UNRISD Work on Social and Solidarity Economy Gains Momentum: Issue 14 February 2013
UNRISD is an autonomous research institute within the UN system that undertakes multidisciplinary research and policy analysis on the social dimensions of contemporary development issues.


UNRISD is holding an international conference on the Potential and Limits of Social and Solidarity Economy from 6 to 8 May in Geneva. Registration for the conference is now open. The conference, co-organized with ILO and UN-NGLS, aims to raise the visibility of debates about Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) within the United Nations system and beyond, and contribute to thinking in international policy circles about a post-2015 development agenda.

The conference will draw on selected submissions to a call for papers held last year, to which we received almost 400 responses. Some of the submissions are being used in a series of think pieces, the first four of which are now on our website (see list below).

Information on the UNRISD project on SSE can found on the website and in a project brief (available in English and Spanish).

Podcasts from a side event on Social and Solidarity Economy and Alternative Finance: A Different Development Model? at the UN Human Rights Council's 2012 Social Forum, co-organized by UNRISD and UN-NGLS, are also available (under Social and Solidarity Economy on the UNRISD podcast page).

Other forthcoming events related to SSE are:
  • the third edition of the ILO Academy on Social and Solidarity Economy takes place in Agadir, Morocco, 8-12 April 2013;

  • ILO is also holding an International Journal of Labour Research Seminar: "Trade Unions and Cooperatives: Challenges and Perspectives", Geneva on 9 May (for more information, contact Pierre Laliberté);

  • UN-NGLS is organizing a session on alternative finance and complementary currencies in Geneva on 8 May 2013 (following the UNRISD conference).


Social Solidarity Economy: Toward Convergence across Continental Divides

Emily Kawano
Social solidarity economy is a relatively new framework and as such there is still a wide variation in concepts and definitions between, and even within, different regions. The Réseau intercontinental de promotion de l’économie sociale solidaire (RIPESS) is engaged in a process of exploring divergences and convergences surrounding concepts, visions and definitions of SSE across continents. This think piece aims to clarify the concept of SSE by identifying points of convergence among practitioners and scholars in different regions. It also seeks to promote mutual understanding within the SSE community by illustrating how variations in meaning derive from different political, historic and cultural contexts.

Moving beyond the Public-Private Divide: Locating Social Entrepreneurship in the Social Economy

Lisa M. Hanley
In the face of the neoliberal development agenda, the delivery of public services has, to varying degrees in different countries, been assumed by non-state actors. This has led to a continuous debate about the efficiency of services furnished by state or non-state actors. Social enterprises have emerged in recent decades as a new actor striving not only to satisfy service provision, but also to simultaneously achieve a social mission and financial goals. While there is confusion regarding the definition and forms that those social enterprises can take, this think piece reflects on the public-private divide and the role of social enterprises in the delivery of public services, with particular attention to their role in the social economy. It suggests that one of the greatest potentials of social enterprises may be the possibility of co-constructing social policy through partnerships and alliances across the public-private divide.

Economic Ideals: Gandhian and Neoliberal Logics in India

Babita Bhatt, Samer Abdelnour and Israr Qureshi
Social and solidarity economies differ greatly in terms of their underlying logics – the values, beliefs, rules and material practices by which people and communities reproduce their social realities. The significance of social economy logics should not be underestimated: while economic activities may appear similar in form, differences in the underlying logics can lead to stark differences in enterprise models and socioeconomic outcomes. In the case of India, there is a diversity of enterprise logics: some are underpinned by longstanding political and sociocultural hierarchies while others follow Western-centric norms and values.This think piece considers two broad types of enterprise model: Gandhian (sarvodaya) and Western (neoliberal). These models have influenced the nature of much economic activity occurring in India today. As such, they provide a revealing starting point for investigating variations in social and solidarity economic activity and outcomes.

The Politics of the Cooperative Sector in Developing Countries: Insights from Argentina, Brazil and Colombia

M. Andrés Spognardi
Although cooperatives are widely recognized as key drivers of economic and social development, the type and scope of policies aimed at promoting the formation, expansion and consolidation of this form of social business vary considerably across the developing world. Even in countries with a long tradition of cooperative entrepreneurship, government policies toward the cooperative sector differ considerably. The question that naturally arises is: What accounts for such divergences?


Beyond 2015 Briefs

UNRISD’s Beyond 2015 Briefs contribute research-based insight and analysis to the dialogue around the post–MDG development agenda. They highlight key information in a concise format, with references to further in-depth reading, useful to policy makers, activists and academics alike.

Combating Poverty and Inequality
A set of social development goals agreed by world leaders at the Millennium Summit placed poverty reduction at the heart of the international development agenda. Ongoing crises, and the social unrest they generate, have now forced inequality into the centre of attention of national and global leaders. The level and pattern of inequality within and between countries is now widely recognized as the critical problem—hindering inclusive growth, undermining social cohesion and acting as a barrier to poverty reduction and thus the achievement of the MDGs. UNRISD research findings, based on an extensive inquiry that examined poverty and inequality from a developmental and social policy perspective, provide key lessons that need to underpin a transformative development agenda beyond 2015.

Inequalities and the Post-2015 Development Agenda
Income inequalities between and within countries have worsened in recent decades. Gender inequalities are narrowing at a snail’s pace. Citizenship and location continue to determine life chances, despite the increasing integration of economies. Policy instruments to promote equality of outcome have largely been neglected in the name of approaches that claim to create "equality of opportunity". This has failed to stem the tide of inequality. Current social discontent and distrust of government highlight the urgency of addressing inequality head-on: it should be high on the post-2015 development agenda, both as a goal in itself and reflected in targets for other goals.

