The Mediterranean Lab for Co-production 

of Social Innovation

MedTOWN Launching Conference: a flagship event on the Social & Solidarity Economy

MedTOWN proves that the Social and Solidarity Economy is a tool for social change in the Mediterranean basin

On October the 5th, Seville hosted the Launching Conference of the EU-funded MedTOWN project, an online meeting with more than 500 participants from 16 countries.

“We believe that the co-production of social policies with Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) agents is a powerful tool to fight poverty, inequality and social exclusion, and to advance in the direction of a just transition in the Mediterranean, and on a global scale. MedTOWN is a project based on social experimentation that will allow carrying out SSE demonstrative actions in 6 countries, with the shared work of 9 partner entities and associated public institutions”.

This is how José María Ruibérriz de Torres, the SSE focal point at the Assembly of Cooperation for Peace (ACPP), expressed his conviction during the conference to launch ‘MedTOWN – Co-production of social policies with Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) actors to combat poverty, inequality and social exclusion’, which was held on 5 October in Seville. In this way, the city of Seville has become the epicentre of the SSE, as an important part of the experimentation on the co-production of social policies of the MedTOWN project is taking place in Seville, thanks to the collaboration of the City Council.

The meeting had a very dynamic format, as the interventions, divided into two panels of one hour each, did not exceed 5 minutes. The first series of presentations was entitled “Towards an inclusive focus on policy making” and examined the current state of the regulatory frameworks of the social and solidarity economy (SSE) at national level in various Mediterranean countries. In this sense, the General Director of Autonomous Work, Social Economy and CSR of the Spanish Ministry of Labour and Social Economy, Maravillas Espín, highlighted that the SSE “is perfectly established in the economic and social fabric and enjoys stability. In Spain, on a legal level, we have Law 5/2011 of 29 March on the Social Economy, the first law in Europe on this subject. And, in the field of public policies, we have the Spanish Social Economy Strategy 2017-2020, which will shortly be replaced by a new Strategy for the period 2021-2027”.

For his part, Vic van Vuuren, President of the United Nations Task Force on the Social and Solidarity Economy (UNTFSSE), stated that “the key to the solution for the pandemic is for governments to seriously look into how to establish a regulatory framework (in the short and long term), on how social enterprises can function and play a vital role in returning some well-being to individuals and organisations. The SSE is linked to the Sustainable Development Goals, because it makes a value proposition that jointly addresses four key areas: people, society, business-economy and the environmental component”.

The second block, entitled “Working together on improving the knowledge and capacities of SSE actors on social inclusion and integration”, focused on international efforts to create a political environment conducive to the success of the SSE in the Mediterranean region. In this context, Marisa Farrugia, Deputy Secretary General for Social and Civil Affairs of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), underlined the importance of generating a consensus in the Euro-Mediterranean agenda on issues such as the key role of the SSE for economic recovery after the pandemic with a more inclusive approach and including the gender perspective, through projects such as MedTOWN.

The event was moderated by José María Ruibérriz and Georgia Karavangeli, both from ACPP, the entity that leads this social initiative. The various interventions included sharing experiences on the use of social currencies for the provision of social services and financial support to the most vulnerable groups in order to increase the socio-economic impacts and effectiveness of public policies and spending at local level.

The conference initiated the training of trainers that will run throughout the week and involve virtually 40 people from the countries involved in MedTOWN. It is an excellent opportunity to learn interactively and exchange knowledge on ways to develop co-production initiatives using local currencies, improving skills and expanding abilities to apply them in community building.

Due to the situation generated by COVID19, interactive tools have become even more important, hence, the online Community of Practice (CoP) is fundamental for the communication between the actors involved. Thus, the CoP is established as a mutual e-learning space on social innovation in the co-production of social services, and a vehicle for policy dialogue with critical reflections among professionals in the public social sector, local politics, citizenship and research in the SSE sector.

MedTOWN is a cooperation project financed by the European Union through the European Neighbourhood Instrument for Cross-Border Cooperation, in the framework of the Mediterranean Sea Basin Programme 2014-2020 (ENI CBC Med). The aim, as was made clear through the various interventions, is to support the role and capacities of SSE actors in the fight against poverty, inequality, social exclusion and environmental unsustainability. Nine partner organisations from six countries are involved (Spain, Greece, Palestine, Jordan, Tunisia and Portugal) with a total budget of EUR 3.4 million (86.5% of the programme’s contribution) and an estimated duration of 36 months, until September 2022.

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