12th Academy on Social and Solidarity Economy - Plenary Session 6: Localizing Sustainable Development Goals: SSE as trigger of Local Economic Development

News | 12 January 2022
The sixth plenary session of the Academy took place on November 25th. It focused on how the SSE can boost Local Economic Development through localisation of the SDGs. The panelists were Ms. Ana Umbelino, Representative of the Mayors of Portugal on SSE, Ms. Madelaine Yorobe Alfelor, Mayor of Iriga City (Philippines), Ms. Stephany Uy, City councillor of Catbalogan (Philippines), Mr. Daniel Sucupira, Mayor of the City of Teófilo Otoni (Brazil) and Ms. Aminata Diop, General Director of the Municipal Development and Solidarity Fund (FODEM) of the City of Dakar (Senegal). The session was moderated by Ms. Sara Hoeflich, Learning Director of the United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), and facilitated by Mr. Martin Gasser, Senior Programme Officer at the EMLD Programme of the ITCILO. Conclusions were drawn by Mr. Juan Carlos Díaz Macías, of the Andalusian Municipalities’ Fund for International Solidarity (FAMSI).

The moderator, Ms. Sara Hoeflich, opened the session by presenting the work of the United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), an organisation that represents local governments at the UN that participated in the drafting of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), bringing the voice of local governments that are responsible for the development of policies necessary to implement the SDGs at the local level. The SSE, Ms. Hoeflich pointed out, is located between local governments and local communities and therefore it is essential to develop frameworks for structured dialogue between SSE organisations and local governments.

The first panelist to intervene was Ms. Ana Umbelino, Representative of the Mayors of Portugal on SSE and local Councilor of the city of Torres Vedras (Portugal). Ms. Umbelino pointed out how COVID-19 accelerated the crisis of the mainstream development models and it opened up the possibility for a new role of the municipalities. The SSE, she explained, is an important tool for the new “economies of proximity”, because it can put people at the centre. For this reason, it is essential to collect data on the SSE, in order to assess local needs and to promote effective policy frameworks at the municipal level. In this light, the Municipality of Torres Vedras recently created a Centre for Social Economy Studies, which elaborated an Atlas of the Social Economy of the Municipality. The first edition of the Atlas mapped different organisations and tried to shed light on the most important elements of the SSE that can support the achievement of the SDGs including the heterogeneity of SSE organisations, their focus on the support of vulnerable groups, and their ability to mobilise communities and resources. Thanks to the Atlas, the Municipality also understood that 90 per cent of the SSE organisations in the territory were not measuring their social impact. The Municipality could intervene by implementing capacity building activities on measuring social impact for the SSE organisations, through a community of practice favouring cooperative learning.

Ms. Umbelino also reflected on why it is important to promote the SSE in local development ecosystems, in order to achieve the SDGs and other European social goals. She noted that the SSE is a powerful tool for territorial development, because it favours better management systems, that allow social inclusion of most marginalised people and guarantee service provision even when it is not profitable. In conclusion, Ms. Umbelino presented the case of the Municipal Program of Sustainable School Nutrition of Torres Vedras, as an example of a well-functioning local development ecosystem. The program is based on responsible public procurement and on sustainability principles. It is structured around micro-networks involving different stakeholders: local authorities, parish councils, local producers, SSE organisations and school groupings. Their collaboration, based on solidarity and cooperative principles, allows for the provision of sustainable and healthy food to the students of the area. It is a good example of cooperation between the municipality and the SSE organisations towards the achievement of local sustainable development.

The presentation of Ms. Umbelino is available here.

The second discussant was Ms. Madelaine Yorobe Alfelor, Mayor of Iriga City in the Philippines. Ms. Alfelor presented the case of her city, a small but growing municipality of 114,000 inhabitants. The main economic activity of Iriga is agriculture, and the sector is populated by SSE organisations, especially in the form of cooperatives and associations. The city is very committed to the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Agenda.

Toward this end, the Municipal Government has developed a structured strategy to localise the SDGs. The strategy is based on the clusterization of the SDGs into seven clusters, managed by specialised agencies. Ms. Alfelor explained that the SSE, which is considered strategic for the achievement of the SDGs in the city, is targeted mainly in the “agriculture and MSMEs” cluster. The City Council, Ms. Alfelor stressed, strongly believes in the importance of bottom-up solutions. For this reason, they encourage and support community participation and involvement at all levels. SSE organisations in the agricultural sector are all members of the City Development Council.