Social Policy and Employment: Rebuliding the Connections
With concerns continuing to mount about the persistently high levels of unemployment and informal/nonstandard employment stemming from the global economic crisis, recent debates on the social protection floor suggest that social policies remain high on the global agenda. But what are the connections between social policy and employment? This brief argues that over the past three decades these links have been weakened in both policy formulation and actual outcomes. It is high time that their connections are recognized for policy purposes. The post-2015 development agenda provides an opportune moment to reconnect social policy and employment.

Contributions by UNRISD Researchers

Reducing Inequalities: A Sustainable Development Challenge
Rémi Genevey, Rajendra K. Pachauri, and Laurence Tubiana (eds.) UNRISD researchers contributed to the 2013 edition of A Planet for Life, a series of annual publications on sustainable development. UNRISD Deputy Director Peter Utting wrote a chapter on "Pathways to an sustainability in a crisis-ridden world" and UNRISD Director Sarah Cook co-authored a piece on "Women's paid work and unpaid care responsibilities in China" with Xiao-Yuan Dong, who is part of UNRISD's research network.The book contains 30 contributions by 53 authors from all across the world, representing a unique international initiative on inequalities that is grounded in conceptual and strategic thinking, informed by empirical research on five continents, and reflects multiple realities.

Small Producer Agency in the Globalised Market
Bill Vorley, Ethel Del Pozo-Vergnes and Anna Barnett (eds.) UNRISD partnered with HIVOS, IIED and other research and advocacy organizations in a series of "provocations": debates examining the assumptions, impacts, evidence, benefits and risks of “making markets work” for small-scale farmers. These events, held between 2010 and 2012, aimed to challenge conventional wisdom on the inclusion of smallholders in markets and bring fresh perspectives to the discussion on what works and why. This book includes insights from the provocations. To download the book, go to the IIED website.


Uncovering the Politics of “Evidence”

UNRISD Seminar Series
13 March, 13:00-14:30, D-19, Palais des Nations, Geneva Hard evidence, rigorous data, tangible results, value for money – all are tantalizing terms promising clarity for the international development sector. Yet behind these terms lie definitional tussles, vested interests and contested world views that Rosalind Eyben’s presentation aims to uncover in order to make the results-and-evidence agenda a legitimate subject of debate. And, in doing so, encourage development practitioners to devise strategies to expand the politico-bureaucratic space for flexible and creative support of locally generated and transformative change.

Register for this event.

Food Security and Social Protection: Two Sides of the Same Coin?

UNRISD Seminar Series
19 March, 12:30-14:00, D19, Palais des Nations, Geneva How to ensure that everybody has enough to eat in order to survive is one of the oldest development dilemmas. Social protection’s role lies in its mandate to ensure that subsistence needs are met by public means whenever private means are inadequate. But how well is this mandate being fulfilled? Stephen Devereux presents the evidence on whether social and productive safety net programmes and policies are successfully reducing food and nutrition insecurity across the globe. In his presentation he will draw on the June 2012 report Social Protection for Food Security commissioned by the FAO’s Committee on World Food Security.

Register for this event.

Potential and Limits of Social and Solidarity Economy

6-8 May, GB Room and Room II, International Labour Office, Geneva As interest in alternative production, finance and consumption grows in the face of global crises, this conference will explore the potential and limits of Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) — organizations such as cooperatives, women’s self-help groups, social enterprise and associations of informal workers that have explicit social and economic objectives, and involve various forms of cooperation and solidarity.

Register for this event.


New Directions in Social Policy - A Side Event at the Commission for Social Development
This is a recording of the event in New York. Around the world, social policies are evolving or transforming in response to new risks and challenges that were not faced by European welfare states in their developmental phase. What can we learn from these new approaches? (Under Social Policy on the podcast page.)

A Rights-Based, Gender-Equitable Approach to the Regional Governance of Migration: An Elusive or Achievable Prospect?
This is a recording of the policy forum which brought together a panel of experts from diverse fields and professional experience to discuss the status quo and future potential of the regional governance of migration. (Under Migration on the podcast page.)


Visions of Change: Calling for Artwork to Illustrate UNRISD Classics!

"Visions of Change" encourages creative thinkers from all over the world to submit artwork that illustrates key social development values, themes and issues. As part of UNRISD's 50th anniversary this year, a selection of UNRISD’s most forward-looking and influential publications from the last 50 years—UNRISD Classics—will be re-released, with covers featuring artwork selected from submissions to Visions of Change. Selected artwork will also be exhibited at the United Nations in Geneva in 2013.

"Austerity is Devastating for the World's Poorest": An Interview in The Guardian with Magdalena Sepúlveda, UNRISD Visiting Fellow

Magdalena Sepúlveda, the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, and a visiting fellow at UNRISD, strongly opposes austerity measures being taken by several governments. She argues that austerity policies all over the world are having a disproportionate impact on the poor and are undermining the human rights of vulnerable people. "The responses of governments that we have seen worldwide to confront the crisis through these fiscal cuts or austerity measures affect human rights in several ways. Most of the countries have decreased spending in social protection and they have eroded the social welfare systems. The cuts in welfare benefits have an enormous, disproportionate impact on the poor."


United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD)
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