Academic journal article Development and Society

Synergistic Interactions between Social Policy and SSEs in Developing Countries: Interfaces in Discourse and Practice *

Academic journal article Development and Society

Synergistic Interactions between Social Policy and SSEs in Developing Countries: Interfaces in Discourse and Practice *

Article excerpt


Facing multiple developmental challenges, an increasing number of governments in both developing and developed countries are paying attention to the importance of Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) that creates jobs, combats poverty and inequality and empowers workers. SSE, defined as economic activities and relations that prioritize social and often environmental considerations over private economic interests and profits, covers a diverse range of organizations and enterprises. They include but are not limited to: cooperatives, mutual associations, grant-dependent and service-delivery non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and communities and other forms of voluntary groups that produce goods and services, selfhelp groups, fair trade networks and other forms of solidarity purchasing, consumer groups involved in collective providing, associations of informal workers, and new forms of profit-making social enterprises and social entrepreneurs and NGOs that are having to shift from a dependence on donations and grants to sustaining themselves via income-generating activities. They involve forms of democratic management and governance which are often linked to active citizenship and democratic participation (Utting 2013).

Various contexts and factors have been combined to prompt SSE to expand, particularly in developing countries. Globalization, economic liberalization, and multiple crises in finance, food, and energy sectors often resulted in a heightened vulnerability, particularly among those living in developing countries. People, notably those affected heavily by these crises, began to organize themselves and engage in various forms of SSE organizations and enterprises to defend or improve their livelihoods. The expansion of SSE has also been accelerated by the increase of political and social forces organizing marginalized identities such as women and indigenous people. The search for alternatives to the norms and policies of market fundamentalism such as Buen Vivir, degrowth, and food sovereignty has provided normative underpinnings to SSE activists and practitioners (UNRISD 2016).

Laws, government's development policies, programmers and institutions, particularly social policy programs and institutions play a significant role in helping the SSE expand itself, exert its full potential for development and be resilient and stable over time (UNRISD 2016). For instance, to implement social policy programmes, governments in many developing countries, particularly those under fiscal constraints, have often sought partnerships with the private sector in delivering social services rather than expand the public sector. Public social service delivery by private sector institutions based on government contracts has resulted in various unintended negative impacts such as fragmented welfare infrastructure, low quality service and adverse selection. SSE organizations and enterprises involved in delivering the contracted-out public services also run the risk of being coopted and instrumentalized by the government(UNRISD 2017).

Can SSE and social policy avoid these pitfalls? How can they create synergies in the sense that they are mutually reinforcing each other to deliver a high quality social service in an inclusive manner and realize the mandated purposes, normative values and organizational autonomy of SSE? To answer this question, we review the development discourses that offer an insight on interfaces between social policy and SSE and examine both discourses and policy practices with a focus on issues associated with participation and partnership which are considered key mechanisms of good, coherent and synergistic governance (Brinkerhoff 2007; Waheduzzaman 2010). Given the exploratory nature of this research, the main purpose here is to draw insights on the synergies between SSE and social policy rather than undertake rigorous empirical analysis.

The paper is structured as follows. The following section explains our approach to the interfaces between social policy and SSE within the broad context of state-society relations. …

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