The Mediterranean Lab for Co-production 

of Social Innovation

Lesson 1 of 17
In Progress

Developing a local ecosystem of SSE

Rubén 27 April 2023

The Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) has long demonstrated its ability to promote more sustainable, inclusive and locally anchored development by creating quality jobs that generate positive social and environmental impacts on the community. The SSE proposes the incorporation into business practice of logics of cooperation, mutual support and participation, which establish fair and proportional wage scales, under transparent, socially and environmentally responsible practices that do not seek profit and accumulation but rather the quality of life of people and their environment.

Developing a local SSE ecosystem is about bringing production and consumption processes closer together to reduce the environmental impacts associated with transport and distribution and to relocate wealth in the territories through short channels that reduce intermediaries and revalue productive activity at source.

Historically, during periods of crises, there is a rise in the value placed on co-operation and solidarity. In recent crises, whether public health crises (such as the COVID-19 crisis), financial crises (such as the 2008 crisis) or natural disasters (such as the 2004 tsunami), co-operatives and wider social economy organisations were key in helping to reconstruct their community. Social and Solidarity Economy organisations are particularly successful in reaching out to the vulnerable groups and re-integrating them into the society, thus filling some of the voids left by the state and the market.

At the same time, developing a local SSE ecosystem may favour preventive approaches to save future costs or explicitly reduce the negative externalities of economic activities. SSE allows a better allocation of resources in the provision of some services and goods, and this is one of the reasons why regional development approaches and strategies are increasingly leveraging the potential of the Social and Solidarity Economy. Because of the specific features of social and solidarity business models, the SSE produces additional positive effects on public expenses (e.g. savings of costs), on individuals (e.g. empowerment), on territories (e.g. co-operation in local ecosystems) and on society (e.g. social cohesion).

These mitigating and prevention functions make the SSE a natural and trusted partner of government and civil society more generally. SSE can collaborate to complement public action in specific areas (health, social services, education, fight against poverty, work integration), which as mentioned above can be especially appreciated in times of crisis, war or epidemics, because the social economy can act quickly, develop partnerships effectively through its networks and act as a trusted partner.

In short, the SSE is a useful model for promoting a transformation of our economic model in a more socially just and sustainable direction, whether at regional, national or local level. In particular, developing a local SSE ecosystem enables local authorities to develop stronger links with the communities they serve through strategic “localist” agendas that recognise the value of supporting local suppliers.