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The rising star of social economy in urban policy 18 June 2013

Posted by cooperatoby in social economy, Social enterprise.
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180620133040 Urban seminarSome would call it rivet-counting but I am always happy to see the social economy get recognition in any sort of policy. So it was with pleasure that I sat through two back-to-back presentations this morning – both of documents I had the pleasure of editing.

The first was the set of 50 urban development case studies published by DG REGIO. These are Rolls Royce case studies, coming equipped with a standfirst (for MEPs) and an executive summary as well as an 8-page journalistic story (for Economist readers) and a 16-page analytical template (for nerds).
The third sector is an important partner in urban projects dealing with social inclusion, said expert Laura Colini. Excellent examples include Creggan Enterprises in Derry and Limerick Enterprise Development Partnership. But social enterprises also figure at the ‘hard end of the spectrum, in the form of the Key Fund. This Sheffield-based fund is, according to Peter Ramsden, the first social investment fund to benefit from ERDF finance, and an excellent example of an ERDF financial engineering instrument that gets money to where it is needed. This against a background where there seems to be an inverse relationship between the size of a project and the transparency of how this pubic money is spent.

Cities of Tomorrow: Action Today

The social economy also features in the set of 6 thematic reports URBACT launched today. My pleasure is only slightly attenuated by the fact that the place the social economy gets the highest billing is in the report on Shrinking Cities. This topic in itself is fascinating, and curiously overlooked by policy. Although about half of Europe’s cities are shrinking, almost everybody is in denial about it. They cling hard to the paradigm of perpetual growth, which stops them looking for more creative ways to move forward. These are ways, suggests the thematic expert Hans Schlappa, such as polishing up neglected jewels and finding interim uses for empty buildings. Demographic change is a particular issue for shrinking cites as they tend to have more than their share of older people, which places a strain on social services. Part of the solution is to realise that these people are just as much assets as liabilities; you can bring their skills into the provision of services by venturing into ‘coproduction’. This is where the social economy comes into its own.

Social enterprise – a tool for integration

The chief message of these two publications is that urban policy works best when it is integrated – and that means focusing more on people, and not just things – doing ESF-type actions as well as the traditional ‘hard’ ERDF-type actions. NGOs and social enterprises are of course the perfect vehicle through which people can be empowered to improve their own localities. The social enterprise sector’s profile is steadily rising given the attention being paid to it through the Social Business Initiative, and it is likely to rise further once the €90m investment fund to be launched under the Programme for Social Change and Innovation gets under way next year. So I hope it is given a big role in the partnership contracts and operational programmes that are now being thought about and written.


1. CSPCintern - 19 June 2013

Reblogged this on CreateAction!.

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