Bilbao City

Member since: 
September 2016


Bilbao is Regional Vice President city for Europe of GSEF network and was host city for the 4th Global Social Economy Forum GSEF2018.  

Bilbao (Basque Country) was the host city of the 4th Global Social Economy Forum GSEF2018, which took place from 1 to 3 October 2018 under the central theme of “Social Economy and Cities. Values and competitiveness for an inclusive and sustainable local development”

Strategically located along the Nervion River, Bilbao had its beginnings as a port city, with a stronghold in mining, steel and shipbuilding industries. The onset of the 1970s-80s saw the decline of these industries. In 1989, the City Council drew up its first strategic plan in an attempt to reorganise and modernise the major industries and economic structure.
Bilbao has demonstrated that urban regeneration can be a powerful social and economic driver to catalyse change, strengthen the urban fabric, inject vibrancy and improve the quality of life for its citizens.

The success of Bilbao - from an obsolete and dilapidated industrial city into a knowledge-based economy - is largely attributed to its integrated and holistic approach to achieve economic, social and physical transformations. Its emphasis on environmental clean-up, use of culture, internationalisation and design, major improvements to its infrastructure, as well as the restoration of its historic areas over some 25 years have successfully rejuvenated the city.

More significantly, the city was able to connect investment in infrastructure with social integration. The river, which was once a physical and social barrier, is now a hub for social and cultural integration and a centre for innovation and creativity. Through constant re-invention and evolvement, the city has progressed from an industrial to a knowledge-based economy through the different phases of development:

  • 1980s - 1990s: Restructuring of the city and economy.
  • 1990s - 2000s: Consolidation of regeneration efforts and diversification of economies.
  • 2000s onwards: Re-invention; focus on innovation, sustainability, social cohesion and knowledge-based economy.

In the social economy area and, more concretely, in the cooperative field, the Basque Country has, no doubt unintentionally, become a worldwide benchmark. The dynamism that energizes Basque social initiatives has resulted in outstanding examples of good practices where firms' priorities are guided by social aims that respond to social needs, steering clear of the commercial profit mechanisms that are the main global driver of private economic initiative.

The Mayor of Bilbao committed to establishing a Charter of Values of the city. Bilbao City of Values is an innovative project which intends to continue with the construction of the city, from a shared framework of values provided by society as a whole, where values play a strategic role as the driver of more sustainable development in its three-fold social, environmental and economic.

Under this framework, Bilbao City Council has been working for years on a strategic plan for the Social and Solidarity Economy to promote a transformative economic model as a preferential option for economic and business development in Bilbao, built on collaboration between the administration, universities, companies and civil society.

As a result of this work, the Social and Solidarity Economy Hub EKONOPOLO was born, as an ambitious project promoted by the City Council in coordination with numerous entities of the Social and Solidarity Economy ecosystem in a co-design process. The Social and Solidarity Economy Hub is a space of reference and impulse for the social and solidarity economy in the Bilbao (Basque Country).

It is the main instrument of the Bilbao City Council to support the strengthening of the social and solidarity economy in the city and in our region. Its mission is to promote and reinforce this  model of transformative economy as a preferential option for economic-business development in Bilbao and the territory, built from the collaboration between the administration, universities, companies and civil society, the City Council of Bilbao, REAS and SSE Networks:

  • Dissemination of this economic-productive model and its principles.
  • Incorporation of SSE logics into the institutions responsible for economic promotion, as an instrument linked to the fulfilment of the SDGs 2030.
  • Visibilisation of the SSE and its agents among citizens in order to promote their knowledge and modification of healthier, more sustainable and responsible living, working and consumption behaviours.