Today, perhaps as never before, more people are becoming aware that capitalism has turned our lives and our planet into a commodity. A system that is environmentally unsustainable and socially unjust, and that it is not able to guarantee the happiness and dignified life conditions of all persons in any place on the planet. In the last three decades, there has been an explosion of solidarity-based economic practices around the world due to a range of reasons including:
- An increasing number of people throughout the world are experiencing deteriorating living conditions and deepening poverty.
- With the logic of capitalism, people and society become resources to be exploited. Their value in the form of labour or social relationships are reduced to their worth in maximizing profits.
- The deep environmental degradation, provoked by an extractive, intensive and extensive linear economic model, leading to widespread pollution and climate change.
In this context, grassroots solidarity-based economic initiatives have emerged rediscovering timeless practices and cultural traits, renewing and adapting them to the current context through the use of new technologies and other contemporary, regenerative and resilient resources.
The term “Social Solidarity Economy” or SSE started to be used in the late 90s, where an assembly took place in Lima, Peru on July 4th, 1997 and the participants from more than 30 countries agreed that there needed to be a strong integration between the more traditional social economy structures (collective enterprises – a sector of the solidarity economy) and the more holistic and alternative approaches of solidarity economy practices and communities. Given SSE’s respect for the diversity of local experience, history, culture, and political/economic realities, there are differences in its definition. There is nevertheless a common, general vision with shared values and principles that is found worldwide. In recent years, a global SSE movement is emerging – a rapidly growing transformative, citizen-led alternative to market-driven capitalism, aimed at systemic change to build an economy and society that serves people and planet. SSE is grounded in locally rooted initiatives that are increasingly globally networked, with a broad political (but not ideological) framework based on solidarity, equity, human and Earth rights, self-determination, mutuality, and cooperation.
SSE proposes to confront the development of a capitalist, neoliberal economy that is far removed from the reality of people’s diversity and resource limitations, focused on extractivism, the unlimited growth of consumption and production, and disregarding the social and environmental effects that this entails. Its sole objective is profit and profit maximisation, increasing the already existing unsustainable precariousness, poverty and inequality. SSE proposes a system that is not only economic, but also socio-political and cultural, basing life-sustaining processes at the centre of socio-economic activity, placing people, communities and the environment above capital and its accumulation, and rejecting relations of inequality and exclusion based on gender, sexual orientation and identity, age or origin through values related, among others, to cooperation, reciprocity, self-management and solidarity. SSE includes a wide range of practices that span economic, social, environmental, political, communitarian or holistic dimensions.
The SSE encompasses enterprises, organizations and other entities that are engaged in economic, social, and environmental activities to serve the collective and/or general interest, which are based on the principles of voluntary cooperation and mutual aid, democratic and/or participatory governance, autonomy and independence, and the primacy of people and social purpose over capital in the distribution and use of surpluses and/or profits as well as assets.
(International Labour Conference – 110th Session, ILO, 2022)
To host the movement in Asia, Asian Solidarity Economy Council was established in 2017. ASEC, the organization, is the continental network in Asia of the Intercontinental Network for the Promotion of Social Solidarity Economy (RIPESS). The partners and members of ASEC are spread in 16 countries (Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam). RIPESS is a global network of continental networks in Latin America and the Caribbean, North America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Oceania.
Through training, seminar, consultation, and raising public awareness ASEC promotes the concept and practices of SSE using Five Dimensions Guidelines to assess how organizations reflect the principles of SSE.
The “SSE Five Dimensions” are found in cooperatives, associations, mutual societies, foundations, social enterprises, self-help groups and other entities operating in accordance with the principles of the SSE, with various sectoral issues. ASEC believes the attainment of marginalised workers organisations in establishing transformative social protection will shape social solidarity economy to live a life of dignity, equality and prosperity.
The Big Three
The big three of SSE.
Prof Datuk Denison Jayasooria
Chairman of ASEC
Dr Benjamin Quinones Jr.
Founder of ASEC
Dr Eri Trinurini Adhi
Board Member of RIPESS