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 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.


In recent years, innovation and social entrepreneurship have achieved great relevance, showing the social implications of these initiatives on economic and social development. Currently, it is considered that the economic development and welfare of society involve the consolidation of hybrid organisations combining social and commercial practices interchangeably.

Globally, the search for disruptive processes to tackle the growing social problems has been accompanied by the recovery of collaborative work models, self-management and co-creation that incorporate the vision and contributions of the various players in society (State, private sector and civil society). Social entrepreneurship represents one of the processes through which social innovation is developed, characterised by its focus on generating solutions to social problems based on entrepreneurship under business models that guarantee its economic and social sustainability, empowering communities who receive innovation as an active subject in the entrepreneurship development cycle.


According to the European Economic and Social Committee, “a territory can be defined as socially responsible when it focuses its own development towards sustainability issues; that is, when it integrates the economic, social and environmental dimension into its own development. A territory that manages to integrate social and environmental considerations into its economic decisions; share a model of values and a participatory method in decision-making processes; favour good practices and permanent interaction between stakeholders, in order to encourage innovation and competitiveness, can be considered as a socially responsible territory.”

Current economic and technological development creates an enrichment that in many territories represents unequal growth, causing a risk of social and labour exclusion and environmental degradation. Creating Socially Responsible Territories involves developing policies that respond to the territory’s specific problems, seeking the collaboration of the agents involved and taking into account not only the economic value but also the social, ethical and cultural wealth values.


Social innovation ecosystems are environments in which multiple initiatives are being created that stimulate social and competitiveness processes, productive development and innovation in different territories.

Currently, among the different players involved in the social innovation ecosystem, there is a growing interest in determining variables measuring the different initiatives and their potential social impact, in order to be able to back those that have a greater capacity to scale and cause a deep-rooted change. “The innovation ecosystem brings together a wide variety of players, from foundations, academic centres, private initiatives and civil society, to universities and public and financial institutions. Many of these entities focus on influencing the social innovation ecosystem by creating and revitalising networks, the connection between entrepreneurs and investors and other collaboration mechanisms between different players”. (Source: COTEC report. Social innovation in Spain 2016).


Social Economy organisations as a whole make up the baseline “scaffolding” in the social construction of civic identity and in the daily exercise of citizen participation. They contribute to extending general welfare through participative practice of individual, associative and collective subjects, they provide density to the social fabric and favour the integration of people and groups.

Research on the Social Economy coincides in highlighting the need to preserve the independence of organisations and reinforce their social and participatory side in the development of a fuller community life, based on citizen collaboration and consensus in the development of a more participatory and cooperative democracy among the different players involved in welfare. At present, access to the scope of public decisions by citizens requires the mediation of social organisations that take on strategies aimed at promoting the activation and transformation of so-called social capital into political capital.


The post-conflict era means thinking, planning and executing actions for when the conflict is over. With this vision, in the conflict and post-conflict there are multiple factors and players requiring and demanding integrated and coordinated solutions, making the process to reach a post-conflict era and the long-awaited peace more complex and challenging.

Considering the situations of poverty and inequality that usually underlie conflict situations, organisations and civil society must manage economic initiatives, adequately understand the problems and propose solutions, learning and using new skills and knowledge. The role of Social Economy institutions, NGOs and the third sector acts as a bonding agent in social life, since after a conflict, society needs a network of institutions to bring together and bond citizens, and bring them closer to social life.


The Basque model of local development is conceived from the general perspective of Basque policy for territorial, social, economic and environmental cohesion. Just as enterprises need to innovate continuously in products and processes, the agents involved in territorial development also need to innovate continuously in the way in which the territorial players interact, because it is no longer sufficient to define a good interaction model, but rather, we need to develop the capacities to continually rethink that model. This is the idea of the Basque system of local development, the link between local economic development processes and the articulation of territorial players to define their future. For this it is advisable to have associated institutions among the different local social players, such as through local development agencies that act as the main mediating instrument in territorial economic development. The Local Development Agencies in the Basque Country respond to the territorial economic development approach, which is essentially based on the best use of the potential of endogenous resources, in order to increase the level of employment and sustainable economic growth at local level.


MONDRAGON is one of the most emblematic and long-lived practical experiences in the world of Cooperativism and Social Economy in its various modalities and sectors. MONDRAGON has become the paradigm of industrial development in Spain thanks to an unconventional formula: cooperative worker ownership. Mondragon’s cooperative movement, which always had the main purpose of a fairer and more solidarity-focused enterprise based on respect for the freedom, dignity and development of the individual and the community, is today an international benchmark of the Social Economy, willing to open and share its experience with the cities and agents that will take part in the Forum.