Simel Esim (ILO): Cooperatives, resilience to crises

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Translation of an interview of Simel Esim (ILO) on , to crises including on a Greek online news outlet–en/index.htm?shared_from=shr-tls

Cooperatives, resilience to crises

The Greek Magazine Efsyn interviewed ILO specialist on Cooperative, Simel Esim, on the role of cooperatives and other social and solidarity economy enterprises in crisis response including with regard to refugees.

Analysis | 12 December 2016

Can the social and solidarity economy to help countries like Greece to overcome the already protracted economic recession?

It has been observed across the world that in times of economic crisis the existing cooperative and other social and solidarity economy structures grow in terms of numbers of members, supporters, volunteers, beneficiaries and service users.

This applies equally to different types of cooperatives, for instance financial, retail and housing cooperatives, among others. New social and solidarity economy initiatives are created during such times at local levels. Governments and development agencies also rediscover cooperatives as part of timely and relevant community driven response strategies to these challenges.

But the social and solidarity economy cannot, and in fact should not, be expected to assume the role of the state in the provision of goods and services. It would be unrealistic to imagine the social and solidarity economy as a magic wand that once activated will put an end to crises. The formula is more like that of tens of thousands of initiatives, big and small, public and private, some more successful than others, converging together in partnership toward creating a critical mass that reaches a tipping point.Yes, but are not cooperatives themselves beaten by economic crisis?

The International Labour Organization has conducted research documenting how cooperatives have fared in terms of their resilience to the global economic and jobs crisis. This report reviews the performance of financial cooperatives, looking in particular at the aftermath of the 2007-2008 crisis and the continuing long austerity period. It documents ways financial cooperatives have proven to be more resilient tha their non-cooperative counterparts pointing to the specificities of the cooperative model of enterprise.
How can cooperatives and other social and solidarity economy enterprises support refugees in a sustainable way?

The number of refugees has reached record levels around the globe. Many host country governments’ systems in provisioning goods and services have become overwhelmed. So it has become necessary for national and local governments in host countries to partner with local community based solutions. Provision of goods and services through local cooperatives and other social and solidarity economy enterprises can help refugees escape the vicious circle of poverty and find a job, while distributing the available resources more fairly within the local economy and for the local communities.
Are there any specific examples?

There are examples of cooperatives that have been set up specifically for refugees, or refugees joining existing cooperatives in growth oriented sectors of the host country’s economy as workers and members.

We have seen refugee women, for example in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon come together in business groups to market their products in local community markets in Lebanon which helped generate incomes and create bridges between refugee and host communities.

In many countries, existing cooperative have moved to assisting refugees. In Italy alone, social cooperatives provide services to 18,000 refugees, asylum seekers and migrants with services and projects in 220 welcome centres and 170 dedicated housing structures.

The UN World Food Programme has been procuring staple items for emergency food assistance to refugees through producer cooperatives in 20 countries.

In Germany, housing cooperatives have started reserving larger homes for refugee families and consciously renting them to Syrian refugees to help them integrate and benefit from the social support system.

Another example are 200,000 of the nearly one million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, who have settled in the Akkar region in the north of the country, doubling the population of one of Lebanon’s poorest regions. Here, the agricultural sector constitutes a major source of income, employing one-fourth of the workers. UNDP and ILO have supported the establishment and growth of a Green House Nursery cooperative, which treats, grows and sells seeds at an affordable price in the region. The cooperative benefits 200 Lebanese farmers and Syrian refugees.
Recently the Greek lawmakers voted for a new law on social and solidarity economy. Are you aware of the changes the new law brings? Did the ILO make any proposals?

The very tight deadlines for consultation around the drafts was not sufficient to allow the ILO to provide an official response on the law. Clearly it is the Greek people who own this law. Hence the national consultations between the government, social partners and cooperatives and social and solidarity economy entities, networks and platforms are critical. It was therefore great to hear Dr Rania Antonopoulos, the Greek Alternate Minister for Combatting Unemployment, indicate her readiness to engage with the Greek cooperative and social economy partners to further improve the law.

A number of European cooperative and other social and solidarity economy partners provided inputs to the Greek government on the draft law. In fact, cooperatives and other social economy actors from around the world continue to show great solidarity with Greece. The Italian cooperative movement has indicated its readiness to support Greek government in its work on developing legislation on worker buyouts. Spanish and Argentinian worker cooperatives, and French financial cooperatives also have declared their willingness to engage.

