12th Academy on Social and Solidarity Economy – High-level panel 2: Partnerships for inclusive and sustainable development: SSE ecosystems beyond COVID-19 crisis

News | 31 January 2022
On Friday 26th November 2021, the last day of the SSE Academy opened with a High-Level Panel on the importance of partnerships to create SSE ecosystems oriented to inclusive and sustainable development beyond the covid-19 crisis. The panellists were Mr Vitor Ramalho, General Secretary of the Union of Portuguese-speaking Capital Cities (UCCLA), Ms Antonella Noya, Head of the Unit on Social Economy and Innovation at the Center for Entrepreneurship, SMEs, Regions and Cities of the OECD, Mr Yvon Poirier, member of RIPESS and Ms Laurence Kwark, Secretary-General of the Global Social Economy Forum (GSEF). Other panellists participated through video contributions: Mr Marvin Rodríguez Cordero, Vice president of the Government of Costa Rica; Mr Zacarias da Costa, Executive Secretary  of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLO) and Ms Yolanda Díaz, Second Vice-President of the Government of Spain and Ministry of Work and Social Economy.

Mr Vic van Vuuren, the ILO Enterprises Department Director and current Chairperson of the UNTFSSE, moderated the panel. Ms Linda Deleen, Manager of the Enterprise, Microfinance Local Development Programme (EMLD) of the ITCILO facilitated it. Following questions by Mr Van Vuuren, the panellists reflected on what makes SSE partnerships effective, especially during COVID-19, and how to improve them to advance on sustainable and inclusive development.

The panel started with a video message of Vice President of the Government of Costa Rica, Mr Marvin Rodríguez Cordero. He stressed the critical role of fora such as the ILO SSE Academy to generate knowledge and partnerships oriented to sustainability. He noted that the environmental transition must be at the centre of every policy and partnership. Quoting the ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow, he said “there is no job on a dead planet”.

Mr Rodríguez Cordero highlighted that the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting socio-economic crisis forced us to rethink our relationship with the environment. Still, it also provided us with the opportunity to rebuild our societies beyond the simple recovery towards new models of production and consumption that are more inclusive and sustainable. This, he stressed, is the great challenge that Costa Rica is addressing: to pursue a green transformation of the economic system, based on the total ban of fossil fuels and the complete reconversion to production based on renewable energies. Such change requires a systemic approach that relies on partnerships with the contribution of the public and private sectors and civil society.

In conclusion, Mr Rodríguez Cordero recalled the leading role of Costa Rica, alongside France and other countries, in the High Ambition Coalition (HAC) for Nature and People. The HAC is an international coalition that aspires to attain the protection of 30 per cent of global territories and oceans by 2030. The SSE, according to the Vice President, is a powerful tool to contribute to the protection of the commons and in the achievement of a just transition.

Ms Antonella Noya, Head of the Social Economy and Innovation Unit at the Center for Entrepreneurship, SMEs, Regions and Cities of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), presented their Peer Learning Partnerships as a tool to stimulate collective thinking and solutions to pressing current challenges.

The OECD recently created six Peer Learning Partnerships involving 130 actors from around the world, among which are many SSE organisations. The stakeholders involved have been gathering to work on specific SSE-related issues, such as legal frameworks for the SSE, social impact measurement, internationalisation of the SSE, and gender equality among others. According to Ms Noya, these partnerships have effectively responded to the urgency of many SSE organisations around the COVID-19 crisis to scale up. COVID-19 also accelerated digital solutions that made the partnership more practical despite the geographical distance.

Ms Noya reflected on what can improve SSE networks and partnerships for sustainable development. She noted the most significant improvement would be to connect SSE organizations to other stakeholders and institutional actors, notably policymakers, traditional businesses and international organisations. Furthermore, SSE networks need to communicate better and reach out to journalists, influencers and others. Finally, Ms Noya concluded, it is necessary to connect these networks to global networks: “Now is the right moment to internationalize the social economy, and technology is here to help”.

The next panellist was Mr Yvon Poirier, from the Intercontinental Network for the Promotion of Social Solidarity Economy (RIPESS). Mr Poirier presented two SSE success stories of adaptation and social impact during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A group of artisans’ cooperatives and associations in Mali that are members of RENAPESS, the national SSE network overcame the collapse of global supply chains by fing innovative solutions to produce their crafts using local materials. They also created COVID-19 protective products for their communities, using local resources.

