Social Economy and Social Enterprises   

The International Cooperative Alliance, ICA in its February 2013 Blueprint for a Cooperative Decade noted that “Rarely has the argument in favour of co-operatives looked stronger than it does in 2012. But unless there is concerted action over the next few years, the moment will be lost”. 6 years later, the argument is even stronger and the concerted action is yet to be meaningfully put in place.

Social economy is a different way to organise a business as it seeks to recognize the variety and the importance of community-based efforts that respond to social needs and, in many instances, to mobilize community resources for economic opportunities.

Social economy is also considered in many countries as an integrated system of social innovation, rooted in local and regional development and supported by new systems of governance based on new partnerships with government, labour and the private sector.

Social enterprises are a key element of the social economy. Social enterprises main objective is to have a societal impact for the general interest and earn revenue led by an entrepreneurial mode of operation. They operate in a very broad number of commercial activities, provide a wide range of products and services across the European single market and generate millions of jobs.

Social enterprises create both economic and social value. They contribute to growth in a sustainable manner, mostly through jobs that are locally anchored.

They bring an “inclusive” dimension to the single market. Moreover, social enterprises are often strong drivers for innovation and respond to needs that are otherwise not met, or not met in an optimal manner by public authorities and/or market players.

Social and Solidarity Economy Enterprises and Organizations, SSEOs operating within Social Economy and Social Enterprises Ecosystem need to be better recognized, promoted and protected in all 193/306 UN member States, if SDG Pledge is to be Delivered in all North and South Countries in our World today. NEHMAP Model has strong Cooperatives Model focussing on six pillars: access to extension (all forms: production, processing, marketing, management, technology etc); access to finance, access to markets, better framework conditions, new technologies and social innovation and international affairs.

Cooperatives are member-owned businesses. The simplest way to understand them is that they aggregate the market power of people who on their own could achieve little or nothing, and in so doing they provide ways out of poverty and powerlessness. The ICA, defines a cooperative as: “An autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations, through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise”. This definition and the ICA set out seven cooperative principles: voluntary and open membership; democratic member control; member economic participation; autonomy and independence; education, training and information; cooperation among cooperatives; and concern for community.

The first four of these are core principles without which a cooperative would lose its identity; they guarantee the conditions under which members own, control and benefit from the business. The education principle is really a commitment to make membership effective and so is a precondition for democratic control, while cooperation among cooperatives is really a business strategy without which cooperatives remain economically vulnerable. The last principle, concern for community, is about corporate responsibility, and it leads into other concerns that the ICA is promoting such as prevention of poverty and protection of the environment. The NEHMAP Model seeks to better operationalize in practice these seven cooperatives principles in each specific community and country location context.

It is pertinent to note that one of the biggest challenges to cooperatives is the lack of awareness of their business potential among governments and the general public. It also often leads to mischaracterization of their interests. This underlines urgent need on both North and South countries sides to promote and protect the business potential of cooperatives so they can contribute to sustainable development and decent employment and in ways that help all 193/306 UN Member States Deliver on SDG Pledge by end 2030 target date through operating Cooperatives Model such as NEHMAP that demonstrate and are seen to demonstrate these seven core cooperatives principles as appropriate in all Communities in all Countries Worldwide.

It is pertinent to note further that the effective reform of the basic rules by which cooperatives are registered, regulated and held accountable to their members and the wider public has been critical in the growth of strong cooperatives in both North and South Countries.

The low level of participation by women is a challenge faced by many cooperatives, a problem that is worse in agricultural cooperatives compared to other types such as credit cooperatives. If cooperatives are to help Deliver SDG Pledge in all 193/306 UN Member States this challenge must be effectively tackled.

The cost in human resources – loss of trained employees and committed members – adds to those imposed by the difficult business environment in the running of cooperatives businesses. This underlines need to deploy cooperative networks towards contributing better to improving health education, financial education and entrepreneurship education in both North and South Countries.

Civil wars and ethnic conflicts have caused major disruptions and destroyed cooperative infrastructure and social capital. Yet there is some evidence that even during conflicts cooperatives can survive. In post conflict areas, cooperatives also play a crucial role in restoring both the economy and civil society.

The United Nations supports cooperatives. There is a growing consensus among international agencies about their importance. The World Bank recognises the role of cooperatives in revitalising the agricultural sector and the rural economy. The time to pick up the gauntlet and grapple effectively with threats and challenges hindering cooperatives and in ways that empower cooperatives dimension of SDGs for Delivery on SDG Pledge in all 193/306 UN Member States by end 2030 target date is now.

Notwithstanding its immense contributions and potential towards achieving National Development and International Development Visions and Agendas, cooperatives, like other enterprises have seen their operations significantly affected by external challenges in the political and economic environment. These include the impact of structural adjustment, economic liberalization, democratization, globalization, changing government policies, new trade groupings, and pressures towards demutualization. Despite these, the cooperative movement is convinced that there is a growing potential for cooperative development, and for cooperative renewal on both North and South Countries sides, in light of the limitations of the free market in regard to social responsibility and equity, the advantages of decentralisation of power, the importance of stakeholder and community involvement in economic and social life, and the growing role of the civil society.

These cooperatives movement limitations need to be meaningfully addressed and without delay, if cooperatives dimension to SDGs is to be implemented and evaluated in way that help all 193/306 UN Member States deliver on SDG Pledge by end 2030 target date.

NEHMAP Model will:-

  1. Provide the Clients with advice in view of elaborating and implementing policy measures in order to strenghten social economy and social enterprises ecoystem in Member States and in the international arena.
  2. Raise awareness at the National level of Regional and Global level actions and exchange of practice from other Member States.

As part of these tasks, we may for instance:

  • Analyse policy actions and financial tools used by Member States and other stakeholders in order to leverage and support the development of social and solidarity economy enterprises and organizations especially cooperatives;
  • Recommend ways to stimulate access to markets (eg: using social public procurement, boosting relations between traditional and social economy enterprises or stimulating cross-border activities);
  • Reommend ways to stimulate access to finance (e.g. using angel investors; boosting financial inclusion or stimulating cross-border activities)
  • Reommend ways to stimulate acess to extension (e.g. using public – private extension; boosting agricultural research that deliver sustainable benefits or stimulating cross border activities)
  • Identify the framework conditions to improve the development of an adequate legal framework for social economy and social enterprises and reinforce an ecosystem for the sector;
  • Explore collaborative approaches that could foster social innovation, technologies and new business models to support innovative solutions and approaches to societal challenges;
  • Collect and analyse evidence and experience on the role of social economy and social enterprises in the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights,
  • Advise on actions to boost the role of social economy and social enterprises on the international agendas especially how they could be an instrument fostering neighbouring, development or economic diplomacy.
  • Propose ideas on how to best incorporate social economy and social enterprise issues in forthcoming UN Member State’s policies, programs and projets.