It is worth noting that the enabling environment for cooperatives and social economy is not just dependent on passing of a law but include activation of implementation mechanisms including the establishment of financing tools, development of technical assistance programmes and building new institutions and reforming existing ones.
The Greek government, social partners and cooperative and other social economy enterprises have the continued support and commitment of the ILO in this important endeavour.

The following article has originally been published in Efsyn Magazine in Greek , and has been translated into English from the original.

Social enterprises and the social economy going forward

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Social enterprises and the social economy going forward

A call for action from the Commission Expert Group on Social Entrepreneurship (GECES)

This report of the Commission Expert Group on Social Entrepreneurship (GECES) represents a call for action issued to the European Commission, Member States and social enterprises organisations. It argues for a European Action Plan for the Social Economy and Social Enterprises, which would provide new impetus to promote an enabling environment for social enterprises and the social economy to flourish, building on their core values such as democratic governance, social impact, innovation, profit reinvestment or the central place given to the human in the economy. Thus enabled, social enterprises and the social economy will have an even greater impact in addressing the challenges highlighted above and help to create a more socially equitable society in Europe. In accordance with the mandate given to GECES, the recommendations mainly focus on social enterprises. However in many cases, recommendations are relevant to social economy organisations more broadly. The report proposes a series of key recommendations for policy-makers to support the development of social enterprises and the social economy as a driver of inclusive and impactful economic growth. The report is structured according to four key thematic areas.


Towards increased visibility, recognition and identity

Recommendation 1:  The European Commission, the Member States and social enterprise organisations shall gather stronger evidence on social enterprises’ added value and communicate it better. Actions should encompass:

  • Collecting systematic data and prioritising research on the economic and social importance, including the employment potential, as well as the dynamics of social enterprises (Member States, Commission);
  • Co-creating an EU-wide communication strategy (Commission together with the Member States and social enterprise organisations);
  • Sharing of know-how and tools on social added value, including tools on social impact management (Commission, the Member States, social enterprise organisations);
  • Building better capacity to report on the social value generated (social enterprise organisations).

Recommendation 2: The European Commission, the Member States, regional and local authorities, and social enterprise organisations should nurture a more assertive and coordinated social enterprise community. Actions should encompass:

  • Forging legitimate, diverse and inclusive representative networks that enable synergies, mutual learning and coordination (social enterprise organisations);
  • Supporting the representation of the social enterprise community at the EU level (Commission together with social enterprise organisations and the Member States);
  • Promoting a culture of policy co-creation with social enterprises and their representative organisations (Member States).

Recommendation 3: The European Commission and Member States, as well as their local and regional authorities, should mainstream the social enterprise dimension in relevant policies, programmes and practices. They should consult with and engage social enterprises as much as possible in the creation of new policies and actions. Social enterprise organisations should actively promote and use these opportunities. Actions should encompass:

  • Including social enterprises as eligible entities in all relevant European funding programmes and adding social enterprise dimensions in the implementation and follow up of EU-wide policy initiatives (European Commission);
  • Promoting the participation of social enterprises in relevant European mobility schemes (European Commission);
  • Promoting mutual learning and capacity building between regional/local authorities so as to develop integrated strategies supporting social enterprises (European Commission and Member States);
  • Applying social criteria to public procurement processes (European Commission);
  • Including social enterprise related topics in curricula from primary to university level and promoting career opportunities in social enterprises by public employment services and career guidance services (Member States and local and regional authorities);
  • Promoting mutual knowledge sharing and business relations between traditional business and social enterprises (European Commission, Member States, social enterprises).

Improving access to funding

Recommendation 4: The European Commission and Member States should provide increased resources to training programmes, incubators and intermediaries that provide tailored capacity building support to social enterprises, required to build their managerial skills and to encourage their financial sustainability. Actions should encompass:

  • Strengthening European-wide support for networks/platforms that connect individuals (including consultants and pro-bono experts) with social enterprises needing capacity building, and awards schemes for social enterprises (Commission);
  • Setting up a pan-European investment and capacity building funding programme to help social enterprises reach investment readiness by financing capacity building support from selected service providers (Commission);
  • Financing specialised social enterprise incubators/accelerators and intermediaries that offer training and capacity building to social enterprises (Member States);
  • Using ESIF to fund capacity building activities at MS level (Member States).

Recommendation 5: The European Commission, the Member States and organisations from the social enterprise funding community should implement concrete measures to unlock and attract more funding that is better suited to social enterprises. Actions should encompass:

  • Promotion, training, guidance and awareness building among the broader funding community (private and public) about how to finance social enterprises (organisations from the social enterprise funding community to collect best practices and Commission to disseminate);
  • Building capacity within the “impact community” that understands and actively finances social enterprises, to enable social economy-based financial intermediaries to meet the needs of social enterprises;
  • Enhancing the suitability criteria of investment in social enterprise, thereby increasing the flow of funds into social enterprise (Commission and Member States);
  • Removing or alleviating regulatory hurdles faced by private funders of social enterprise and social enterprises themselves (Commission);
  • Mapping existing, diverse tax incentives associated with the funding of social enterprise, to disseminate best practice (Commission and Member States).

