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The Worth of the Social Economy

An International Perspective


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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PART I CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORKS 19 Methods and Indicators for Evaluating the Social Economy Marie J. BOUCHARD Professor and Director of the Canada Research Chair on the Social Economy, Université du Québec à Montréal (Canada) Introduction The social economy is a large and growing pole of social utility within a plural economy, positioned between the capitalist sector and the public sector. It includes associations (or nonprofit organizations), cooperatives, mutual societies and foundations, as well as other types of organizations that follow common values and principles1 and share institutional traits. As the social economy tends to play a greater role in solving new so- cial problems, the question of how it is evaluated and by who comes to rise. Yet, the social economy is still a relatively under-theorized phe- nomenon. The evaluation methodologies and indicators specific to the social economy have not yet gained wide recognition, either in political or academic spheres (Bouchard, Bourque and Lévesque, 2001; Rondot and Bouchard, 2003). There is no consensus about what methodologies or indicators can that take into account the specific characters of the social economy. This undermines its position and reduces its capacity to take part in the great debates of society. One of the reasons for this is that the social economy is a complex and diversified field in terms of the forms of the organizations and their functioning, of the types of activities it develops and how, and of the way it relates to public institutions and to for-profit agents. The...

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