Social and solidarity economy

By Social and Solidarity Economy we understand activities by enterprises such as cooperatives and/or social purpose businesses, associations, mutual assistance organisations or foundations that produce economic goods or services.

The ethics of these activities are reflected in the following principles:

  • Aiming at service delivery to the community or the members rather than at profits;
  • Autonomous management;
  • Democratic and participatory management;
  • Pre-eminence of people and work over capital when redistributing revenue.

In one way or another, these activities share the following features:

  • They explicitly combine economic viability and social utility;
  • They produce goods and services that actively involve communities and/or basic social networks which foster the participation of men and women;
  • They form local, regional and national but also international consultative and cooperative networks of associations and communities;
  • They contribute to the emergence of new economic and social arrangements, namely collective and democratic management methods of enterprises and development.

Since its origins in the midst of the industrial revolution in the 19th century, this economy has reminded us that an economy that is not concerned with social issues is a vehicle for inequities and growing injustices.

The current context requires us to question a development model that is based on unchecked market-driven growth and blind competition. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) recognizes that 'productive, profitable and sustainable enterprises, together with a strong social economy and a viable public sector, are critical to sustainable economic development and employment opportunities' *.

The United Nations have declared 2012 the International Year of Cooperatives to honour 'the contributions of cooperative enterprises to poverty reduction, employment generation and social integration'.

Social and Solidarity Economy at BTC in agriculture

In the agriculture and food security sector Social and Solidarity Economy is found to differing degrees in three types of interventions: the institutional support to agricultural and rural development ministries, the local economic development and the support to agricultural value chains.

An example: There are more and more interventions that focus on supporting value chains (horticulture and seeds in Rwanda; milk in Vietnam; llama, fruits and wood in Bolivia, wheat in Mali...). They become part of the Social and Solidarity Economy in two ways: through the participation of farmers' organisations and through the use of financing tools.

Through the farmers' organisations 'market deficiencies', which are typical for most of the agricultural economies in which BTC operates, are corrected. The financing tools mostly favour cooperatives and mutual assistance organisations.

*ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalisation, adopted by the International Labour Conference of June 2008.