HLPF side event on "Leveraging Social Innovation to Advance the Sustainable Development Goals" co-hosted by the ILO, Canada, Costa Rica, France, Senegal, and UNCTAD

The side event took place on July 18, 2023 at the UN Headquarters in New York, bringing together countries and stakeholders with shared and diverse views to discuss how social innovation can be leveraged to advance the SDGs.

News | 01 August 2023
Co-hosted by the Honourable Karina Gould, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development; Department of Employment and Social Development; Government of Canada, the Director-General of the ILO Gilbert F. Houngbo, and co-sponsors Costa Rica, France, Senegal, and UNCTAD  – the in-person side event offered a valuable opportunity for participants to engage in a constructive exchange of good practices and lessons learned, driving progress towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The participants emphasized that social innovation through the social and solidarity economy (SSE) has the potential to accelerate progress towards the SDGs by allowing us to reimagine the means required to successfully implement them. The Resolution on promoting the SSE for Sustainable Development, adopted by the UN General Assembly in April 2023, was a main reference point for the side event as the resolution recognizes the role of the social and solidarity economy as a driver for inclusive and sustainable economies.

In his opening remarks ILO DG Gilbert F. Houngbo noted that with their values and principles, social and solidarity economy entities innovate in a mutualistic, democratic, and participatory manner. Their values are consistent with care for people and planet, equality and fairness, and the attainment of decent work and sustainable development, he further pointed out. With their close proximity to their members, users and communities they can be critical partners in contributing to the achievement of the sustainable development goals, he suggested and further advocated the need for citizenship responsivity.

Within the context of the subsequent Panel discussion and intervention by stakeholders, to discuss concrete actions to achieve “Social Innovation and Social Finance—Funding the Future while Advancing the SDGs”, ‘Ms. Cynthia Samuel-Olonjuwon, ILO Special Representative to the UN and Director Office for the United Nations in New York was requested to provide additional inputs. She referred to the recent ILO’s research on social innovation initiatives led by SSE entities in African countries, noting that SSEs have great potential to contribute to education and economic inclusion (SDGs 4 and 8), health and access to social protection (SDG 3), and agriculture (SDG 2). However, she pointed out there are internal and external factors that curtail the advancement of social innovation by SSE entities. Based on research findings, internally access to skills, development of operational and financial management capacities, and access to funding and markets are among the impediments. She further noted that the momentum created with the ILC and UN GA resolutions, will help to unleash the social innovation potential of the SSEs. She also emphasised the importance of of an appropriate legal framework specific to the SSE, awareness of public actors on the SSE, training and access to funding as some of the external factors that allow social innovation by SSEs to flourish.