ILO COOP/SSE 100 Webinar V - SSE momentum: Finance for Inclusion and the Future of Work during Covid-19 pandemic

The webinar focused on the key challenges related to the future of work, how they affect local communities, and what Social and Solidarity Economy Organizations (SSEOs) are doing toward addressing them. Two keynote speakers presented the main findings of recent research, while three discussants enriched the debate.

News | 08 December 2020
The webinar was virtually organized by the Cooperatives Unit, in collaboration with the Social Finance Programme, on 3 December 2020, as the fifth and last edition in a series of webinars around the Centenary of the ILO’s Cooperatives Unit. It brought together over 80 participants from around the world.

Mr. Vic van Vuuren, Director of Enterprises Department at ILO chaired the event and opened the session by mentioning that in 2018 and 2019 the ILO coordinated two ambitious, large-scale research projects involving 15 countries from 4 continents. The first one titled “Contribution of the Social and Solidarity Economy and of Social Finance to the Future of Work”, was conducted by the Research Institute for Work and Society (HIVA) and was financed by the Government of France. The second one titled “Financial Mechanisms for Innovative Social and Solidarity Economy Ecosystems”, was conducted by European Research Institute on Cooperative and Social Enterprises (EURICSE) and was financed by the Government of Luxemburg.

Mr. van Vuuren mentioned that both projects’ results were presented for the first time during the international conference “The SSE Momentum: Finance for Inclusion and the Future of Work”, organized by the ILO, in partnership with Euricse and HIVA. The conference was held in Trento, Italy in November 2019 and concluded with "Recommendations for policy and research" derived from the two research projects and enriched by the inputs of the participants during the conference.

Following this introduction, the two speakers Mr. Ignace Pollet, Senior Expert at HIVA KU Leuven and Mr. Riccardo Bodini, Director of EURICSE; provided highlights of the findings from the two research initiatives mentioned above. They reflected upon the key ingredients of SSE ecosystems, key trends in the SSE economy today, and the main drivers of growth for SSEOs.

Mr. Pollet started his intervention by illustrating the macro-trends and challenges for work and employment and the significance of SSE for work and employment. He emphasized especially the role of SSE in the creation of jobs as both direct (e.g. staffing and workers) and indirect (e.g. members, other activities generated, and people trained). Moreover, he added, that a positive trend is observed in terms of quality of jobs created (e.g. working conditions and job stability, participatory management, and integration in community) and a role in facilitating the transition from informal to formal jobs/economy (e.g. provision of promoting labour rights and collective bargaining, defending common interests towards authorities and social protection).

He concluded by explaining the role of SSE in addressing the upcoming challenges for work and employment. He mentioned that some of the findings of the above mentioned research show a role of SSE: as of glocalization, embedding globally articulated economic activities in local ecosystems; reversing the rural exodus through traditional or environmentally friendly modes of production; facilitating the informal to formal economy transition; serving as policy instrument to reach vulnerable groups focusing on self-reliance; championing participatory and non-antagonistic work relations, quality of work and equity among workers; foreshadowing the network society and promoting human and social capital; reinvestment of capital surpluses in production or community. Mr. Pollet’s presentation is available here.

Mr. Bodini contributed to the discussion by observing that there is increased attention to the SSE as a possible solution to current and emerging social problems, while a growing focus on ways in which the SSE can be supported and developed. Finance is a key lever for expanding the capacity of SSEOs and their ecosystems, he noted. SSEOs engage in the production of goods and services, and like all enterprises they need money to fund their operations, he mentioned. However, he added, SSEOs differ from traditional for-profit enterprises in important ways, and these differences have an impact on the kind of finances they can access and how. In fact, SSEOs are designed to meet the needs of their stakeholders (workers, clients, volunteers, etc.) rather than to remunerate investors. Furthermore, their governance structures make it difficult to apply the financial tools traditionally used for for-profit corporations. He noted that the specificity of the SSE with respect to the issue of finance should not be sought in relation to the distinctive needs that characterize SSEOs compared to traditional companies. It rather resides in the types of financial resources available to them and in the ways in which these resources can be accessed.

Mr. Bodini highlighted that the findings of the above-mentioned research show that where SSE ecosystems are stronger. The financial needs of SSE organizations are satisfied, primarily by internal funding and by more traditional financial instruments (such as bank loans). Internal sources are particularly important, especially where they are incentivized by supportive legal frameworks (profit distribution constraints, asset lock, tax breaks, cooperative mutual funds, etc.). This is consistent with specificities and values of SSEOs, ensuring a long-term approach, helping cement a cooperative pact among members and between SSEO and their communities. The use of newly-developed financial instruments seem to be less relevant, except when SSEOs create their own innovative financial instruments (e.g. in the Italian case of the Cooperazione Finanza Impresa, or as in the case of Fiducie- Risq initiatives set up in Quebec). Mr. Bodini’s presentation is available here.

