La contribución de la economía social a la transformación del territorio

Si bien la Economía Social (ES) ha participado en el desarrollo de Quebec por más de 100 años, recientemente, nuevas organizaciones de ES han tenido un impresionante impacto en el desarrollo de las comunidades. Dos puntos han sido claves en el caso de Quebec: la capacidad de reunir a diferentes actores para impulsar la ES, y el uso de un enfoque territorial. En los 80s se crearon las primeras Corporaciones de Desarrollo Económico Comunitario en Montreal, con una visión de alianza entre la acción comunitaria y nuevos tipos de colaboración. A finales de los 90s, el gobierno de Quebec creó los Centros de Desarrollo Local a lo largo de todo el territorio, quienes trabajaron en conjunto con las organizaciones promoviendo la ES. En los últimos años el gobierno provincial de Quebec incrementó el poder de los gobiernos locales, incluyendo el apoyo a emprendimiento, pero reorganizando el apoyo regional absorbiendo las previas estructuras de base territorial. Esto ha  resultado en una fragmentación y variación entre las regiones que poseen experticia y recursos diferenciados para el apoyo de la ES. Encuentra más en Chantier de l'économie sociale

[Full version in English as below]

Local development in Quebec, Canada.

For over a hundred years, the social economy (SE) has left its mark on the development of Quebec. Community initiated organisations, namely cooperatives, enterprising non-profit organisations and mutual companies have been instrumental to the development of a more humane society and economy over the generations. In recent years, a new generation of SE organisations has proved remarkably successful. The list of new projects and their impact on our communities is impressive: early childhood centers, homecare services, recycling centers, alternative agriculture, new technologies, community-based housing, social tourism and recreation initiatives, culture, communications, and more.

These projects are also a confirmation that a culture of collective entrepreneurship based on principles of democracy and solidarity has taken root throughout Quebec. Today, there are over 7,000 social economy enterprises in Quebec. These enterprises provide employment for over 212,000 people and generate billions in revenue, though this doesn’t begin to account for their impact on social cohesion, human dignity, cultural vitality and reduction of inequities.

The social economy’s contribution to rethinking the development model

The SE is rooted in a broader vision of a plural economy that challenges currently widespread views on our economic development. Rather than reducing the economy to a binary vision of either the private for-profit sector or the public sector, the social economy movement has worked to obtain recognition and support for collectively owned enterprises that serve the interests of the community and their members. Regardless of the area (natural resources, agriculture, manufacturing, services, culture and communications), the challenge for the social economy movement is the same: to guarantee, in a context of market globalization, a collective say on how our resources are managed and how our communities’ needs are met.

Support for the social economy

Two aspects have distinguished the Quebec approach to enabling SE enterprises. First, Quebec has developed a capacity to bring together different stakeholders from various sectors and territories in order to promote and develop the SE. Second, a core element to fostering this development was the territorial approach.

Territorial development

In the 80s, traditional social actors initiated a community economic development process that led to the creation of the first Community economic development corporations (CDECs) in three different neighbourhoods of Montreal. It seemed to the initiators of this local development movement that rather than wait on a “trickle down effect” to aid poor communities, only community action and new types of partnerships could respond adequately to local economic development challenges. Thus CDECs reached out to local business people, local institutions as well as municipal, regional and federal authorities to support a process of community revitalization based on community mobilization and partnerships. The economic vision prevailing at the City of Montreal’s at that time met the vision of civil society and the CDECs were supported financially for more than 30 years. Over the years, the number of CDECs in Quebec grew to 13, all present in relatively poorer urban centers.

In 1997, the Quebec government created local development centers (CLD), inspired by the successful model of the CDEC. New CLDs were established all over the territory of Quebec while in urban areas existing CDECs integrated the CLD mandate. Each CLD appointed one person responsible for accompanying local social economy projects, though de facto the expertise of these agents varied across regions. Organisations dedicated to the development of the social economy would work with the network of CLDs in order to support capacity building, disseminate useful tools to analyse, enable and support the growth of emerging enterprises. The CLD agents were also instrumental in counselling provincial organisations, particularly investment funds, as to the local reality and the relevance for the local community of a new SE initiative.

