1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Programme Area: Gender and Development

Feminist Analysis of Social and Solidarity Economy Practices: Views from Latin America and India

  • Project from: 2015 to 2018

This project is coordinated by Christine Verschuur and Filipe Calvão at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID), Geneva. UNRISD is participating as a research partner along with other institutions (see Research Teams below). For more information on the related UNRISD project, Potential and Limits of Social and Solidarity Economy, please visit the project page.

About the Project

Social and solidarity economic activities can be found in almost all sectors of the economy. Long ignored, social and solidarity economy (SSE) is receiving growing attention from scholars and public authorities. However, this interest remains for the most part gender blind, even though women play a major role in SSE activities. This research project aims to address these gaps in SSE research and policies from a feminist perspective. It will contribute to both the empirical evidence base and to theoretical debates on social reproduction.

The Research Issue in Context

SSE practices (re)invent non-capitalist forms of management that allow workers to re-appropriate the means of production and that can re-activate social relations based on cooperation and solidarity.

Public authorities are increasingly recognizing SSE. For instance, several Latin American countries have passed laws and constitutional articles, and have created Secretariats dedicated to SSE. In India, although the term “solidarity economy” is not used, grassroots organizations are increasingly engaging in lobbying activities with public authorities. At an international level, this growing interest has manifested itself through the creation of the United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on SSE. In the face of growing inequalities and climate change, the Task Force is putting SSE forward as a possible alternative model of production, financing and consumption that can deliver on sustainability and social justice.

However, until very recently the interest of both academics and policy makers in SSE has lacked a gender perspective. Their work is not informed by the considerable feminist body of literature on unpaid care and domestic work. Women's informal collectives are not usually considered part of SSE, and data on female participation in SSE are unavailable. Studies of SSE typcially lack a feminist analysis of gender hierarchies. SSE activities that relate to social reproduction (that is, by which society reproduces itself) are under-recognized. And the different social relationships at work in SSE, and how they interact with mechanisms in the global economy, lack thorough analysis.

This research project hypothesizes that while SSE can contribute to sustainable development and become an alternative to current economic (mal)functioning by offering innovative forms of production, consumption, exchange and financing, it can only be truly transformative if it also addresses the reorganization of social reproduction, integrating the political goals of gender equality and more equitable power relations.

Research Objectives and Questions

This project is located at the intersection between feminist and sustainable development research. It aims to fill some of the gaps in SSE analysis and policies from a feminist perspective, and to show how feminist debates on social reproduction and the care economy can be enhanced through greater attention to forms of collective and solidarity-based care provision.

What are the practices, social relations and power relations through which social reproduction is organized within SSE? What is the contribution of SSE when it comes to revitalizing public action and policies in the fields of production and social reproduction?

Methodology and Approach

Four research sites from the global South have been selected for their relevance to the research questions: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and India. At the micro-level, the research teams will conduct in-depth studies of selected SSE organizations, using feminist anthropological approaches. At the meso- and macro- levels, researchers will explore the interactions between SSE practices and political debates in these countries, using feminist economics, sociology and political science approaches.

The multi-scalar and interdisciplinary comparative feminist analysis of the SSE case studies in these four countries will contribute to:
  • the production of detailed original empirical information on SSE initiatives with a gender perspective;
  • theoretical debates related to social reproduction, emancipation, public action and policies.

Research Teams

Project Management: Christine Verschuur and Filipe Calvão, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID), Geneva, Switzerland

  • UNRISD (Switzerland): Ibrahim SaÏd
  • Institute of Research for Development (IRD) (France): Isabelle Guérin; Isabelle Hillenkamp
  • Conservatoire national des arts et métiers (CNAM) (France): Jean-Louis Laville

Country Research Teams
  • Argentina : Marisa Lis Fournier, Universidad Nacional de General Sarmiento (UNGS)
  • Bolivia: Ivonne Farah, Universidad Mayor de San Andrés
  • Brazil: Miriam Nobre, Sempreviva Organização Feminista (SOF)
  • India: Rajib Nandi, Institute of Social Studies Trust (ISST)
  • India: Govindan Venkatasubramanian, Institut français de Pondichéry
  • India: Kalpana Karunakaran, Indian Institute of Technology Madras
  • India: Kaveri Haritas, O.P. Jindal Global University

Research Beneficiaries

The findings of this project will be particularly valuable to policy makers and their advisors at the local, national and international level tasked with the implementation of a social and solidarity economy portfolio or furthering gender justice; they will be of value to civil society and advocacy groups or others aiming to ensure gender equality and/or social and solidarity-based economic practices; they will also be useful to the research community in advancing their understanding of these issues. Finally, this project will provide practitioners of social and solidarity economy and feminist organizations a space for debate where they can voice their concerns and unique insights.

Outputs and Activities

Research and policy activities

• 3 stakeholder workshops

• An edited volume

• Briefs, executive summaries, information brochures

• Participation by project partners in national and international policy-oriented events and dialogues

Communications and dissemination activities

• Dissemination of results in academic and SSE networks

• Incorporation of elements of the research into teaching and training

• Production of audio-visual materials

• Raising public awareness of SSE in national TV and radio

UNRISD’s specific contribution to this project will be analysis of the comparative data produced by the country research teams and the translation of project findings into transdisciplinary communications products, such as briefs.


The project is funded by the Swiss Network for International Studies (SNIS).