The two presentations were followed by the interventions of three discussants, introducing reflections based on their own experiences and in their own countries.

Ms. Maude Brossard, Director of Associative Life and Consultation, Chantier de l’ESS, Québec/Canada reflected upon the case of Quebec and how the SSE is a relevant and growing phenomenon, with more than 11,200 SSEOs all over Quebec (8,400 non-profit organizations, 2,410 non-financial cooperatives, 320 financial cooperatives, 30 mutual-benefit societies), 13.4 million members, 220,000 workers across Quebec. Ms. Bossard mentioned that it is now proven that in Québec in crisis times the SSEOs show 65 per cent survival rate after five years, compared to 35 per cent for traditional SMEs. She concluded by describing the campaign that Chantier de l’ESS launched this year in Quebec in order to create awareness about fundamental elements to prevent and mitigate crises, namely decent quality of life for all, collective real estate (ownership), buying locally, food security and food sovereignty, ecological transition, and just recognition of work. The dialogue with the government was especially towards the recognition of fair valuation of jobs among SSEOs, by putting in place financial support measures for enterprises and promoting fairness in workers' conditions, in particular the equity between organizations of the public sector and the SSE, with similar missions and activities (e.g. day-care workers, homecare workers, etc.). The recommendation to the government concerns the need to implement specific strategies for attracting and maintaining employment for sectors weakened by the impact of the current crisis. These sectors, at the heart of the vitality and distinctive culture of the territories, must be preserved. Ms. Brossard’s presentation is available here.

Ms. Silvana Cappuccio, Senior Officer in the Department of International Politics,
Italian General Confederation of Labour (CGIL) in Italy mentioned that the role played by the public sector is key in terms of access to fundamental rights, like the access to health for all. Civil society’s role is crucial in filling some gaps. SSEOs shows that they are capable to respond to the crisis, thanks to their roots at local level. During the 2008 crisis, in Italy the performance of SSEOs were better than the traditional private sector. In the current crisis, the SSEOs are ensuring health care for the elderly in Italy, by providing protection, assistance and prevention. Moreover, it is observed that SSEOs respond to traditional needs (e.g. social and health services) and emerging ones (e.g. new organic and local production, inclusion and integration of vulnerable people such as migrants, refugees, etc.). Ms. Cappuccio mentioned that, at the same time, it is very important to regulate SSEOs and to ensure the creation of decent work as per national collective bargaining legislation and policies. In terms of recommendations to policy makers, she added that all the requests should be framed under the relevant ILO recommendations, especially Promotion of Cooperatives Recommendation, 202 (No. 193), Employment Relationship Recommendation, 2006 (No. 198), Transition from the Informal to the Formal Economy Recommendation, 2015 (No. 204), in order to ensure labour rights are in place, while ensuring SSEOs participate in the dialogue and realization of the measures. Moreover, it will be essential that economic policies, studies and research are conducted, by ensuring the allocation of adequate resources. Finally, inclusion of educational and capacity building training on SSE in the mainstream curricula is key.

Mr. Carlos Lozano, Coordinator of International Affairs, Spanish Business Confederation of Social Economy (CEPES) in Spain intervened by mentioning that SSE is recognised by the public authorities in Spain since they create jobs and jobs of quality. SSE represents 10 per cent of the Spanish GDP, 12 per cent of working population is somehow involved in SSE while two million people are working directly in SSEOs. He noted that 80 per cent of jobs created by SSEOs are full and long-term jobs, with 50 per cent of the workforce of SSE consisting of women. He added that a significant part of workers is people with disabilities and people excluded by the labour market. A recent study validated the points mentioned above and focused on the role of SSE in Spain as creator of decent work and inclusive and sustainable development. With regard to measures put in place by the government during the COVID-19 crises, Mr. Lozano mentioned transition schemes were enacted to support employment. He shared that 80 per cent of SE organisations, which applied for this support, have been able to maintain all jobs and prevent the closure of their businesses, showing resilience. Government measures for SSE during COVID-19 recovery are now in discussion, but the premises seem positive since the Ministry of Labour in Spain is now titled “Ministry of Labour and Social Economy”, recognizing the role of SSE in terms of decent work and economic recovery.

The question and answer session following the presentations included a discussion around how SSE can help the informal economy enterprises and workers, especially in developing economies; the innovation potential of these organizations; and what kind of strategic partnerships are necessary to be put in place in order to evolve.

The Chair concluded the session noting that the establishment of partnerships with other actors is key in order to increase the outreach of SSE and show its capacity to contribute to inclusive and sustainable development.

The recording of the event is available here.