1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Blogs and Think Pieces by Keyword -

  • The Invisible Player: Social and Solidarity Finance for Financing for Development (29 Sep 2015) | Marie-Adélaïde Matheï
    The debates at the 2015 International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD) in Addis Ababa focused on macro gaps in development funding, and on the private sector as a provider of solutions. But this approach overlooked two fundamental players: social and solidarity economy (SSE) and social and solidarity finance (SSF). This think piece suggests that involving users in the management of financial resources and targeting funds towards sustainable activities leads the way to more sustainable finance conducive to socially sustainable development.
  • Collective empowerment? Producer cooperatives versus women’s groups in Kenyan ethical trade (29 Apr 2015) | Kiah Smith
    Part of the rationale behind fair and ethical trade is to improve the economic empowerment of smallholder farmers in the South, but also contribute to environmental sustainability, more equitable trading and decision-making relationships, and often, gender equality. However, the extent to which women’s participation in particular schemes contributes to their empowerment is highly variable. This think piece considers in particular the extent to which women’s empowerment is enhanced or reduced through their participation in ethical and fair trade decision-making structures, such as producer cooperatives, as well as other collective strategies, such as women’s groups.
  • 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.
  • How to Upscale your Social Economy into a Trillion Dollar Global Market. The Convergence Paradox of Islamic Finance (1 May 2014) | Aaron Z. Pitluck
    The contemporary Islamic banking and finance industry provides a radical critique of finance as currently practiced. In spite of this moral stance, Islamic finance has expanded in a few short decades into a trillion dollar global market. Perhaps surprisingly, many Islamic finance products have converged in both quality and price with their conventional counterparts so that they have become outwardly identical. This convergence paradox has led critics to accuse banks of cynically marketing conventional financial products as Islamic.This research paints a subtler story. I have identified four social mechanisms that have contributed not only to Islamic finance’s economic upscaling, but have also contributed to its rapid convergence with the conventional sector. For proponents of social and solidarity economies, Islamic finance is an instructive cautionary tale of how to use the engine of capitalist innovation to upscale rapidly.
  • Social Economy, Culture and Identity across the Border: Lessons from the Basque Case (30 Apr 2014) | Xabier Itçaina
    This think piece addresses the role of the Third Sector and Social Economy in the emergence of cross-border network governance in the Basque border region between France and Spain. Cross-border relations have historically been initiated by movements within civil society, anticipating policy actors in this matter. A policy change occurred in the 1990s, with the gradual Europeanization of a new policy framework which enables and encourages cross-border cooperation. The current engagement of Social Economy actors in this kind of cooperation is marked by this double heritage, with contrasting forms of implementation which require a sector-based analysis.
  • 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 ...
  • Public Support for Work Integration Social Enterprises (WISEs) in Spain. Some Lessons for More Productive Support. (31 Dec 2013) | Blanca Miedes Ugarte Manuela A. Fernández Borrero
    Work Integration Social Enterprises (WISEs) aim to integrate people at risk of permanent exclusion from the labour market into work and society through a productive activity. In Spain, despite the fact that national law establishes a common regulatory framework, recognition and support of WISEs is the responsibility of each Autonomous Regional Government. As a consequence, today there are twelve systems of public support for WISEs in the country. This striking diversity allows us to compare the outcomes of the different models and to study their efficiency. The analysis of the most recent data (2011) shows that there is a clear correlation between the amount of aid received by WISEs and the quantity of integration jobs they generate. However, the return on public investment varies greatly from one region to another, even when the regions are socio-economically similar. This points to the importance of specific institutional factors in each territory as well as the type of public aid.
  • Do Informal Initiatives in the South Share a Capitalist Logic or Are They the Seeds of a Solidarity Economy? The Case of Santiago de Chile (9 Dec 2013) | Thomas Bauwens, Andreia Lemaître
    The problem of informality represents one of the major challenges in the fight against poverty. To address this issue, the traditional response has often been to apply Western entrepreneurial rationality to informal actors and consider small informal productive units as pre-capitalist firms whose growth potential can be realized, it is supposed, by providing them with adequate tools such as credit or training. But do informal initiatives really share the capitalist spirit of entrepreneurship or do they develop other rationales, such as the ones which spread in a “solidarity economy”?
