between social and environmental values on the one hand, and monetary ones on the other. Markets create prices, or monetary values, on an entirely different logic to either shared social values, for example related to basic needs, or ecologically determined environmental values. So, doesn’t the Social and Solidarity Economy need to avoid the trappings of monetary calculation and capitalist markets?
  • Can Female Entrepreneurship Programmes Support Social and Solidarity Economy? Insights from China and India (26 Mar 2013) | Tonia Warnecke
    Increases in overall female entrepreneurship do not guarantee improvements in women’s socioeconomic status; much depends on whether the entrepreneurship is based on opportunity or necessity. In countries like China and India, women tend to be necessity entrepreneurs in the informal sector, with lower income and little potential for career advancement. While these countries have devoted significant resources toward programmes aiming to increase female entrepreneurship, not all of these programmes support opportunity entrepreneurship. An even larger question is whether these programmes support or challenge Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE). In addition to solidarity microfinance schemes around the world, Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) programmes in India show that entrepreneurship programmes can support individual development while also fostering community solidarity and democratization of the economy.
  • La Economía Solidaria como política y estrategia de desarrollo. Políticas públicas, movimiento social y desafíos en Brasil (11 Mar 2013) | Ana Mercedes Sarria Icaza
    Este artículo aborda los desafíos actuales de la economía solidaria en Brasil, partiendo de la constatación de que, a pesar de los avances significativos en los últimos diez años, ésta no ha logrado entrar como una pauta prioritaria en la agenda del desarrollo nacional. Explorando los dos elementos fundamentales que la sustentan –la organización de una red de actores sociales que funciona con una dinámica de movimiento social, y el apoyo y fomento de los poderes públicos- se identifican una serie de cuestiones sobre su potencial y su proceso de construcción, mostrando las diferentes visiones y sus implicaciones en los procesos de promoción y construcción de las experiencias.
  • Solidarity Economy Initiatives from the Ground Up: What can we Learn from the Women Home-based Workers of Southeast Asia? (11 Mar 2013) | Rosalinda Pineda Ofreneo
    What can the most invisible and marginalized of women workers contribute to the discourse on solidarity economy based on their concrete experiences over time? This question acquires significance in the light of the combined financial, economic, and environmental crises coupled with the increasing incidence of disasters in Southeast Asia. These have led to massive job losses in many parts of the subregion. In response to these events, home-based workers’ organizations and networks have risen to the challenge by developing solidarity economy initiatives, with varying results, potential and limitations based on specific national and local contexts.
  • Social Solidarity Economy: Toward Convergence across Continental Divides (26 Feb 2013) | Emily Kawano
    This think piece aims to clarify the concept of SSE by identifying points of convergence among practitioners and scholars in different regions. It also seeks to promote mutual understanding within the SSE community by illustrating how variations in meaning derive from different political, historic and cultural contexts.