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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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Conclusions (Marie J. Bouchard & Nadine Richez-Battesti) 245

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245 Conclusions Marie J. BOUCHARD & Nadine RICHEZ-BATTESTI Professor and Director of the Canada Research Chair on the Social Economy, Université du Québec à Montréal (Canada) Professor, LEST-CNRS and Université de la Méditerranée (France) Introduction1 The social economy brings forth in the institutional arena initiatives that aim at involving citizens, producers, workers or consumers in the orientation of the economic and social activities that are of concern to them. In the recent decades, the social economy has proven to be an important actor in the developed world as well as in developing or transitional economies. It plays multiple roles going from providing answers to unmet or badly met needs, to creating public spaces to debate about development and participate in policy planning. The social economy has the potential of acting as a genuine institutional pole of a plural economy, alongside with the State and the market agents. In the present context, where signals coming from the market can be more than doubtful and where the States’ capacities to regulate are constantly being challenged, all forms of organizations – whether public, for-profit or of the social economy – are exposed to more com- plex forms of evaluation in order to improve their accountability and reinforce their legitimacy. More and more, evaluation frameworks tend to involve the stakeholders, i.e. those parties that can influence or be influenced by the organization’s activities (Freeman, 1984). Those can be internal (members, owners, managers, workers) or external (custom- ers, providers, funders, public authorities, economic partners, etc...

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