Solidarity Economy

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Solidarity Economy is not a common expression in English speaking countries, though it is gaining acceptance such as U.S. Solidarity Economy Network(SEN) and Asian Alliance for Solidarity Economy (AA4SE), while in countries speaking Latin languages (French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese…) it is a motto for thousands of organizations, small, medium and big, helping them to recognize themselves as part of a common movement. This short paper tries to give the main characteristics of this movement, and an update on its activities as a global movement.

SSE: an overview

Solidarity Economy can be defined as an expression that embraces historical and contemporary economic forms embedding values of cooperation, solidarity and stressing the importance of the commons. It can also be seen as the self-affirmation or coagulation of practices and movements that exist and have renewed themselves since the 19th century or earlier, with the emergence of new practices based on the same values.

Solidarity Economy is agrounded in practice and in the principles of: solidarity, mutualism, and cooperation; equity in all dimensions (race/ethnicity/ nationality, class, gender); social well-being over profit and the unfettered rule of the market; sustainability; social and economic democracy; and pluralism, allowing for different forms in different contexts, open to continual change and driven from the bottom-up.

Solidarity Socio-Economy refers to economic practices of organizations and people which put the human being and the environment at the centre of economic concerns. The concepts of the economy (market access, budgets, profit) are seen here as mere tools for ends which are mostly social in a sense that is either restricted (community) or broader (society as a whole). SSE entities are usually organized as: cooperatives (Workers' cooperatives, Consumers' cooperatives etc.)), community based organization (such as non-profit organisations) or smaller “solidarity groups”, aiming at one or more of the following functions : production, transformation, consumption, exchange, finance, currency exchange… The free software movement can be seen as part of this movement as well.

SSE practices have been convincingly identified in developed and developing countries alike. They refer to practices that have often deep roots in social and cultural practices, but find a meaning in the contemporary context, such as: saving groups, formal or informal cooperatives, savings groups, healthcare groups, social money groups, etc. Practices that have emerged in the last decades and that are part of SSE are for instance: community supported agriculture, consumer coops, fair trade initiatives, solidarity finance (warning: not all micro-finance is based on solidarity).


Solidarity Economy does not constitute a sector of the mainstream economy. It is rather a global approach encompassing initiatives in most sectors of the economy. This alternative approach to socio-economic development operates side by side with the market economy and is capable of sustaining its initiatives and competing in the market logic of traditional markets for as long as its approaches continue to be innovativ.
Definitions of "solidarity economy" are diverse.

For the Chantier Economie Sociale (Quebec)

The Chantier Economie Sociale of Quebec cites five key principles to distinguish solidarity economy initiatives. These are:

(1) the objective is to serve its members or the community, instead of simply striving for financial profit;

(2) the economic enterprise is autonomous of the State;

(3) in its statute and code of conduct, a democratic decision-making process is established that implies the necessary participation of users and workers;

(4) it gives priority to people and work over capital in the distribution of revenue and surplus; and

(5) its activities are based on principles of participation, empowerment, and individual and collective responsibility.

Solidarity Economy adopts conscious altruism and solidarity, not extreme individualism, as the core of the new socioeconomic culture. It tends to favor cooperation, not competition, as the main form of relationship among humans and between them and Nature [1]/.

For the Asian Alliance for Solidarity Economy

Solidarity Economy is a socio-economic order and new way of life that deliberately chooses serving the needs of people and ecological sustainability as the goal of economic activity rather than maximization of profits under the unfettered rule of the market. It places economic and technological development at the service of social and human development rather than the pursuit of narrow, individual self-interest.

Solidarity Economy is an alternative economic model to neo-liberal capitalism. This alternative socio-economic order and new way of life inspires attitudes and behaviors with values such as sharing, co-responsibility, Reciprocity, Plurality, respect for diversity, freedom, equality, ethics, brotherhood, and sisterhood [2]/

For John Samuel (India)

“Solidarity Economy” is one of terms used to describe all those economic activities and regulations which are based upon cooperation and solidarity, so as to place human beings and social relationships back at the core of the economic activities. There are other names being used for the initiatives of a growing number of individuals, companies and cooperatives who have decided to integrate ethical, social and environmental principles to their daily economic activity.

In Asia, titles like “People’s Economy”, “Compassionate Economy” or “Solidarity-based economy” are often heard. Regardless of the way we call it, Solidarity Economy is a growing option for all those who choose to operate within the market but with a completely different approach, those who believe that economic activity should not be exclusively driven by competition and profit maximization. Instead, the motivation for economic activity should be the improvement of the quality of life of all human beings.

In practice, there are Solidarity Economy activities in all regions of the world and in all phases of the economic cycle:

are some examples of these activities. A whole body of economic thought and beliefs have emerged as a consequence, as for example the belief that wealth should be redefined in order to integrate social and environmental externalities and, thus, to be measured by a whole different set of indicators.

Editors' note: the inclusion of Corporate social responsibility in the field of solidarity economy is controversial many cultural contexts where solidarity economy emerged as a movement.

[1] Cited in Yvon Poirer. “Views on Solidarity Economy”. Interview conducted in conjunction with the Asian Forum for Solidarity Economy, Phiippines, Oct 2007. Poirer is a Member of the Coordination Committee of the North American Network for Solidarity Economy (NANSE), and Board Member of RIPESS (Intercontinental Network for the Promotion of the Solidarity Economy).

[2] Marcos Arruda. “Views on Solidarity Economy”. Interview conducted in conjunction with the Asian Forum for Solidarity Economy, Phiippines, Oct 2007. Arruda is founder and Director of PACS (Institute of Alternative Policies for Southern Cone of Latin America), Brazil and Member of the Coordination and Facilitation Committee (CFC) of the Alliance for a Responsible, Plural and Solidarity-based Economy (ALOE).

[3] Kyoko Sakuma. ““Views on Solidarity Economy”. Interview conducted in conjunction with the Asian Forum for Solidarity Economy, Phiippines, Oct 2007. Sakuma is the Founder and Executive Director of Sustainability Analysis and Consulting (Belgium).

A more formal definition:

The solidarity economy can be seen a) as part of the "Third sector" in which economic activity is aimed at expressing practical Solidarity with disadvantaged groups of people, which contrasts with the Private sector, where economic activity is aimed at generating profits, and the Public sector, where economic activity is directed at Public policy objectives, or b) as a struggle seeking to build an economy and culture of solidarity beyond capitalism in the present.

The still evolving term "solidarity economy" is an English translation of a concept represented by the French "économie solidaire" and similar terms in several other languages. As such it is sometimes translated by other expressions such as "solidarity-based economy".

Social and solidarity economy

The solidarity economy is often considered part of the Social economy, forming what might be termed the "social and solidarity economy" (from the French "économie sociale et solidaire"). The concepts are still under development and the difference between the two terms is gradually being clarified. An organisation seeing itself as part of the solidarity economy generally goes beyond achieving purely social aims: it aims to put right an injustice by expressing solidarity. For example, a local sports club has a social aim and so can be considered part of the social economy, but would not normally be considered part of the solidarity economy except in special circumstances (e.g. a township sports club in South Africa in the days of Apartheid).

Solidarity Economy networks in the World


  • RIPESS (The Intercontinental Network of Promoters of Solidarity Economy)
  • ALOE





Latin America

North America

Origins and promotion of solidarity economy as a movement

Section to come soon!

Examples of solidarity economy organisations


External links

--WikiWiseco 08:42, 10 December 2009 (UTC) ja:連帯経済 ko:연대경제 de:Solidarische Ökonomie es:economía solidaria fr:Économie sociale et solidaire pt:Economia solidária