Recommendation 6: The European Commission and the Member States should continue to direct public funding to social enterprise and to use public funding to mobilise private capital, through investment in and de-risking of social enterprise funders, as well as by putting proper governance structures in place. Actions should encompass:

  • Enabling public financial instruments (e.g. EaSI, EFSI, InnovFin under Horizon 2020, COSME and other instruments under development) to enhance funding volumes and raise the quality of social enterprise funding (Commission) and to invest in social enterprise and specialised intermediaries (Member States);
  • Programming the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) to improve service provision and investment in high-quality social infrastructure. ESIF should have a transformative role and should be used to complement – not replace – Member States’ national budgets (Commission and Member States);
  • Recommend to Member States to promote social investment namely through public funding in a coordinated, holistic manner in the areas of social, health and education services;
  • Developing complementarities between public and private funding of social enterprise through the use of hybrid instruments (Commission and Member States);
  • Representing key stakeholders from the social enterprise ecosystem in the governance of schemes supported by public funding, such as EFSI, and mainstreaming the use of impact measurement (Commission).

Improving the legal environment

Recommendation 7: The Commission should propose a soft legal measure which could help Member States design an adequate framework to support the flourishing and expansion of social enterprises. Actions should encompass:

  • Preparing a legal recommendation, in the sense of the Treaties, that lays down minimum principles to encourage and support Member States in establishing a dedicated national framework to develop social enterprises (Commission);
  • Monitoring social enterprise policies in the Commission’s exercise on the European Semester, in order to follow the implementation of the above legal recommendation (Commission).

Recommendation 8: The Commission and the Member States should stimulate cross-border operations for mutuals and cooperatives to enable them to use the full potential of the Internal Market in order to expand their activities. Actions should encompass:

  • Financially supporting cross-border operations via programmes such as INTERREG (Commission);
  • Collecting best practices regarding incentives to stimulate their growth in the Internal Market and widely diffusing them (Commission and Member States).

Recommendation 9: Public buyers should make the best use of the new public procurement rules and insert social considerations, including reserved contracts for the social and professional integration of disabled and disadvantaged persons (art. 20) as well as health, social and cultural services (art.77), in their tendering procedures. Actions should include:

  • Updating the Commission’s “Buying Social” guide published in 2011 and monitoring best practices (Commission);
  • Developing dedicated capacity building programmes and communication campaigns (Commission and Member States);
  • Conducting/developing specific training for European civil servants, to take social aspects into consideration when drafting tendering specifications (Commission);
  • Creating networks to stimulate the commitment of various stakeholders in this process (Member States, contracting authorities, social enterprise organisations).

Recommendation 10: The Commission and the Member States should increase awareness of state aid rules and their impact on social enterprises providing an SGEI. Actions should encompass:

  • Preparing or, where appropriate, updating guidelines, especially the guide to the application of EU rules regarding services of general economic interest from 2013 (Commission and Member States);
  • Launching further training on how to apply state aid rules (Commission and Member States).

Driving international development and growth

Recommendation 11: The European Commission/EEAS should contribute, through the next cycle of its international development programmes, to a significant and ongoing increase in open source intelligence about the social economy and social enterprises, and support ecosystems globally. Actions should encompass:

  • Launching a major ongoing research initiative together with other interested donors and partners such as the OECD and its Development Assistance Committee members, the UNRISD, the World Bank, EU national development agencies and other public and private donors;
  • Allocating a specific budget for impact evaluation for new support programmes for the social economy and social enterprises to bridge the lack of robust and clear evidence about the impact of this enterprise support on SDGs. This action should also be taken by Member States.

Recommendation 12: The European Commission should take a leading role in fostering global cooperation to support the social economy and social enterprises by acting as a market convener and harnessing knowledge exchange. Actions should encompass:

  • Undertaking in 2017 a process of internal learning, coordination and cooperation between the various departments of the Commission and EEAS, whose work touches on the 10 development of infrastructure and support for the social economy and social enterprises;
  • Starting in 2017, initiating a series of regular exchange and action-oriented meetings with other global donors and investors (private and public) active on a transnational basis in supporting the social economy and social enterprises (irrespective of local designation);
  • Making the case, together with the German Government, which holds the G20 Presidency from Autumn 2016, for promoting specific policies to support inclusive businesses/activities and social enterprises (as discussed in the G20 Inclusive Business Framework) to better reflect the differences in the set of values, principles and raison d’être between these organisations.

