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The Worth of the Social Economy

An International Perspective

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Edited By CIRIEC

What is the worth of the social economy? What worth does the social economy produce?
Co-operatives, not-for-profit and mutual benefits organizations as well as foundations share common values that colour the way they perform and how they manage to do so. Yet, little is known about how the social economy is actually being evaluated, and how evaluation may reinforce or weaken this specificity.
This book fills a gap in the literature about the social economy. It seeks to make a critical assessment of the interests to which the social economy of today must cater and for which questions of evaluation appear to be the most telling.
A first set of contributions is made up of four theoretical papers inspired by various disciplinary fields: management, economy, sociology, philosophy. A second set of contributions is composed of seven national analyses of how the social economy is evaluated in different institutional contexts: France, Québec (Canada), United Kingdom, United States, Brazil, Portugal and Japan. The conclusion of the book summarizes the findings of this study and formulates some questions addressed to policy designers, evaluation specialists and social economy actors.

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INTRODUCTION. The Worth of the Social Economy (Marie J. Bouchard) 11

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11 INTRODUCTION The Worth of the Social Economy Marie J. BOUCHARD Professor and Director of the Canada Research Chair on the Social Economy, Université du Québec à Montréal (Canada) The social economy constitutes a form of economy that is distinct from the capitalist and public economy. Co-operative, nonprofit and mutual benefit organizations, as well as foundations, union funds and nongovernmental organizations, etc., are known for their capacity to respond to emerging needs and to new social demands, particularly in periods of crisis marked by important socioeconomic transformations. Many reasons plead to explore and better understand how the social economy is being evaluated in the present context. Over the past thirty years, the social economy has increasingly come to the forefront of discussions about job creation and work insertion, decentralization of social services, sustainable development, etc. Its size and scope have been growing in the recent decades as it is playing an important role in responding to emerging social and economic needs as well as to new collective aspirations. Social economy organizations are increasingly involved in areas where the market or the public sectors seem to fail. The social economy is no longer a residual phenomenon but a veritable institutional pole of the economy. In this context, evaluation takes a new importance. Demands have been formulated by the public authorities, the donators and by the social economy players themselves, to measure the sector and evaluate its contribution. However, not much is known about how the social econ- omy should be...

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