In 2015, the Quebec provincial government substantially increased the jurisdiction of municipal governments, including responsibility for entrepreneurial support, and withdrew its financing of CLDs while transferring a part of this funding directly to municipalities. Municipalities were left with the choice of maintaining or abolishing their local CLD or CDEC. This meant integrating the services of these organisations into the municipal administration or outsourcing them to a new organisation. In roughly half of the cases, local governments chose to integrate these services into government-controlled structures. In Montreal, the largest city of Quebec, the city chose not to integrate the services into the administration. Instead, the city proposed to merge the 18 CLDs and CDECs in order to create and support 6 new structures, called PME MTL. Consequently, this led to the closure of 8 of Montreal’s 10 CDECs. Apart from the decrease in funding, the main change was that the mandate of territorial development was not included in the mission of the new PME MTL structures.

The result today is a highly variable territorial support system for the development of the social economy. In some cases, there is no longer one agent responsible for the development of SE organisations, which limits expertise regarding the particular needs of social economy enterprises. In most cases, the training of agents, and their knowledge of existing tools, as well as the means to transmit new tools is much reduced since the abolition of a network of territorial development agencies. Moreover, the reorganisation of regional support has increased disparities in the resources attributed to developing the SE. In some cases, local funds remain but there are fewer local development agents. In others, the same number of agents is in place, but they dispose of fewer tools, funds or time to support the development of collective projects. In 2017, a new provincial law gave more power to municipalities in the field of economic development which devolved further responsibilities and financing to the local level. This allowed new funds to be fuelled to the local economic development ecosystem, especially in Montreal. In the recent Economic Development Strategy of the City of Montreal, more than 11m$ is dedicated to support social economy projects via the PME MTL network.

In the meantime, in a context where entrepreneurship has risen in popularity, a variety of new actors have emerged to incubate or support new ventures, including universities or private consulting firms. Moreover, in certain communities, existing organisations have either developed new services or pooled resources in order to answer unfilled needs of emerging projects. These include community service organisations, SE organisations and coalitions of SE enterprises. Here again, the number of new support structures, their capacity and knowledge of the specificities of the SE and is highly variable by region.

In conclusion, after a period that saw the emergence and the deployment of territorial-based networked structures to support entrepreneurship, including for SE, the situation is highly variable and fragmented today. While increased powers have been devolved to local level, it becomes all the more important to raise awareness among local actors (private as well as public) of the potential of the social economy. Increasing the knowledge of international best practices developed elsewhere could also be useful locally. We look to GSEF, amongst others, to support this work. Moreover, in the coming year, the Chantier de l’économie sociale will be working on mapping existing resources at the local, regional and provincial level. It will enable a collective discussion in order to identify territories and sectors where this support is inadequate and, most importantly, find or develop solutions to reinforce this support.

Provincial election in 2018

Territory development is a concern in the upcoming provincial election in October 2018. The aging of the population, the attraction or retention of youth in certain regions, the importance of fostering locally-driven efforts to revitalize the economy, the opportunities offered by a panoply of abandoned buildings and lands, are all important issues where the SE is part of the solution. The capacity of SE initiatives to emerge and provide answers to some of these challenges will depend on the existence of a solid ecosystem of support, regardless of the sector or territory where these initiatives develop..

* To find out more about the topic and related projects, please visit Chantier de l'Économie sociale website here

This article is written by the City of Montreal and Le Chantier de l'économie sociale

The GSEF CWG (Communication Working Group) will explore the four central themes of the ‘GSEF2018 – Values and Competitiveness for Inclusive and Sustainable Local Development’ to highlight the significance of the topic and to provide background information for readers. Four CWG members will take on four topics respectively, and the writing will be covered via the GSEF newsletter featured article section.

Plan for covering the GSEF 2018 central theme

  1. Co-creation of public policies by RIPESS (Newsletter June edition)
  2. The contribution of the Social Economy to the Transformation of the territory by Montreal City and Chantier de l'économie sociale (Newsletter July edition)
  3. Challenges for the Growth of Social Economy Institutions by APAY (Newsletter Aug edition)
  4. The future of work and employment: the role of the Social Economy (Newsletter Sep edition