Recommendation 13: The European Union and the EEAS should mainstream tailored support in all its existing and future policies and initiatives and international negotiations promoting social and economic development (cooperation and development, foreign policy, trade policy, neighbourhood policy etc.) and embed social enterprises and the social economy more broadly in strategic thinking in order to build supportive ecosystems as reflected by the pillars of the SBI. Actions should encompass:

  • Earmarking, in the next programming cycle, dedicated direct and indirect funding for social economy organisations, including social enterprises, in third countries, along with governments and support and social finance organisations; and starting concrete collaborations with other global partners to leverage EU funding and boost the impact of the respective programmes;
  • Raising awareness, in particular with third country governments, of the role the social economy and social enterprises play in achieving the SDGs, as well as on the potential of North-South, South-North or South-South exchange of learning, innovation and collaboration, providing cases of successful replication of innovative social economy and social enterprise solutions and models as well as their impact;
  • Embedding the social economy and social enterprises in Europe’s revised Consensus on Development and in Europe’s voice in international negotiations, trade agreements and at the United Nations;
  • Organising marketplace events to connect social enterprises with the international financial ecosystem and facilitate major investments in developing countries, as well as engage other social economy organisations in defining financial instruments to meet their needs

Working with refugees in Berlin and Athens – Good Practices

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Working with refugees in Berlin and Athens – Good Practices
Seminar, 21-25 November 2016
Arbeit mit Geflüchteten in Berlin und Athen Beispiele ›guter Praxis‹
Wochenseminar, 21.–25. November 2016
Arbeit mit Geflüchteten in Berlin und Athen Fachleute aus Athen, die dort in der Flüchtlingsarbeit tätig sind, tauschen eine Woche lang Informationen und Erfahrungen mit Freiwilligen, Hauptamtlichen, Geflüchteten und politischen Entscheidungsträgern aus, die sich in Berlin für geflüchtete Menschen engagieren. Aus den Begegnungen können weiterführende Kooperationen entstehen. Und so hoffen wir, dass die Besuchswoche zum Aufbau einer Städtepartnerschaft »von unten« zwischen Athen und Berlin beiträgt.
Initiative Respekt für Griechenland und BildungsWerk Berlin den Hoenrch Boell Stiftung
Kontakt Bildungswerk:
Simon Cames |
Telefon 030 308 77 94 80
Kontakt Initiative »Respekt für Griechenland«:
Hilde Schramm |
Telefon 030 833 44 72
Klaus Feldgen |
Mobil 0170 904 37 31
Anmeldung zu den Workshops
Wegen der Teilnehmerbegrenzung ist eine Anmeldung mit Angaben zur Tätigkeit in der Flüchtlingsarbeit erforderlich
Programm im Detail
Arbeit mit Geflüchteten in Berlin und Athen Fachleute aus Athen, die dort in der Flüchtlingsarbeit tätig sind, tauschen eine Woche lang Informationen und Erfahrungen mit Freiwilligen, Hauptamtlichen, Geflüchteten und politischen Entscheidungsträgern aus, die sich in Berlin für geflüchtete Menschen engagieren. Aus den Begegnungen können weiterführende Kooperationen entstehen. Und so hoffen wir, dass die Besuchswoche zum Aufbau einer Städtepartnerschaft »von unten« zwischen Athen und Berlin beiträgt.
Montag | 21. November 2016
❱ 14–15.30 Uhr | Begrüßung und Kennenlernen Bildungswerk Berlin der Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung Sebastianstraße 21 | 10179 Berlin-Kreuzberg
❱ 17–21 Uhr | Begegnung und Zusammenarbeit von einheimischen und neu zugezogenen Künstlern
Einladung in den SALONwelcome Austausch über Kunst- und Kulturprojekte aus Athen und Berlin, an denen Geflüchtete beteiligt sind Zusammen mit:
Zentrum für Kunst und Urbanistik, Refugee Academy, Versschmuggel u.a. ZUsammenKUNFT – »Penthaus für schöne Formate« 16. Etage | Stresemannstraße 95–97 | 10963 Berlin-Mitte Kontakt: Bärbel Rothhaar | – Nur für geladene Gäste
Dienstag | 22. November 2016
❱ Vormittags | Aufsuchende Erkundung von Willkommensklassen (in zwei Untergruppen) der Lenau-Grundschule (Kreuzberg), und des Robert-Blum-Gymnasiums (Schöneberg)

