Defining "Social Economy Impact" in a Danish EU-context

Gurli Jakobsen, Anker Brink Lund

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Abstract

The paper is motivated by the interest to understand how the concept ‘social economy’ gets a social, political, and academic identity in countries where social welfare and civil society traditionally is conceptualized as being the domain of the public sector and the third sector respectively, the latter meaning civil society organizations or the voluntary sector, as is the case with the Danish society. When the first EU study of employment in the third system in the, then 15, member countries was published in 2001 by CIRIEC, the concept ‘social economy’ became a reality for the author of the Danish country report. It remained, however, a purely academic concept related to this study. It had practically no resonance neither in the political nor within the social scientific milieus in Denmark at the time. This has changed. Today ‘Social Economy’ has gained a clear identification in the political discourse in Denmark. It is now a concept that identifies activities, which basically deal with work integration of persons who have become marginalized from the conventional labour market. In 2014 the Danish government passed a law on 'Registered Social Enterprise' [social economic enterprise]. Quite a number of local authorities (municipalities) today have social economy on their webpage as a specific tag. They have developed strategies, policies and concrete actions of collaboration and cocreation with private and social enterprises under the tag ‘social economy’. In other words, ‘social economy’ is now gaining a public identity associated with social innovation and cocreation in social welfare between public institutions and social enterprise.
At the same time, Denmark has a rich history of a very developed social economy (in the classical sense) within many economic sectors: energy, agriculture, insurance, work, consumers, and various educational institutions, and which is still alive and active, in spite of a strong pressure to demutualize. In all the CIRIEC studies of employment in the EU-member countries DK has been rated close to the average of the EU. These studies apply an operationalization of social economy as organization sand enterprise like cooperatives, associations, mutual and foundations. In this light a conceptualization of social economy as a specific collaboration between public authority and civil society organizations is a very partial one, if not in contradiction with the reality reflected in the method used by the CIRIEC-studies. A method which is closer to the more classical understanding of social economy as being constituted by enterprises and organizations whose ownership and governance are based on an associative structure and a distribution of the surplus for the members and/or the community, i.e. the conceptualizations expressed by “Social Economy Europe”, the ILO, as well as some institutions of the EU. We find this issue essential for two reasons. One is a concern for ‘social economy’ as being a central concept with an important impact on economic behaviour based on democratic governance and business ownership, and which is undervalued in the present focus on ‘social welfare impact’ as the main defining feature. The other reason is related to the international ongoing efforts to develop ways of making better and more comparable international statistics, i.e. the weight of social economy.
The paper is composed of 2 parts; one is based on a recent Danish study that traces how the concept of social economy’ has evolved in the EU and influenced the Danish view and present adaptation of the concept; the other is an empirical study of the social economy, in its present identity in Denmark, and how it is being shaped by the dynamics of both local and EU politics. Based on these results, we shall discuss the challenges to the present official understanding of the concept “social economy impact” at the crossroad of Danish cooperatives and EU-promoted welfare reform.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCIRIEC 2019. Social and Solidarity Economy: Moving Towards a New Economic System : Book of Abstracts
Number of pages2
Place of PublicationBucharest
PublisherTritonic Publishing House
Publication date2019
Pages150-151
ISBN (Print)9786067494242
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Event7th International Research Conference on Social Economy. CIRIEC 2019 - Bucharest, Romania
Duration: 6 Jun 20199 Jun 2019
Conference number: 7
http://www.ciriec.uliege.be/en/event-ciriec/7th-ciriec-international-research-conference-on-social-economy-bucharest-romania-june-6-9-2019/

Conference

Conference7th International Research Conference on Social Economy. CIRIEC 2019
Number7
CountryRomania
CityBucharest
Period06/06/201909/06/2019
Internet address

Keywords

  • Social economy impact
  • Denmark
  • Social economy identity and weight
  • National welfare policy
  • EU social policy

Cite this

Jakobsen, G., & Lund, A. B. (2019). Defining "Social Economy Impact" in a Danish EU-context. In CIRIEC 2019. Social and Solidarity Economy: Moving Towards a New Economic System: Book of Abstracts (pp. 150-151). Bucharest: Tritonic Publishing House.