Innovative collaboration between cities and Social and Solidarity Economy ecosystems

The Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) ecosystems take into consideration social impact and not only financial gains and are an evolutionary step forward from standard social enterprises. That is why cities are innovating collaborating with these ecosystems to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Rather than focusing solely on promoting a social goal, SSE ecosystems also involve collaboration and the sharing of knowledge and resources between organisations, as well as co-design and consultation with citizens and civil society organisations.

Through the project Respond, Rebuild, Reinvent (RRR), a project part of the OECD's Global Action “Promoting Social and Solidarity Economy Ecosystems”, funded by the European Union, nine cities from America and Europe shared their work in fostering Social and Solidarity Economy ecosystems. Cities on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean have different conceptions for these ecosystems, and ways of promoting them. Through RRR, they have been able to learn from each other and discover new ideas to strengthen their SSE ecosystems. 

After a first phase where cities defined challenges they were facing, such as unemployment -particularly youth unemployment- and inclusion of vulnerable population through SSE, the second and third phases allowed cities to discuss possible solutions and go deeper into experimentation of selected solutions. Based on interest and demand, cities were divided into smaller groups to present their solutions and good practices. While Bilbao and Dublin discussed solutions for the recovery and development of local economy and local markets, San Francisco and Rotterdam looked at strategies for bridging the digital divide, Belo Horizonte, Guadalajara and Montreal exchanged on transversal communication strategies with diverse SSE actors, and Turin, Dublin and Warsaw examined ways of collaboration between SSE actors and ecosystems. 

Good practices

Many good practices were presented during these workshops. We learnt, for instance, how Dublin strengthens collaboration between social enterprises and SSE actors through the Dublin City Social Enterprise Committee. Established in 2015 by the Dublin City Council, this body is comprised of key SSE stakeholders and social enterprise representatives. The committee seeks to identify areas of need and opportunity for social enterprise to develop, and eventually, scale. One of the mechanisms that the committee uses to support social enterprises is the Dublin City Social Enterprise Awards which offer funding, mentoring, and promotion selected social enterprises to grow. On the other side of the world, Mayor Edwin M. Lee established in 2012 the Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation (OCI) in San Francisco to help make the government more collaborative. The OCI works as a link for a public-private partnership and empowers city departments by introducing new approaches, resources, and technology for citywide priorities. Further north, Montreal can take pride in a long tradition of concertation and transversal communications in Quebec’s province, between the government and SSE organisations. Since 2020, a special interest group has gathered in a panel discussion led by civil servants every two weeks. Warsaw presented us with innovative ideas for public-private cooperation through social procurement contracts and competitive funding in the area of children’s care.

After these peer-learning workshops, the partners gathered in an all-peer-event where cities chose two innovative solutions they wanted to further explore in the experimentation phase of the project. Turin and Rotterdam were selected to explain more in detail their good practice, and cities exchanged on possibilities to scale them up.

Exploring two initiatives to scale them up

Rotterdam presented its most innovative experimentation, Rikx, a marketplace for social impact and sustainable investment model for employment-related projects. It provides a platform where social entrepreneurs can propose a project while companies can act as buyers. By putting their money into these projects, investors help people to work sustainably. Rikx could allow other cities to bring much needed private investments into social sectors while offering companies a flexible and straightforward way to meet social return obligations. As for Turin, it is their project CasaBottega which caught the attention of the eight other cities. CasaBottega transformed some lowered shutters of Barriera di Milano into artistic workshops. The project reuses empty commercial spaces and turns them into creative spaces, allowing both urban regeneration and local economic development while experimenting with new forms of active citizenship with inhabitants and young artists. The project was conceived and implemented through a public-private partnership of entities active in the neighbourhood. Thanks to a grant of 5,000 euros each, young communicators, actors, visual artists, cineastes, musicians and poets have taken root in the neighbourhood in places where they can both live, and make their art available to the vast and heterogeneous community of the neighbourhood and the city.

In the coming weeks, consortium members will gather to explore possible future pathways to promote the exchange with other cities with the aim of assisting the development of SSE ecosystems and their role in recovering, rebuilding and reinventing the places we live in.