Strasbourg: a second successful European summit on Social Economy

Almost one year after the Mannheim summit, the actors of the Social Economy met on 5 and 6 May in Strasbourg. The European Social Economy summit organised in the framework of the French presidency of the Council of the European Union and with the support of the Eurometropolis of Strasbourg.

The objective was to discuss the place of Social Economy in the European Union and its future. During these two days, many workshops and conferences were organised, gathering almost 2000 participants from 14 European countries. It was an opportunity to present these ideas and to meet the actors to cooperate on future projects.

The Social Good Accelerator had the chance to co-organise 2 workshops and a conference with its partners around the commons and digital and social transition(s). Let’s take a look back at these two days of exchanges and ideas on the social economy and the Europe of tomorrow.

Digital, social added value and concrete initiatives

Built with ConcertES, UNIPSO and Cooperatives EU, a first workshop aimed at providing a collective answer to the question: ‘how to empower Social Economy through digital?’ The concrete contributions of digital to the Social Economy were discussed. The participants, integrated in the conversation, had the role of bringing the reflection to fruition. After a joint presentation and validation of the problematic, the organisers presented inspiring projects and their common vision.

 

Three examples of digital empowerment of the Social Economy

1/ Unipso and ConcertES have set up the DigitalEES project. This project provides concrete support to enterprises in their digital transformation. One of the first actions is to raise awareness among social economy enterprises of the challenges of digital technology and to share experiences. Then, a specific digital transformation methodology is proposed to the social economy enterprise according to the results of its technological maturity assessment. Finally, personalised support is offered by specialists. Throughout, funding opportunities are proposed because one of the problems of the social economy is its difficulty in finding sources of funding.

2/ The Social Good Accelerator then had the opportunity to present the Social Tech Academy. This European project, created in partnership with Pour La Solidarité, EGInA SRL and Fundacion Esplai, aims to create a platform of resources for the digital professions of the social economy. This platform, which will be launched in 2023, will offer, among other things, interviews with professionals, webinars, job and training offers and various other tools to orient oneself towards the Social Tech professions.

3/ Finally, Cooperatives Europe presented its Coopedia initiative. Coopedia is a collaborative search engine that collects a wide range of educational resources in different languages on cooperative entrepreneurship. This project can be described as a “digital commons” (a digital resource owned by all) because the code is open source, meaning that it can be retrieved and used by anyone.

Once these inspiring projects were presented, the opportunities and constraints of digital transformation of social economy organisations were presented.

Collective intelligence for reflection on the digital transformation of the social economy

The aim of the game: each participant writes down his or her ideas on post-its that are stuck on a board, he or she presents them, debates them and the audience enriches them to arrive at a common response.

The ideas that emerged were as varied as they were relevant. In particular, the audience was able to identify a number of opportunities that are possible thanks to digital technology:

🟢 Digital technology allows the social economy to pool its practices and make economies of scale.

🟢 Digital technology allows projects to be shared with as many people as possible by breaking down territorial and language barriers (the language barrier being partly resolved by translators such as Deepl). 

🟢 The collaborative practice of the social economy is very close to the practice of open source, which is an opportunity to develop an alternative internet.

Secondly, threats and shortcomings of digital were pointed out:

🔴 Lack of funding.

🔴 Digital marketing is less developed in social economy enterprises than in traditional enterprises, although it is just as important. 

🔴 The technical language and philosophy of open source lead to impostor syndrome, which hinders its democratisation. 

To improve this situation, several avenues were mentioned:
👉Funding innovation to redistribute and funding research and development to develop new tools
👉Create a social economy crypto-currency where all profits would be donated to social causes
👉Finance the design of social economy organisations through a fund to better design social economy interfaces
👉Make digital education a priority
👉Remove guilt digital technology for the vulnerable
👉Decentralise technologies
👉Bridge the gap between open source and decision-makers with interpreters who translate the technical language.
👉Putting a deadline on data for better protection of the environment and people
👉Encourage the sharing of resources

To the question of the contribution of social economy to digital, the main idea that emerged from the discussions was that social economy brings a different perspective to digital. It is a different philosophy that focuses on people first. Linking digital to social economy makes it possible to propose an alternative digital, closer to the basic idea of the Internet, centred on sharing and cooperation.

In 2018, the pioneers of the Social Good Accelerator organised the Social Innovation Village in the Web Summit in Lisbon
Source: Lorenzo Novaro (Cooperatives Europe)

Digital commons and collaborative platforms

The workshop on digital commons brought together Jeanne Bretécher (President, Social Good Accelerator); Diana Dovgan (Secretary General, CECOP); Corinne Vercher-Chaptal (Teacher and researcher, Coop des Communs, Université Sorbonne Paris Nord) and Thierry Perrin (Confédération Générale des SCOP et des SCIC). This workshop, moderated by Sarah de Heusch (Smart Belgium), was an opportunity to review the links between commons and collaborative and cooperative platforms.

This workshop served as a bridge to the previous day’s workshop on concrete social digital initiatives. In addition, the DigitalEES project was presented as a tool to support the social economy in an organisational transition. Other points were then raised and linked, whether it was the conditions of platform workers or the European reference framework of basic digital skills (DigComp 2.2). At the heart of these examples, the aim is to use the digital commons intelligently to demonstrate impact.

In this respect, the Transition Pathways initiative was discussed. This open consultation aimed to draw the contours of environmental and digital transitions in the framework of the European objectives for 2050. The place reserved for the social economy must be significant, while ensuring that the European model is competitive, democratic and alternative to the large purely profit-making economic models.

Digital, social added value and concrete initiatives

Built with ConcertES, UNIPSO and Cooperatives EU, a first workshop aimed at providing a collective answer to the question: “how to empower SSE through digital? The concrete contributions of digital to the SSE were discussed. The participants, integrated in the conversation, had the role of bringing the reflection to fruition.

After a joint presentation and validation of the problematic, the organisers presented inspiring projects and their common vision.

Three examples of digital empowerment of the SSE

Unipso and ConcertES have set up the DigitalEES project. This project provides concrete support to enterprises in their digital transformation. One of the first actions is to raise awareness among social economy enterprises of the challenges of digital technology and to share experiences. Then, a specific digital transformation methodology is proposed to the SSE enterprise according to the results of its technological maturity assessment. Finally, personalised support is offered by specialists. Throughout, funding opportunities are proposed because one of the problems of the social economy is its difficulty in finding sources of funding.

The Social Good Accelerator then had the opportunity to present the Social Tech Academy. This European project, created in partnership with Pour la Solidarité, Egina SRL and Fundacion Esplai, aims to create a platform of resources for the digital professions of the SSE. This platform, which will be launched in 2023, will offer, among other things, interviews with professionals, webinars, job and training offers and various other tools to help people find their way into the Social Tech professions.

Finally, Cooperatives Europe presented its Coopedia initiative. Coopedia is a collaborative search engine that collects a wide range of educational resources in different languages on cooperative entrepreneurship. This project can be described as a “digital commons” (a digital resource owned by all) because the code is open source, meaning that it can be retrieved and used by anyone.

Once these inspiring projects were presented, the opportunities and constraints of digital transformation of social economy organisations also were.

About the authors

Justine Coopman
justine(at)socialgoodaccelerator.eu

Thomas Brisbart
thomas(at)socialgoodaccelerator.eu