Social and Solidarity Economy

Recent global economic and political instability has served to underline the shortcomings of our current development system and further confirm the necessity for an alternate or complementary development paradigm. The social and solidarity economy (SSE) is a viable solution to re-balancing economic, social and environmental objectives.

Social and Solidarity Economy

Although there is not an official definition proposed by ILO yet, the ILO Regional Conference on Social Economy, Africa’s Response to the Global Crisis (October 2009) defined the Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) as a “concept designating enterprises and organizations, in particular cooperatives, mutual benefit societies, associations, foundations and social enterprises, which have the specific feature of producing goods, services and knowledge while pursuing both economic and social aims and fostering solidarity”.

The ILO and the Social and Solidarity Economy

The ILO boasts a long tradition and experience in the SSE. In fact, the ILO’s Cooperatives Unit was established in 1920, one year after the ILO’s creation, and the first official document to make direct reference to enterprises in the social economy dates back to the year 1922.

The ILO’s commitment to the advancement of the SSE is grounded on its Constitution, on the ILO Promotion of Cooperatives Recommendation, 2002 (No. 193), on the 2008 ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization and on the 2019 Declaration for the Future of Work in which it is indicated that the ILO should concentrate its effort in “supporting the role of the private sector as a principal source of economic growth and job creation by promoting an enabling environment for entrepreneurship and sustainable enterprises, in particular micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as cooperatives and the social and solidarity economy, in order to generate decent work, productive employment and improved living standards for all”.

In February 2019, at the Social Economy National Consultation Conference held in Durban, South Africa, the ILO Director-General Guy Ryder reflected on the relevance of SSE organizations and their value-driven, human-centred approaches in addressing the challenges in the changing world of work. “Social and solidarity economy organizations are well positioned to become an essential part of the tool kit for achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in general and for better localizing the SDGs in particular. Building on their value-driven and human-centred approaches, they can help build a new economy strives for social justice and decent work.” said Mr Ryder. His full speech is available here.

United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on the Social and Solidarity Economy (UNTFSSE)

The UNTFSSE was established to raise the visibility of the SSE in international knowledge and policy circles as it holds considerable promise for addressing the economic, social and environmental issues faced by today’s world. The SSE is an important approach for the integrated implementation of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development. Thus, the UNTFSSE works to support the SSE as a means of implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), acting as a hub for inter-agency coordination and knowledge sharing on how to replicate, scale up and build an enabling environment for SSE. The UNTFSSE also serves as a conduit for civil society voices to interface with policy making. Currently chaired by the ILO, the Task Force has 18 UN Agencies and the OECD as members and 13 civil society organizations as observers.

The ILO Social and Solidarity Economy Academy (SSE Academy)

The SSE Academy is an interregional training opportunity gathering practitioners and policymakers from all around the world, to share their experiences, best practices and challenges from their work in the SSE. Organized together with the ITC-ILO, the training seeks to provide a better understanding of the concept of SSE, discuss the relevance of SSE as a development alternative and its relation to the ILO’s Decent Work Agenda, and further build and strengthen networks of SSE practitioners. The first SSE Academy took place in Turin (Italy) in 2010. Since then, eleven SSE Academies have taken place in Montreal (Canada), Agadir (Morocco), Campinas (Brazil), Johannesburg (South Africa), Puebla (Mexico), San José (Costa Rica), Seoul (Republic of Korea) and Luxembourg City (Luxembourg), Turin (Italy), and Madrid (Spain).

The Collective Brain

The Collective Brain is a virtual multilingual interactive space which aims to enrich the ILO Academy on Social and Solidarity Economy and to facilitate exchanges and cooperation beyond the face-to-face interactions during the academy. Its main purpose is to allow current, former and future participants and other key players in the field of SSE to remain engaged, cooperate and deepen their knowledge through an online platform in spite of geographical distances and language barriers. A forum is available to all users. Various documents and publications on the SSE are available, along with the SSE Academy Collections. News is also shared on the platform.

Project Highlights

The ILO’s Cooperative, Social and Solidarity Unit is technically backstopping the following projects on cooperatives and the wider SSE.
In addition, the Cooperatives Unit is undertaking multi-country research initiatives to enhance the role of SSE given the magnitude of the changes affecting the world of work, and the challenges posed by social finance.


Country case studies on public policies for the SSE
  • Comparative analysis of seven countries: Brazil, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, the Philippines, South Africa, the Republic of Korea and Italy (October 2017) (English)
  • Europe (November 2016) (English, Spanish)
  • Brazil (November 2016) (Spanish)
  • Costa Rica (November 2016) (Spanish)
  • Nicaragua (August 2016) (Spanish)
  • Philippines (August 2016) (English, Spanish)
  • South Africa (March 2017) (English)
  • Republic of Korea (June 2017) (English)
  • Tunisia (March 2020) (English, French)
Multi-country studies on the role of the SSE in the world of work
  • The contribution of SSE and social finance to the future of work (March 2020) (English, French)
  • Financial Mechanisms for Innovative Social and Solidarity Economy Ecosystems - Executive Summary (November 2019) (English, French, Spanish, Italian)
  • Financial Mechanisms for Innovative Social and Solidarity Economy Ecosystems - Full Report (November 2019) (English)
  • Social and Solidarity Economy and the Future of Work (September 2017) (English, Spanish, Italian)
Studies on the SSE from a South-South and Triangular Cooperation (SSTC) perspective
  • Mapping the SSE Landscape in India and Brazil through South-South and Triangular Cooperation: Gender-Based Initiatives in Social and Solidarity Economy (July 2016) (English)
  • Social and Solidarity Economy in Asia: A South-South and triangular cooperation perspective (November 2015) (English)
  • Social and Solidarity Economy and South-South and Triangular Cooperation in Latin America and the Caribbean: Contributions to Inclusive Sustainable Development (December 2014) (English, Spanish, Portuguese)
Many other publications on past SSE Academies and related topics are also available in the following ‘further information’ section.

Past Events