Social Economy and Cities

Values and competitiveness
for an inclusive and sustainable
local development

October 1-3, 2018

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Social Economy and Cities

Values and Competitiveness
for an Inclusive and Sustainable Local Development

The Forum’s central theme is: Social Economy and Cities:
Values and competitiveness for inclusive and sustainable local development.

Besides incorporating the terms Social Economy and cities, which is GSEF’s hallmark as an international association of local governments and civil society players committed to the development of the social and solidarity economy, this central theme is structured around three main ideas. These ideas are directly related to one of the current debates at European and global level on the treatment of the Social Economy, in its various expressions, as a real and viable option for social and economic progress and development in a different way.

The current concern for the increase in inequality, even in countries and societies considered advanced, has much to do with the growing interest of the European Union and many local and national governments regarding the role that the Social Economy model can play in generating collective wealth. It is not a growth model that generates activity and wealth to promote its subsequent distribution, but rather, it represents a model that distributes the wealth from the very origin of the activity. At the same time, it allocates an essential part of its surpluses in favour of sustainable development objectives, minimising more restrictive policies or dysfunctions for the redistribution of surpluses.

In these years of severe economic crisis and significant loss of jobs, the Social Economy has shown a greater capacity to resist this loss, although it has not been entirely immune, mainly due to its more transparent, sustainable and responsible socio-business policies.

From the European perspective, where the city of Bilbao is located, the Forum aims to inform the world and discuss the capacity of the Social Economy to become a real alternative for the economic and social development of cities, to the extent that is able to adapt, where necessary, to the rules of the game established in the economic model. As well as proposing local development models needing to articulate sustainable, inclusive and viable sectors of activity that provide a better future to their cities and their inhabitants.

See the Complete Guide of the Themes and Sub-themes


1. Co-creation of public policies

“Co-creation” can be roughly defined as a model for the development and (re) design of public services in which different types of players participate, not only public players, but private players (service users, indirect beneficiaries, etc.). These players transfer and share their experiences, capacities and resources (knowledge, information, etc.) to jointly improve processes (deliberative and decision-making) and public results (more effective, efficient and quality public services), and also to generate greater social value (integration and social cohesion).

We must take into account that in the collaborative processes each citizen contributes and shares values and resources that generate, not only a different result, but also a different environment (public space and power relations) from the one on which it is based. In this way, co-creation is also conceived as a model of social transformation and learning in democratic values, since it helps to strengthen the feeling of belonging, involvement and moral commitment to the community or the group in which they participate.


2. The contribution of the Social Economy to the transformation of the territory

The territory, understood in a broad sense, is the main player par excellence of inclusive and sustainable development. A territory understood not only as a geographic area, as a physical space, but also as a set of players, of possibilities, of potentialities, both tangible and intangible, a space with a common cultural, historical, social, economic and environmental path, which leads to a specific reality and a particular endogenous potential for development, which conditions economic growth, in particular, and sustainable development, in general. Related to that territory there are certain factors and socioeconomic characteristics that give it a particular identity and which can promote an inclusive and sustainable development process. And among the different components of the territorial framework, the Social Economy progressively appears as complementary, in some cases, and alternative, in others, to the traditional Economy.

One of the inherent values of the Social Economy is the social responsibility and commitment of its agents, as the main players of their development and that of everyone.

Its contribution to employment, social inclusion, social innovation, internal and external commitment, knowledge of the territory where the activity is carried out, etc., promote the importance of its impact in the territorial area.

The Social Economy can also contribute to the European Union’s aspiration to turn Europe into the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of growing economically in a sustainable way, with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion, reinforcing territorial cohesion and advancing in new paradigms of governance.


3. Challenges for the growth of SE institutions

Social Economy institutions have important challenges related to their capacity for growth. This sub-theme focuses on discussing and sharing the factors that favour and inhibit growth, both internal and external factors. The European Commission has indicated that Social Economy enterprises show great potential for growth due to the increase in “the demand for social innovation and the increase in new technologies and collaboration platforms”. However, – the Commission highlights – that these enterprises still have difficulties in obtaining funding and support, especially due to the “lack of recognition and understanding of their economic potential and insufficient exploitation of new technologies” (Commission Communication: Leaders of tomorrow’s Europe: Initiative on emerging and expanding enterprises”. 22.11.2016). The Forum wishes to share this European view of the challenges for the growth of SE institutions, with other regional perspectives, so that the interaction between different realities provides a shared view of the common challenges that must be overcome in order to promote the growth of the Social Economy.


4. The future of work and employment: The role of the SE

Although trends such as demographic change, cultural diversity, the reconciliation of work and family life, changing work environments or the convergence of technologies are already quite clear developments, other disruptive events could transform the labour market in an unexpected way: reverse migration, changing values of employed staff or artificial intelligence and robots. According to estimates, 45%-60% of working people in Europe could be replaced by automation before 2030.

On the other hand, while some warn about the risks of technology, for other experts, this greater technological progress could lead to new job opportunities or even to a worldwide revival of creativity as long as people are freed from the need to work to live.