In February 2015, 26 partners from 23 European countries – including the UK’s Co-operative College – developed an EU-funded project to promote the SUstainable and Solidarity economY (SUSY). Since then, the project has been mapping and connecting initiatives working in the Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE), hosting training and awareness activities, and promoting alternative methods of production and distribution.
On 23 January 2018, as the project ended, the SUSY consortium presented a policy paper at the European Parliament in Brussels that looked at ‘Maximizing Dignity through the Social and Solidarity Economy’.
The paper is the result of three years of exchanges among the SUSY partners, and sets out of series of demands, covering regulation of the private sector; putting people and the environment at the centre of decision-making; human rights; biodiversity and ecosystems; financial transparency and accountability; and the creation of sustainable prosperity for all.
“It’s inspirational to discover how SSE initiatives are responding to current global issues and to see how many have arisen in Europe and in the world in the last few decades,” says Dr Amanda Benson, SUSY lead at the Co-operative College. “In Europe, it’s estimated there are approximately two million SSE organisations. Roughly speaking that’s about 10% of all companies employing over 11 million people (the equivalent of 6% of the working population of the European Union).”
“Over the course of the project it has become clear that in order to effectively fight the root causes of global poverty and inequality, the entire system needs to change.”
The project’s closing event in Brussels was hosted by the Italian MEP Elly Schlein (Progressive Alliance of Socialist & Democrats) – with the participation of Giorgio Menchini (COSPE), Marina Sarli (Fair Trade Hellas), Kasia Hanula-Bobbitt (CONCORD Europe) and Jason Nardi (RIPESS). The discussion focused on the SSE and its role in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. In particular, it dealt with how the SSE can represent a model for the private sector in the transition towards a sustainable economy, drawing from SUSY’s concrete experiences in the field.
Many of these experiences have been collated online. The SUSY website has published international research on SSE significant practices (‘Transformative economy: opportunities and challenges of the Social and Solidarity Economy in 55 territories in Europe and in the world‘), a map showing more than 1500 SSE initiatives, and 60 films on SSE significant practices.
“As part of the project, the Co-operative College developed three 3 best practice films, which can be found on the project’s YouTube Channel,” says Dr Benson, “These focused on CASA, Shared Interest and Ellon Hinengo Ltd (looking at best practice in Car Nicobar (coconut co-operatives)).
“We also delivered training, events and workshops on different aspects of the Social and Solidarity Economy, and last year hosted the Speaker Tour, which saw speakers from Palestine and India share their SSE experiences at events over Fairtrade Fortnight.”
In addition, the college hosted two film festivals, in Manchester and Hebden Bridge, which combined the SUSY documentaries with other films to complement different themes, such as the success of community currencies strengthening local economies in the UK, Switzerland and Brazil, a celebration of people living on the Turkish Black Sea, or the ‘Untouchable’ mayor of a village council in India.
- For more information on the project, and to download the full policy paper presented in Brussels, visit www.solidarityeconomy.eu.