Discussing the process followed in developing the Social and Solidarity Economy policy in South Africa

On the 23rd March, the ILO, together with partners the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (dtic), Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and Government of Flanders, launched a report benchmarking the process followed in developing the social and solidarity economy policy, against international best practice.

News | 01 April 2022
Opening the event, Acting Director General within the dtic, Ms Tanya van Meelis acknowledged the extensive consultations that have been associated with the policy process. She emphasised the importance of the partnership between the ILO and the dtic, and the value of the inter-governmental networks and citizens panels that have helped build buy-in and ownership. Dr Joni Musabayana, Director of the ILO’s Pretoria Office, emphasised the work done by stakeholders since Minister Patel announced in 2009 his intention to create a policy for the SSE at the regional conference on The Social Economy – Africa’s Response to the Global Crisis. Milestones include projects gauging the employment potential of the SSE for young people, provincial initiatives to strengthen local SSE processes, university interventions and the establishment of the IDC’s Social Enterprise Fund in 2013.

Alignment to international best practice, and lessons for future policy development

The research team, led by Kate Gardner and Lana Lovasic, established a framework that represents international best practice. This framework requires any policy process to have clear goals, rigorous design and be anchored in evidence. There should be clear roles and accountability within the policy-organising team, and regular and effective engagement with the community. Continuous feedback loops and knowledge sharing that build ownership and trust in the policy document, should be built into all policy processes. It should also have mechanisms of constant appraisal, which helps establish relevance and feasibility.

Did the South African policy process align with international best practice?

The policy process followed in South Africa was found to fully align with international best practice across the dimensions of clear goals, effective engagement, understanding of roles and accountability, and being anchored in evidence.

Partial alignment was found across three dimensions. The policy process would have benefited from having a clear link between the evidence gathered and the changes made to the policy throughout the consultation process. Alongside the comprehensive consultation strategy, the policy would have benefited from specific consultations with marginalised groups, for example, people with disabilities, refugees and migrant workers. Knowledge sharing could also be improved, with the ambitions of an online portal, conceptualised at the start of the policy development process as a one-stop-shop for information, documents and engagement related to the process, launched in 2022 after the draft Green Paper was submitted.

Lessons for future policy development?

The research team emphasised the importance of transparency in policy processes, that connect feedback from consultations to changes made in the technical document. Transparency is achieved through making documents accessible, for example through simplified language, translations, animations and illustrations of technical concepts.

Knowledge management through for example, regular updates to participants and stakeholders should be prioritised from the beginning of the policy process, so that peopled can see that their engagement is meaningful within that process.

Policy processes must make deliberate effort to engage with marginalised groups, such as people with disabilities, refugee and minority communities. All consultation processes should be documented, considering the commitments above, to transparency and knowledge management.

Lastly, policy processes must be grounded in ongoing research processes that gather data that inform those process. Inequality must be considered, with deliberate effort made to reach people outside of existing networks, recognising that they may present a bias.

You can read the full report here.