GSEF is an international association of local governments and civil society networks engaged in the promotion of the Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) as a mean to achieve an inclusive and sustainable local development. GSEF promotes various forms of SSE, including social enterprises, cooperatives, foundations, mutuals and self-help groups that put people over profit. GSEF believes that systemic changes start first at the local level based on the partnership between civil society, and the public and private sectors. Thus, GSEF is co-chaired by both a local government (represented by the mayor of the chair city) and a representative of civil society networks. As of April 2021, GSEF brings together 78 members on the 5 continents coming from 36 countries, including 27 local governments and 49 SSE networks, and 2 honorary members.

Find out more about GSEF members

Main activities

In between its biennial forum on social economy, which has grown to become one of the biggest international social economy gatherings in the world, GSEF operates in 5 key areas :

  1. Capacity Building & Training

  2. Knowledge Exchange 

  3. Research and Publication

  4. Networking

  5. International Advocacy 


GSEF organises biennial international forums with its member cities across the continents. It is one of the most prestigious international gatherings on social economy, bringing together all stakeholders from international organisations, local/central governments and civil society networks. GSEF Forums serve as a platform for mutual learning, agenda setting, and knowledge exchange. 

  • GSEF 2013: 'New Discovery of Collaboration' (5-7 Nov 2013, Seoul, Korea)
  • GSEF 2014 [inaugural meeting]: 'Solidarity for Change' (17-19 Nov 2014, Seoul, Korea)
  • GSEF 2015: Steering Committee meeting (4-5 Nov 2015, Seoul, Korea)
  • GSEF 2016: 'Local Governments and Social Economy Stakeholders – Allies for the intelligent and sustainable development of cities' (7-9 Sept 2016, Montreal, Canada)
  • GSEF 2018: 'Social Economy and Cities – Values and competitiveness for an inclusive and sustainable local development' (1-3 Oct 2018, Bilbao, Spain)
  • GSEF 2020 : 'Social and Solidarity Economy for sustainable, inclusive development and Wellbeing' (21-23 October 2020, Mexico Cito, Mexico)
  • GSEF 2023: 'The transition from the informal economy to collective and sustainable economies for territories' (4 - 6 May 2023, Dakar, Senegal)


What is the Social Economy (Social and Solidarity Economy?)

(Source: UNTFSSE - United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on Social and Solidarity Economy)

Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) refers to the production of goods and services by a broad range of organizations and enterprises that have explicit social and often environmental objectives, and are guided by principles and practices of cooperation, solidarity, equity and democratic self-management. SSE, therefore, is fundamentally about crafting a form of economy that is centred on social protection and equality. The SSE movement that is growing worldwide is attempting to reassert social control over the economy by prioritizing social objectives above profit maximization, recognizing the key role of collective action and active citizenship for both economic and political empowerment of disadvantaged groups in society, and reintroducing notions of ethics, sharing, equity and democracy in economic activity.