Benchmarking the social and solidarity economy policy process in South Africa against international good practice

The development of a social and solidarity economy (SSE) policy in South Africa was initiated in 2017, with the signing of an Memorandum of Understanding between the ILO, the then Economic Development Department (now Department of Trade Industry and Competition), and the Government of Flanders.

News | 31 March 2022
A four year process of intensive policy development followed to shape the recommendations made in the policy, which was submitted for political approval in May 2021. This four-year process included the commissioning of a wide range of policy briefs and thematic papers, a consultation process with over 760 practitioners in the country’s nine provinces and the delivery of training programmes and knowledge sharing workshops.

In mid-2021, the ILO worked with a research organization to conduct an international bench-marking analysis to determine whether the process followed in developing the SSE policy in South Africa met standards of international good practice. The goal of the analysis was to understand what worked well, but importantly what didn’t, so that future policy initiatives can be strengthened. The high levels of inequality in South Africa mean that there can be no one-size-fits-all approach to policy development. Context also plays a role for policy makers, recognising the importance of understanding the environment within which the SSE activity occurs, and the issues to which it responds.

International good practice requires any policy process must have:
  • Clear goals, rigorous design and be anchored in evidence.
  • Clear roles and accountability within the policy-organising team, and regular and effective engagement with the community
  • Continuous feedback loops and knowledge sharing that build ownership and trust in the policy document, should be built into all policy processes.
  • Mechanisms of constant appraisal, which help establish relevance and feasibility.
The policy process followed in South Africa was found to fully align with international good practice across the dimensions of clear goals, effective engagement, understanding of roles and accountability, and being anchored in evidence. Partial alignment was found in the design and planning, which required greater on boarding of government officials, and capacitation through the recruitment process of the team. The policy process would have benefited from having a clear link between the evidence gathered and the changes made to the policy throughout the consultation process. Alongside the comprehensive consultation strategy, the policy would have benefited from specific consultations with marginalised groups, for example, people with disabilities, refugees and migrant workers. Knowledge sharing could also be improved, with the ambitions of an online portal, conceptualised at the start of the policy development process as a one-stop-shop for information, documents and engagement related to the process, delayed to 2022.

This analysis affirmed the value of information sharing from the start of all policy development initiatives providing an opportunity to question, inform and influence the process, rather than at the end where it becomes a final repository for data, rather than. Overall the policy process was found to have set high standards for policy development. The deliberate gathering of data from SSE practitioners operating outside of existing networks was commended, together with the focus on implementation of the policy, which has been operationalised through the USD70m Social Employment Fund.

You can read the report on “South Africa's social and solidarity economy: An evaluation of the policy development process” here.