Training Academy 2023 : Social Economy to advance a socially and environmentally just economic model

SOLIDAR members from the Social Affairs Forum and other partners celebrated the Training Academy 2023 on 12th and 13th June. The event revolved around the topic of Social Economy (SE) and was co-organised with SOLIDAR’s Belgian member Pour la Solidarité, which has a vast expertise on the topic and who led parts of the training. The structure of the Training Academy foresaw a first day aimed at introducing the concept of Social Economy and setting the scene about the state of play in Europe. The second day, instead, was characterised by a more practical approach with the objective to reflect on concrete examples of social economy and advocacy actions developed at national and EU level, as well as to identify synergies between the field of social economy and the work of SOLIDAR's members.

DAY 1: setting the scene of Social Economy in Europe (and beyond)

On 12th June roundtable with speakers from the European Commission, ENSIE and CONCORD took place. Margit Perko, from DG EMPL described the latest developments in the area of Social Economy in the EU and introduced the key aspects of the EU Action Plan for Social Economy. Moreover, she mentioned the Council Recommendation on the framework condition for the social economy that was publicly announced on 13th June and the accompanying Social Economy Gateway initiative, that centralises the information concerning Social Economy in the EU. Flore de Pauw from ENSIE presented the role of Social Economy actors in fostering participation in the labour market and social inclusion of marginalised people. Finally Borja Arrue-Astrain from CONCORD introduced the perspective of the Global South, illustrating the potential of Social Economy to advance towards the achievement of the SDGs. Reacting to questions from participants, the speakers also highlighted that in the attempt of creating a flourishing Social Economy ecosystem in Europe, involving Western Balkans is essential, and that civil society has a key role to play in raising awareness and providing information to decision-makers on the added value of SE.

The second and last session of the first day was dedicated to the plans of the upcoming Spanish Presidency of the Council, which were presented by The Special Commissioner for Social Economy of the upcoming Spanish Presidency, Victor Mesenguer. He described the particularly active ecosystem of Social Economy that exist in Spain, one of the first countries to approve a legislative framework to SE in 2011. He also reassured the participants that Social Economy will remain high in the Presidency’s agenda regardless of the outcome of the political elections planned for July, and mentioned some key events already planned.

Day 2: from the basics to the design of advocacy actions to promote Social Economy

The second day of the training foresaw a first lecture from Professor Marek Hudon from Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management (ULB) and co-chair of the Belgian High Committee for a Just Transition. The professor started from the basics providing a definition of social economy, explaining the differences with other concepts such as social enterprise and social innovation, and explored the challenges and opportunities Social Economy is confronted with. Specifically, he focused on the potential Social Economy has to address both the social and environmental needs of our times, but also recognised the difficulties linked to promoting an alternative economic paradigm, while having to survive in the current neoliberal market economy.

Following Prof. Hudon’s lecture, 5 speakers introduced good practices linked to Social Economy; 4 of them were SOLIDAR’s members.

  •  SMART Cooperative, from Belgium, presented their mission to enable self-employed workers or group to focus on their core business, while minimizing the risks. 
  •  Arbeiterwohlfahrt (AWO), from Germany, presented a good practice in the area of inclusion of refugees in the labour market.
  • Initiative for Development and Cooperation (IDC), Serbia, presented a good practice of social inclusion of marginalised groups through social entrepreneurship in the agricultural sector.
  •  PRODIVERSA, Progreso y Diversidad, Spain, described the work done to include migrants in the labour market through the “Acompania” project.
  • ·Solsoc, Belgium, introduced their work on Social Economy as a development and cooperation reality.

After the exchange of good practices, Pour la Solidarité presented the key features of an effective advocacy strategy in the area of Social Economy at EU level. In this framework, Frédéric Bailly from Groupe SOS illustrated the case of the Pact for Impact Alliance (a global alliance for social and solidarity economy) and its advocacy results. Then, participants were asked to apply the knowledge and input gathered in the two-day training and to join forces to reflect on the common objectives that the SOLIDAR network has and that could serve as a starting point for a joint advocacy action in the area of Social Economy. Among the other things, participants stressed the idea to promote an alternative economic model characterised by fair working conditions, participation, ownership, solidarity. They also pointed out the need to build the capacity of the network and to build synergies with other actors, including in the Global South.

Finally, participants were divided into two groups and were asked to build two advocacy strategies: one at national level, targeting the Spanish Presidency, and one at EU level, targeting other EU institutions. The two groups developed their own strategies and presented them to the rest of the other group. Both strategies identified the upcoming Spanish Presidency and the planned events in relation to Social Economy as a fruitful moment to push for more recognition of Social Economy in the EU, as well as the Council recommendation as an important moment for joint advocacy.

The event was concluded with some closing remarks and sharing of lessons learnt, which included the general awareness that Social Economy can be a powerful tool to propel a paradigm shift in the economy and build a more equal society.

Download the complete activity report on the right side of this page!

These activities have been executed in the framework of the project ''Realising Social Europe For All and With All'' with the financial support of the European Union, through the EaSI strand of the ESF+ programme.