12th Academy on Social and Solidarity Economy - Opening Session

News | 06 December 2021
The official opening of the Academy took place on November 15th, 2021, with the special participation of Mr. Guy Rider, Director General of the ILO, and Ms. Ana Mendes Godinho, Portuguese Minister of Labour, Solidarity and Social Security. Mr. Vic Van Vuuren, director of the Enterprise department of the ILO, and Mr. Roberto Di Meglio ILO senior specialist on SSE, also intervened. The session was facilitated by Ms. Linda Deleen, programme manager of the Enterprise, Microfinance and Development Programme of the ITCILO.

The Portuguese Minister of Labour, Solidarity and Social Security, Ms. Ana Mendes Godinho expressed her pride for the opportunity to host the Academy in Portugal, as a proof of the importance given by the country to Social and Solidarity Economy in building the national collective future. Ms. Mendes Godinho stressed how the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that global crises call for collective, rather than individual, solutions, and it pointed out the necessity to develop stronger structures to strengthen the response of the global community to future social, environmental and digital challenges. The Minister pointed out the opportunity and the legitimacy, offered by the pandemic, to create a new social contract and welfare model. This model should be strongly based on SSE, because the way in which SSE faced the crisis clearly demonstrated its social potential, driven by its ability to act locally to support vulnerable categories, to maintain and create employment, to identify tailor-made answers to individual problems and to maintain and reinforce social cohesion.

The Minister then noted the work of the Portuguese Government during the Portuguese semester of EU Presidency. During the semester, the Social and Solidarity Economy was at the core of the political agenda, as the Portuguese Government strongly believes in the pivotal role of SSE in addressing the main challenges of the present, as well as in the importance to mainstream and widespread SSE values, in order to provide a common horizon under which the European member countries can unite. Addressing the future of SSE, Ms. Mendes Godinho stressed some important challenges: the necessity to improve the management of SSE organisations, to attract young people by boosting innovation, to accelerate socially- and environmentally-oriented investments.

According to the Minister, SSE can in fact be an important leverage to address social, environmental and digital challenges, but it needs to be scaled up and internationalised in every sector across the world, especially to the benefit of developing countries. To impose SSE as the basis of a new welfare model, concluded the Minister, it is essential to have clear and specific strategies. At the European level, this results in the firm support of the Portuguese Government to the new Social Economy Action Plan of the European commission, which will be published at the end of 2021. At the national level, the Portuguese Resilience Plan addresses investments for Social and Solidarity Economy as one of the major pillars of the Plan. Furthermore, the Ministry of Labour is currently promoting the creation of a training and capacity building centre for the SSE sector, open to SSE workers and organisations from the country and from abroad.

Mr. Guy Ryder, Director General of the ILO, began his intervention by thanking the Ministry and the Government of Portugal for the generous contribution to the development of this edition of the Academy, sign of a long-lasting collaboration and friendship between the ILO and Portugal. The DG recognised also the support of CASES in the development of the Event.

In highlighting the pioneering role of the ILO in the promotion of SSE, Mr. Ryder mentioned that the topic of the Academy reflects the hard times the world is facing, characterised by the loss of millions of jobs and the worsening of global inequalities due to the pandemic. Recovering from the crisis and building more resilient societies requires a human-centered response, aimed at reorienting the world's economies toward more inclusive and sustainable development. The DG stressed that the SSE can play a crucial role. However, to exploit the potential of SSE in promoting decent work and “build black better”, it is necessary to create an enabling environment, that puts workers’ rights and aspirations at the heart of the recovery, and that allows businesses to be not only economically, but also socially sustainable.

The DG recalled some of the pivotal moments that marked the increasing international recognition of the potential of SSE: the establishment of the UN Inter-Agency Task Force on Social and Solidarity Economy (UNTFSSE) in 2013, currently chaired by the ILO; the recent Adoption of a Global Call for action for a human-centred recovery from the COVID crisis by the 187 ILO Member States, that explicitly recognises the role of Social and Solidarity Economy; the significant developments in the legal and political frameworks for SSE in Portugal, thanks to the action of the Government and of other significant stakeholders. In conclusion, the ILO DG also mentioned other forthcoming steps, such as the launch of the European Union Action Plan for the Social Economy at the end of 2021, and a General Discussion on the “Social and Solidarity Economy for a human-centred future of work”, that will be held during next year’s International Labour Conference. This will be the first General Discussion on SSE in the history of the ILC.

After the intervention of the ILO DG, a cultural moment of Portuguese music was offered by the exhibition of the Portuguese musician Marta Pereira De Costa.

Mr. Vic Van Vuuren, director of the Enterprises Department of the ILO and current Chair of the UNTFSSE, addressed the importance of tackling the current social and environmental challenges together, through integrated perspectives. The UN Sustainable Development provides a global framework for such action, but it is necessary to localise it and implement it on the ground. The SSE, through important meetings like the Academy, is a privileged instrument to achieve this goal. “The world - underlined Mr. Van Vuuren - and especially the young generations, is looking for a new value system. SSE brings these values to the table, and this is special”. The contribution of SSE to GDP growth is increasingly evident, but SSE can offer much more in terms of social inclusion and environmental sustainability. This Academy, Mr. Van Vuuren concluded, has the duty and the opportunity of bringing forward this debate and to shed light on it.

Mr. Roberto Di Meglio, senior specialist on local development and SSE (ILO), outlined the objectives of this Academy and its historical evolution. The first edition of the Academy took place in Torino, Italy, in 2010, as a reflection on how to face the global economic crisis of 2008. From that moment, the following editions of the Academy focused on the main international challenges of the decade, among which poverty, development, social innovation and sustainability. One important outcome of the Academies, has been the creation of the SSE Collective Brain, that gathers materials and tools to support the spreading of SSE around the world. The main goal of the Academies is to promote the exchange of practices and methodologies. “Social and Solidarity Economy” explained Mr. Di Meglio, “is a new phenomenon, that is still seeking an identity: the meeting and the recognition of the others is essential to develop an identity, therefore the exchange is foundational to this quest”. The interest of governments and other social stakeholders for SSE has steeply increased over the years, as demonstrated by the financial commitment of the countries that host the Academy. Furthermore, this year’s record of application (over 800) points out the urgency of the topic among social practitioners all over the world. The specific objective of this 12th edition, concluded Mr. Di Meglio, is to explore policy solutions for SSE, in order to unleash the potential of the sector in promoting decent work in a context of crisis and beyond.

Finally, thanks to the facilitation of Ms. Linda Deleen (ITCILO), the participants had the chance to present themselves and to map their location on an interactive map.

Click here to watch the recording of the session in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese.

For more information on the 12th edition of the SSE Academy, click here.