  • RIPESS Calls on UN to Promote Social and Solidarity Economy (22 Oct 2013) | Peter Utting
    The 5th RIPESS International Meeting on Social Solidarity Economy (15-18 October 2013 in Manila) was an occasion to assess progress in building SSE practices and networks around the world. It was also an opportunity to engage policy makers in discussions around the importance of inclusive growth, solidarity, cooperation and community development as an alternative to neoliberal approaches and economic models centred on self-interest, profit maximization and consumerism. Participants welcomed the recent initiative of 14 UN agencies, including UNRISD, to establish an Inter-Agency Task Force on Social and Solidarity Economy.
  • Economía Social Solidaria: Un Camino hacia un Modelo de Desarrollo Alternativo? (2 Oct 2013) | Peter Utting
    En los últimos años se ha generado una mayor conciencia sobre las contradicciones sociales y medioambientales que acompañan los procesos de desarrollo en contextos de la liberalización y la globalización económica. En respuesta a los problemas globales de empleo precario, constante pobreza, creciente desigualdad y el cambio climático, la comunidad internacional está poniendo cada vez mayor atención al concepto de desarrollo sostenible.
  • 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.
  • Community Development Banks: Enabling Access to Finance for Poor Communities (17 Sep 2013) | Camille Meyer, Leonardo Leal
    Community Development Banks (CDBs) are a growing and dynamic manifestation of the solidarity economy in Brazil. This unique system of solidarity finance is currently in place in more than 100 Brazilian municipalities. Created by local associations to (re)organize local economies, they develop financial tools (microcredit, social currency, correspondent banking) governed and organized by the users themselves. In this article, we outline a general overview of these initiatives. First, we explain some characteristics of CDBs. Second, we present the experience of two CDBs, Banco Palmas and Banco Bem, which have excelled in promoting access to the means of production, consumption, education and training for large sections of the population of the neighbourhoods in which they work. Finally, we study the relations between these CDBs and public banks.
  • 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.
  • Solidarity at Work: The Case of Mondragon (18 Jul 2013) | Larraitz Altuna-Gabilondo
    This think piece aims to reflect on the shared moral feelings and motivations on which to base and orientate cooperative action. In this paper, when considering the question about the reproduction of cooperative culture it is important to address the field of values. One of these values is the principle of solidarity. We highlight the fact that values are not merely normative, rational principles but have an experienced and embodied dimension. We briefly analyze the experience of the long-standing Mondragon Cooperative Movement as a relevant case study to illustrate how the value of solidarity plays out.
  • David and Goliath—Cooperatives and the Global Crisis (17 Jul 2013) | Claudia Sanchez Bajo
    We have been through a global crisis for the last six years with dramatic consequences. In the face of the crisis, cooperatives have shown not only potential but have actually demonstrated a higher degree of resilience in terms of jobs and activity. This UNRISD think piece gives details on how cooperative enterprises show resilience during the crisis and how they implement management practices based on solidarity, efficiency and innovation, based on four case studies and grounded research.
  • In These Times of Crises Can Cooperatives Come to the Rescue? (8 Jul 2013) | Simel Esim
    Currently the world is simultaneously experiencing a number of crises that interact with each other to reveal structural imbalances. Historically, cooperatives have been known to emerge in such times of crisis, whether it be natural disasters, conflicts or financial and economic turmoil. For example, unmet social care needs in rapidly ageing societies brought forth the recent growth in social care cooperatives. Set up by migrant domestic workers providing home-based child-care and elderly-care services, these cooperatives provide employment intermediation, finance, housing, and education and health care services to their members.
  • Social Enterprises for buen vivir in Chiapas: An Alternative to Development (28 Jun 2013) | Michela Giovannini
    Indigenous peoples in Mexico, as in many other countries, experience hard living conditions and socioeconomic marginalization. In this think piece, Michela Giovannini argues that this is because mainstream development programmes have failed to address their needs, and neoliberal policies have sacked their territories and natural resources without making a significant positive impact on their well-being. She suggests that a Latin American indigenous “alternative to development”—buen vivir—may offer a way out of this situation. Based on her qualitative research in the Mexican State of Chiapas, Giovannini argues that social enterprises created by local Mayan communities can be a way to pursue buen vivir—well-being grounded in harmony between human communities and the natural environment—and offer an example of how indigenous communities themselves devise and implement strategies to fulfill their economic, social, environmental and political needs. The analysis presented in this think piece leads to important policy recommendations.
