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The Weight of the Social Economy

An International Perspective


Edited By CIRIEC, Marie J. Bouchard and Damien Rousselière

What is the weight of the social economy? How should we measure it? Throughout the world, cooperatives, non-profit and mutual benefit organizations, foundations and other social enterprises play an important role in job creation, social cohesion, social innovation, regional development and environmental protection. Observations tend to confirm the ability of the social economy to contribute to balancing economies, mainly by serving as an anti-cyclical force in the face of economic crises. However, many countries and regions lack statistical information about its weight, size and scope on their territory.
This book fills a gap in the literature about the social economy. It seeks to explain why it is important to have statistics on it, to understand how they are produced, and to project how the social economy might be better understood in the future. The book offers researchers and decision-makers an overview of the current state of knowledge on these topics.

This book is the result of the International Ciriec working group on "The Weight and Size of the Social Economy – International Perspectives for the Production of Statistics for the Social Economy" developed by the CIRIEC International Scientific Commission "Social and Cooperative Economy":

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The Pioneer Work of CIRIEC-España


José Luis MONZÓN

Professor, Universitat de Valencia, and President,Scientific Commission of CIRIEC-España

Researchers from CIRIEC (Centre International de Recherches et d’Information sur l’Economie Publique, Sociale et Coopérative/ International Centre of Research and Information on the Public, Social and Cooperative Economy) have made important contributions to the social economy research field, namely to finding a conceptual and statistical definition of the social economy, particularly in Europe. This chapter offers a rapid overview of the pioneering work of researchers coming from the Spanish section of CIRIEC, CIRIEC-España. The first section recalls the stepping-stones of the creation of a Spanish observatory on the social economy. Section two and three present the methodology for drawing statistical portraits of the social economy, first applied to Spain and later on to other European countries. Section four explains how mapping the social economy in Europe benefited from this strong expertise as well as from the contribution of CIRIEC international network of researchers across Europe.

Academics associated with CIRIEC-España look back on a long tradition of research on the social economy. They have contributed to the identification of the purpose of general interest of this economy; to the characterization of its distinctive features in terms of initiative (bottom-up), governance (democratic), ownership (collective) and surplus distribution (limited); and to the analysis of its permeable frontiers (Monzón, 1987; 1992; 1997; 2006). This conceptualization then served as a reference for the first CIRIEC international working group aiming to...

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