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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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Collaborative Research Between Civil Society, State and the Academia. Lessons from the Brazilian Mapping of the Solidarity Economy


Luiz Inácio GAIGER

Full Professor at the Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos, Brazil

The social and solidarity economy is increasingly receiving interest in both the North and the South. Activists and researchers value its component of reciprocity and its expediency to spread democracy beyond countries and continents through autonomous public spaces created by civil society. As such, the social and solidarity economy has become a major topic in the debates on current issues of society on a national and worldwide scale.

In the North, the social and solidarity economy has its roots primarily in France, Belgium and Spain, from where it spread in Quebec, Canada. It comprises a set of collective initiatives seeking to establish autonomous and democratic forms of management. In these initiatives, the ways in which power is shared and income distributed result from the primacy of people over capital and from the aim pursued – namely of providing a service to the members and to the community to which they belong. Economic activity and its surplus are, therefore, a means rather than an end in and of itself, or a way of making profit.

In Latin America, the solidarity economy usually refers to economic organizations aiming not only for financial gain for their members but also for benefits in terms of quality of life and citizen participation. Such goals are achieved mainly through significant efforts that include the engagement of the associated workers. Because of their social...

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