The Association of Sarva Seva Farms (ASSEFA) in India is an extensive network of villages with more than four million people. Set up in 1968, ASSEFA supports around 2,600 vulnerable people, especially women and people with disabilities. It also provides schooling services to the communities. During COVID-19 lockdown it organised the home delivery of 700 meals/day supporting 120 families. It also set up a distance-learning system using mobile phones and other devices donated by multinational companies to continue the educational activities.

Reflecting on the ways to improve SSE partnerships for sustainability, Mr Poirier highlighted the lesson learned from the examples he mentioned. Larger organisations are better able to respond to the needs of communities, thanks to their networking capacities. Instead, small isolated organisations have difficulty in developing links with the state, municipalities, companies and other organisations. The most important goal for the SSE is to facilitate networking and exchange between SSE organisations to boost the establishment of partnerships at every level.

Ms Laurence Kwark, Secretary-General of the Global Social Economy Forum (GSEF), reflected on how the COVID-19 pandemic aggravated inequalities but also ignited innovative SSE practices to provide immediate and relevant social services during the crisis. She noted that SSE organisations effectively created partnerships to increase the impact of the crisis response.

This happened in particular to overcome the lack of framework laws in specific contexts, especially in Asia. Elsewhere, Ms Kwark underlined, many local governments (such as Montreal) launched strategic responses to the crisis based on the SSE, supporting the sector in its action. Ms Kwark explained that the SSE was particularly effective during the crisis because it was a focal point for social innovation. Furthermore, it is very close to territories and communities, therefore detecting unmanifested needs and activating local resources and partnerships to address them.

Asked about how to improve the partnerships towards sustainable development, Ms Kwark listed some ideas for action. First of all, she said, it is essential to listen better to SSE actors to understand their needs, failures and successes. The transformative capacity and potential of the SSE must be explored through the perspective of socio-environmental systemic change. Secondly, regional networks must be established to better engage in political dialogue with governments. Furthermore, it is essential to give institutional recognition to SSE networks to enable their action. It is also necessary, noted Ms Kwark, to align policies to support the SSE networks, not only individual SSE organisations. Such policies must be co-designed with the networks themselves. Finally, Ms Kwark concluded by addressing the importance of integrating the SSE into educational curricula at the university level and for the general public.

The second video contribution was from Mr Zacarias da Costa, Executive Secretary  of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLO). Mr da Costa opened his statement by stressing that one of the direct consequences of the COVID-19 crisis was to exacerbate social and economic inequalities, preventing the most marginalised people from accessing essential services.

He pointed out it is necessary to reinforce multilateralism and international cooperation in a spirit of shared responsibility and solidarity. Mr da Costa recalled that CPLO believes that such challenges must be addressed based on human rights and human development, fundamental to sustainable development. The SSE, concludedt Mr da Costa, is a crucial driver for achieving this transition.

The General Secretary of the Union of Portuguese-speaking Capital Cities (UCCLA), Mr Vitor Ramalho explained that UCCLA gathers 50 associated and 20 supporting countries to develop international relations. The Union works closely with city administrations to provide education for development. During the pandemic the Union provided protective equipment for students in the member countries.

Mr Ramalho outlined another main line of action related to economic activities for the Union. Many members of the Union, especially in Africa, work in the informal economy and face high unemployment rates. To overcome this, the Union works with central and local governments to raise awareness on informal economy and lobby for informal workers' formalization and protection.

Ms Yolanda Díaz, Second Vice-President of the Government of Spain and Ministry of Work and Social Economy stressed the need for new productive models, such as the SSE, that place people in the centre of development. In Spain, she underlined, the Government supports the SSE, both at the national level and within international fora.

She recalled that the 11th Edition of the ILO/ITC SSE Academy was hosted in Madrid. The outcome of the Academy was a Manifesto that highlighted the potential of the SSE as a new social model. In conclusion, Vice-President Díaz reminded the commitment of Spain to boost the development of the SSE through several international agreements, including the Luxembourg Declaration and the Toledo Declaration, and in international fora, such as the Union for the Mediterranean.

In the Q&A section, Mr Van Vuuren shared questions from the audience with the panellists. In concluding the session, he highlighted questions from the audience on the role of the SSE in the ongoing digital and ecological transitions. “We need to take up some key spaces in this area as we go forward. And the same for green jobs. The future is about the environment; it is about green jobs. We need to make sure that we don’t get left behind in the new developments and discussions that are taking place”.

Click here to watch the recording of the session with the original audio or interpreted in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese.

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