1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Programme Area: Social Dimensions of Sustainable Development

Potential and Limits of Social and Solidarity Economy

  • Project from: 2012 to 2016


Project Objectives


This project seeks to:

1) understand the conditions and contexts that enable social and solidarity economy (SSE) to expand; and

2) assess the implications of such processes and interactions with external actors and institutions for realizing the potential of SSE as a distinctive approach to development.

What sort of enabling environment is needed for SSE realize its potential and sustain itself over the long term? As organizations and networks expand, does SSE conform or deviate from core principles and objectives? How can constraints and contradictions be addressed?

From a policy perspective, the inquiry aims to give more visibility to SSE in United Nations policy debates and bring to the attention of policy makers key findings and recommendations from researchers around the world on the potential and limits of SSE, its role in addressing contemporary development challenges, and its place in a post-2015 development agenda.

The UNRISD inquiry will be undertaken in close collaboration with a number of other United Nations organizations.

Project Activities and Related Outputs



UN Inter-Agency Task Force on Social and Solidarity Economy


An SSE Task Force on Social and Solidarity Economy was set up in September 2013, bringing together UN agencies and other inter-governmental organizations with a direct interest in SSE as well as umbrella associations of international social and solidarity economy networks.

The Task Force has published a position paper in response to concerns that so far insufficient attention to the role of SSE has been paid in  the process of crafting a post-2015 development agenda and Sustainable Development Goals. This paper illustrates the potential of SSE to address the economic, social and environmental objectives and integrated approaches inherent in the concept of sustainable development.

International Conference: 6-8 May 2013


A key project activity was the international conference on the Potential and Limits of Social and Solidarity Economy held in Geneva on 6-8 May 2013. Some 300 participants from 35 countries representing academia, the UN development community, SSE practitioners as well as NGOs and civil society attended. The conference was organized in collaboration with the International Labour Organization and UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service.

Conference Outputs