StreetNet International organises an orientation session on cooperatives and the informal economy

ILO COOP Unit Manager presented at an orientation session organised by StreetNet International for its regional coordinators on cooperatives’ role in the informal economy

Actualité | 22 février 2021
StreetNet International, a global alliance of street vendors in the informal economy invited ILO COOP Unit Manager, Simel Esim, to provide an orientation session on cooperatives and the informal economy. In a presentation titled “Cooperating out of informality,” Ms. Esim shared the pathways through which cooperatives contribute to formalization of informal economy workers and enterprises. She provided examples of how informal economy workers and enterprises use cooperatives and other social and solidarity economy enterprises. She shared findings and lessons learned from ILO’s research, policy reform and capacity building initiatives on the topic.

Ms Esim started her presentation with the definition of cooperative, as outlined in the R193 - Promotion of Cooperatives Recommendation, 2002 and mentioned the seven cooperative principles, ranging from voluntary and open membership, cooperation among cooperatives and concern for community. She then highlighted the diversity found in cooperatives, in both levels of organization (i.e. primary, secondary and tertiary institutions) and types of cooperatives ranging from producer and worker to consumer and multi-stakeholder cooperatives working in different sectors (i.e. social services, housing, tourism, agriculture, and finance).

She presented the ways in which cooperatives can support the transition from the informal to the formal economy, including through economies of scale, social protection, and collective voice and negotiation with other public and private stakeholders in the local economy and across the value chain. She shared a number of good practices, including the dual strategy of Self-Employed Women’s Association Cooperative Federation (SEWA) in India, in advancing rights of informal economy workers through trade unions, and improving their livelihoods through cooperatives.

Ms. Esim highlighted that ILO COOP supports training and capacity building through tools (Think.Coop, Start.Coop and My.Coop) to help ILO constituents and wider stakeholders to manage and strengthen their cooperatives. ILO projects, such as SYNDICOOP, worked on strengthening the capacity of national trade unions and cooperatives to work together in organizing informal economy workers to improve their working conditions in Eastern and Southern African countries.

Based on SYNDICOOP, a joint ILO and the Open Society Foundations research initiative was launched, which will assess how trade unions and cooperatives can improve living conditions of informal economy workers in selected countries in Africa and Latin America. Ms. Esim stressed the need for representatives of the informal economy organizations to be part of the policy discussion in order for the solutions to be inclusive and sustainable.

Following her presentation, regional representatives from StreetNet International, shared their observations and suggestions for the way forward for further collaboration, to strengthen the capacity of cooperatives in improving the conditions of informal workers worldwide. The StreetNet International staff referred to the 19th resolution on the social and solidarity economy that was adopted during the Third StreetNet International Congress in Benin.

Ms. Esim’s full presentation can be viewed here.