Advocates for social and solidarity economy (SSE) face a dilemma. On the one hand, they generally seek to promote a more enabling environment which implies closer interaction with organizations and institutions associated with both the state and the private sector. Yet, while such relations may lead to more supportive policies and better terms of insertion in the market economy, they are also prone to multiple risks and tensions. Furthermore, as SSE enters the mainstream its meaning also runs the risk of being diluted and distorted.
As the UN Inter-Agency Task Force on SSE (UNTFSSE) enters its fourth year of existence, and as its relations with governments and multilateral institutions expand, it is an opportune moment to revisit the question of what exactly SSE is, whether its core principles are being upheld as SSE advocacy is ratcheted up within policy making circles, and whether new or potential allies or partners associated with state and private sector institutions really share the same interpretation of SSE.
This paper addresses these questions. Divided in three main parts, it begins by reviewing contemporary definitions of SSE and identifying key principles and constituents. Part 2 identifies various opportunities and risks that can arise when the concept and agenda of SSE enter the mainstream. Part 3 will address the strategic implications of this analysis for SSE advocacy and the work of the UNTFSSE.