Ms. Alfelor reflected on the impact of COVID-19 on her Municipality. Given the high vulnerability of the territory of Iriga to natural disasters, they faced three super typhoons that hit the city during the pandemic, completely disrupting social and economic life. The Municipal Government intervened strongly to support agricultural activities and other important sectors, through multiple actions such as credit provision, capacity building and technical assistance. The support of the Municipality to new and existing MSMEs, she concluded, has become structural. Funds and infrastructure support are provided to new and existing organisations, both traditional and belonging to the SSE.

The second panelist of the session that came from the Philippines was Stephany Uy, City Councillor of Catbalogan. Ms. Uy presented the experience of her city. It has made a series of structural interventions to support the contribution of different sectors to local sustainable development, including SSE organizations.

Cooperatives and associations in the city benefited from capacity building activities on entrepreneurship, gender and development, cooperativism, organisational and personality development. During the training, the organisations are supported to develop entrepreneurial skills and to learn how to diversify their economic activities. This technical assistance, Ms. Uy continued, is usually accompanied by a “livelihood financial assistance”, that serves as start-up capital (in the case of newly established organisations) or to augment the existing capital (for already existing businesses).

Ms. Uy also provided different examples of how the SSE organisations of Catbalogan are able to provide basic services and to reach vulnerable groups, also thanks to the support of the Municipality. Furthermore, given the relevant size of the agricultural and fishing sectors in the City, Ms. Uy outlined the programs developed by the Municipalities to support and strengthen these sectors, with positive impact also on SSE organisations that operate in farming and fishing. These programs offer skills training, technical assistance, machinery provision and financial assistance. Finally, Ms. Uy presented some positive actions developed in coordination with SSE organisations in the city, addressing persons with disability, elderly and youth.

The presentation of Ms. Uy is available here: en - es - fr - pt

Mr. Daniel Sucupira, Mayor of the City of Teófilo Otoni in Brazil, commented on the key role played by solidarity in the achievement of any common project, above all those related to sustainability such as the SDGs. Solidarity, he stressed, means involving everyone in the definition of shared objectives and strategies. Creation of partnerships is imperative.

During the pandemic, Mr. Sucupira noted, the Federal Government of Brazil focused only on the economy and disregarded the necessity to protect the people. For this reason, basic goods and services were lacking, and the cities had to take care of all the social problems, working city by city and territory by territory. In Teófilo Otoni, the Municipality created a programme called “Solidal City”, to protect the most vulnerable. The programme mainly focused on food provisioning, bought from local producers and sold at cost. To implement the project, the city worked in coordination and collaboration with SSE organisations in the city. The same partnership, Mr. Sucupira explained, was replicated also in other projects during the pandemic, in example to support homeless people and household farmers.

The last panelist of the session was Ms. Aminata Diop, General Director of the Municipal Development and Solidarity Fund (FODEM) of the City of Dakar, Senegal. Ms. Diop presented the work of the Fund, a public entity established by the Municipality of Dakar, that boosts the development of social businesses for socio-economic inclusion of vulnerable groups through training, formalisation and financing.

Ms. Diop noted that the COVID-19 crisis has impacted SSE organizations. The population of Dakar, especially young people and women, suffered economically and socially. To remedy the situation, the City of Dakar set up specific measures. Financial support was provided to help fight the spread of the virus, through the provision of personal protective equipment and the establishment of disinfection campaigns. These actions were supported by the Fund and delivered in cooperation with SSE organisations in the city. Direct actions to improve the resilience of SSE organisations, especially social enterprises, were implemented during the pandemic. This action, Ms. Diop concluded, was developed in light of the awareness that the SSE is and can be an essential sector to overcome the crisis without leaving vulnerable communities behind, and to implement a just and sustainable recovery.

Following a set of questions, Mr. Juan Carlos Díaz Macías of the Andalusian Municipalities’ Fund for International Solidarity (FAMSI) drew conclusions from the session. He reflected on the importance of imagining new development models built on multilevel governance and exchange between stakeholders in the territories.

Mr. Díaz Macías noted such ecosystems of proximity are essential to achieve local sustainable development, because they put people and their problems at the center of the economic and social life of the territories. The public institutions play an essential role in this vision, as facilitators of multistakeholder initiatives involving, among others, SSE actors. Mr. Díaz Macías concluded his intervention by stressing the importance of “patient” credit and financial sources, that are willing to invest on the medium to long run and that are willing to offer low interest rates, to support long-term transformational strategies for the SSE.

Click here to watch the recording of the session with the original audio, or interpreted in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese.

For more information on the 12th edition of the SSE Academy, click here.