Robert Blum Gymnasium

❱ 14–16.30 Uhr
Workshop zur schulischen Integration von geflüchteten Kindern und Jugendlichen mit Lehrkräften, Freiwilligen und anderen Fachleuten
»aquarium« (Südblock) Skalitzerstraße 6 | 10999 Berlin-Kreuzberg

Dienstag |22. November 2016 | 19–21 Uhr
Benefizkonzert zugunsten von Model Hostel WElCommon
Klavierabend – Werke von Beethoven, Schubert, Georgiades, Mussorgsky mit den Pianisten Marios Papadopoulos (Oxford) und Lennart Speer (München)
Wortbeitrag von Nikos Chrysogelos, Initiator und Leiter von Model Hostel WELCommon, einem wegweisenden Wohnprojekt im Zentrum von Athen
Festsaal des Rathauses Charlottenburg Otto-Suhr-Allee 100 10587 Berlin-Charlottenburg
Eintritt frei, Spenden erbeten
Kontakt und Reservierung: Herbert Nebel


Mittwoch | 23. November 2016
❱ 10–11.30 Uhr | Aufsuchende Erkundung (in zwei Gruppen) der Flüchtlingsunterkunft Zeughofstraße des Diakonischen Werks sowie der Gemeinschaftsunterkunft (für Frauen) des Nachbarschaftsheims Schöneberg e.V.
❱ 17–21:30 Uhr | Workshop zu Flüchtlingsunterkünften, Bürgerengagement und Nachbarschaft
Mit dem Berliner Flüchtlingsrat, Willkommensinitiativen und anderen Fachleuten. Im Blick: Beispielhafte Flüchtlingsunterkünfte in Berlin und Athen (u.a. Model Hostel WELCommon). Erfahrungsaustausch zur Integration in den Stadtteil und zur Rolle von Freiwilligen.
Der Architekt Volkmar Nickol stellt das »Pankower Modell« vor.
Bildungswerk Berlin der Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung Sebastianstraße 21 | 10179 Berlin-Kreuzberg Donnerstag
24. November 2016
❱ 9–13 Uhr | Workshop zur Integration in Beruf und Arbeit Ihre Arbeit mit Geflüchteten stellen vor: Beratungs- und Betreuungszentrum (BBZ) in Moabit, Oberstufenzentrum (OSZ) für Kraftfahrzeugtechnik in Charlottenburg,
Carl-Legien-Schule (Berufsschule) in Neukölln, JOG (Jugend ohne Grenzen), private Bildungsträger, Selfempowerment-Projekte
❱ 15–18 Uhr | Workshop zu Vorbereitung und Einstieg ins Studium, Anerkennung von Abschlüssen Angebote und Förderkonzepte für Flüchtlinge
Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung WZB Reichspietschufer 50 | 10784 Berlin-Tiergarten
Freitag | 25. November 2016
❱ Vormittags | Empfang durch den Präsidenten des Berliner Abgeordnetenhauses
Ralf Wieland und Gespräch zur Flüchtlingspolitik der Stadt Berlin mit Landespolitikern Abgeordnetenhaus von Berlin Niederkirchnerstraße 5 | 10117 Berlin-Mitte
Freitag | 25. November 2016 | 19–21 Uhr
Kein Land in Sicht zur Situation von Geflüchteten in Griechenland
Informations- und Diskussionsveranstaltung in Zusammenarbeit mit dem Bündnis Griechenlandsolidarität Berlin
Referenten: Moawia Ahmend, Präsident von Greek Forum of Migrants
Eleni Petraki, Greek Asylum Service, Sprecherin
Karl Kopp, Europa-Referent von Pro Asyl Passionskirche (Kulturkirche)
| Marheinekeplatz 1 10961 Berlin-Kreuzberg
Kontakt: Reiner Schiller-Dickhut |
                 Georg Brzoska |
Initiative Respekt für Griechenland und BildungWerk Berlin des Heinrich Boell Stiftung 
Das Workshop-Programm wird realisiert aus Mitteln der Stiftung Deutsche Klassenlotterie Berlin
Kontakt Bildungswerk: Simon Cames | Telefon 030 308 77 94 80
Kontakt Initiative »Respekt für Griechenland«: Hilde Schramm | Telefon 030 833 44 72
Klaus Feldgen | Mobil 0170 904 37 31
Anmeldung zu den Workshops
Wegen der Teilnehmerbegrenzung ist eine Anmeldung mit Angaben zur Tätigkeit in der Flüchtlingsarbeit erforderlich
Programm im Detail