  • The Puzzled Regulator: The Missing Link in Our Understanding of Social Enterprises (19 Jun 2013) | Alejandro Agafonow
    The lack of a well-defined business model is a major obstacle for a successful regulation of social enterprises. Current regulation efforts, while valuable, have largely ignored early research in sectors where the first social enterprises emerged. Such a business model is becoming more of a necessity than a normative proposal because in an era of austerity-stricken public finances, social enterprises must find a way to outperform for-profits competing in markets with blurred sectoral boundaries. This piece looks into a more precise definition of the social enterprise business model, which has surprising implications for the potential transformation of the third sector and its impact on market economies. The piece also challenges the misperception of social enterprises as either donative non-profits with commercial arms or for-profit ventures.
  • Engaging with the Social Economy in Aboriginal Australia: The Experience of Eastern Kuku Yalanji Social Entrepreneurs (18 Jun 2013) | Helen Murphy, Marilyn Wallace
    Examining alternative models for economic development is crucial for Australian Aboriginal communities seeking a diversity of development outcomes. The experience of Aboriginal social entrepreneurs in Cape York shows that there is a need for policy makers to better understand local conditions and economies, as well as the wider institutional framework to better enable Aboriginal social economy participation.
  • 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.
  • What is Social and Solidarity Economy and Why Does It Matter? (1 May 2013) | Peter Utting
    UNRISD Deputy Director Peter Utting introduces the theme of his organization’s big conference in May...
  • 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.
  • Connecting the Right Dots: Economic Integration and Solidarity/Social Economy Supply Chains (9 Apr 2013) | Maliha Safri
    Mainstream economic and business management theorists have often used large for-profit firms as their default units of analysis, and measures such as return on investment as proxies for performance. Once the determinants of performance are identified, they are distilled into models that are disseminated across the economy through universities, consultancy firms and policy experts. These models tend to become standardized across for-profit firms, not-for-profit organizations, NGOs and government agencies.
  • Let’s “Do-It-Ourselves”: Building a Participatory Economy in South Asia (9 Apr 2013) | Bryn Gay, Chatrini Weeratunge
    The think piece examines principles of the participatory economy (“parecon”, including fair trade and collective rights) to envision a social-justice-based framework that addresses the shortcomings of the current capitalist trading system, which largely excludes small-scale producers. Expansion of parecon relies on worker solidarity and shared, socially responsible values along the supply chain. Women producers play integral roles in sustaining agriculture, ensuring food security for their families and communities, and strengthening solidarity for a participatory economy. Initiatives from Sri Lanka and India offer evidence of the creation of parecon producer networks, yet further efforts could enhance women’s inclusion.
  • 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.
  • Making Space for Economic Democracy: The Danish Wind Power Revolution (8 Mar 2013) | Andrew Cumbers
    This think piece illustrates through the example of the Danish renewables sector the role that innovative forms of collective and democratic ownership can play in tackling climate change. Although Denmark has been held up as a model for other countries to follow in forging a progressive and far-sighted approach to tackling climate change, there is relatively little recognition that this has been founded upon state intervention and localized forms of public ownership. The paper emphasizes the way that supportive regulation and legislation by national government institutions come together with grassroots initiatives to foster more localized and participatory forms of public ownership and decision making.
  • Economic Ideals: Gandhian and Neoliberal Logics in India (26 Feb 2013) | Babita Bhatt, Israr Qureshi, Samer Abdelnour
    Social and solidarity economies differ greatly in terms of their underlying logics – the values, beliefs, rules and material practices by which people and communities reproduce their social realities (Thornton and Ocasio, 1999). The significance of social economy logics should not be underestimated: while economic activities may appear similar in form, differences in the underlying logics can lead to stark differences in enterprise models and socioeconomic outcomes. In the case of India, we find a diversity of enterprise logics: some are underpinned by longstanding political and sociocultural hierarchies while others follow Western-centric norms and values. In this think piece we consider two broad types of enterprise model: Gandhian (sarvodaya) and Western (neoliberal). These models have influenced the nature of much economic activity occurring in India today. As such, they provide a revealing starting point for investigating variations in social and solidarity economic activity and outcomes.
  • 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.
  • The Politics of the Cooperative Sector in Developing Countries: Insights from Argentina, Brazil and Colombia (26 Feb 2013) | Andrés Spognardi
    Although cooperatives are widely recognized as key drivers of economic and social development, the type and scope of the policies aimed at promoting the formation, expansion and consolidation of this form of social business vary considerably across the developing world. Even in countries with a long tradition of cooperative entrepreneurship, government policies toward the cooperative sector differ considerably. The question that naturally arises is: What accounts for such divergences?