Research – the collection of data for the research, which comprised of both desktop research into the social and solidarity economy of each country and information gathered from focus groups, is now complete. Our partner XES based in Barcelona has been tasked with compiling the results into a document.
We knew at the beginning when the original proposal was submitted to the Erasmus+ programme there would be a difference between the partner countries but it was the similarities that brought us together and the research has demonstrated the similarities and some differences.
Without pre-empting the results I noted a difference within my discussions with members of the research team in how the different countries perceived there place within their economies;
Within the UK (which is my perspective) Social Enterprise, which is how it’s referred to in the UK, is integrated and well supported alongside mainstream capitalism. Social Enterprise in the UK does not seek to oppose capitalism but works happily alongside. The government has embraced the social element and actively supports business at a local and national level.
In Italy SSE appears to be outside of the normal economy. Business’s often have the feeling of being a small fragmented sector that is isolated from the main economy. They also work in isolation to other SSE businesses.
Spain was different again and cooperation between businesses was a consistent theme with business strong in the area of social action. The promotion of SSE over a capitalist economy is high on the agenda of SSE businesses.
France was in the middle between the UK and Spain. SSE is supported within legislation and sits alongside Capitalism but SSE businesses are more active in promoting SSE as an alternative to capitalism.
Greece has a different experience born out of austerity over the last 5 years or so. It is very much a bottom up experience and is viewed by many as a sustainable way of doing business in contrast to capitalism. It is people and needs driven rather than from the ideological standpoint of other countries.
The focus group in Spain noted that some terminology often associated with SSE, such as, entrepreneurial, had lost its meaning – this is perhaps true of countries with a longer history of SSE. The bottom up approach is perhaps lost in the past of some countries and reflects in how they perceive the place of SSE within their economy.
These are my initial impressions and not necessarily the views of the partnership. It is not the differences that unite us but the similarities and a shared mutual respect.
Common themes identified were ethical practice, sustainability, cooperation and a people centred approach, which all partners agreed were common to SSE practice in all of the countries.
Charlie Lockyer (Consilium Education and Training).