The Global Social Economy Forum (GSEF) is an international organization that was established in 2014 following an inaugural meeting held in Seoul the same year. The GSEF is an international association that seeks to facilitate collaboration between local governments and social economy organizations that are dedicated to the development of a social and solidarity economy.
|GSEF 2014 inaugural meeting||GSEF 2016 forum|
The GSEF boasts members from all around the world and includes members representing 23 local governments and numerous social economy organizations. Local government members include the SMG, the City of Montreal (Canada), and Bilbao City (Spain), etc. Member organizations include the AVPN (Singapore), HKCSS (China), and Japan Workers’ Co-operative Union (Japan), and more.
Park Won Soon, the mayor of Seoul and a GSEF representing the government, and Song Kyong Yong, the President of the Seoul Social Economy Network and a GSEF member representing private organizations, are co-chairman of the organization.
The GSEF, based in Seoul, holds a forum every two years. The organization also holds workshops and networking events for member organizations and hosts the Asia Policy Forum and seminars through which members can share social economy ideas and expertise.
In the first half of 2016, the GSEF partnered with AVPN of Hong Kong to host the Asia Policy Dialogue. The GSEF also organized a session titled ‘Potential and Diffusion of Social Economy as a Means to Utilize Urban Policy for Achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)’ as part of the International Forum on ‘Urban Policy for the Sustainable Development Goals’ held in 2016.
In addition to these activities, the GSEF has and continues to participate in many international conferences and conduct PR activities to actively recruit members and strengthen the spirit of cooperation and solidarity between international organizations and members of the GSEF. For more information about the GSEF, including detailed information on member cities and private organizations, and to read the GSEF’s monthly newsletters and important studies on social economy, please visit the GSEF’s official website at www.gsef-net.org.
The concept of social economy, as proposed at the inaugural meeting of the GSEF in 2014, has emerged as a viable alternative to a capitalistic market economy, the latter of which gives rise to a myriad of social problems including damage to environment, the widening of the gap between the so-called rich and poor, and increased social inequality.
Unlike a capitalistic market economy, which places its emphasis on maximizing profits, a social economy is an economic model that values people above all else. At its core, a social economy is a human-centered economic model.
The idea of a social economy first emerged in the early 1800s in Europe and the US and has been seen in many different forms including cooperatives, social enterprises, mutual aid unions, and community businesses. In Korea, social economy has mainly taken the form of farmers’ cooperatives and consumer co-op federations that were established by the urban poor in the 1920s.
All these different forms of social economy—including cooperatives, social enterprises, and self-sufficient enterprises—were established to help solve social issues such as structural unemployment, job insecurity, the widening gap between the rich and the poor, and regional decline. The role of the regional economy (and the associated social economy) has become even more important following the Credit Union Movement in the 1960s, the Consumer Cooperative Movement in the 1980s, and the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, and is even more imperative today.
|Programs of the ‘GSEF 2016’|
The second meeting of the GSEF (GSEF 2016) was held at the Palais des Congrès de Montréal in Montreal, Canada from September 7 to 9, 2016. The forum was attended by over 1,500 participants from 330 cities in 62 countries.
Participants of the forum agreed that social economy could feasibly play a key role in solving some of the social issues—such as social exclusion, unemployment, and social inequality—that currently plague modern society.
Park Won Soon, the mayor of Seoul and co-chair of the GSEF, acted as the chairman of the GSEF 2016 forum. During his welcoming speech, Park emphasized the importance of social economy saying, “As the world continues to face economic crises and gross social inequality, we now find ourselves in an era in which we need a paradigm shift and a new growth engine. Many of us increasingly believe that social economy is the key to solving many of the issues we face today.” He added that, “Social economy is an economy based on civic participation. It is neither governed by the market, nor the country. It is a movement that aims to revive core values such as cooperation, collaboration, solidarity, and equality. Moreover, it is an economy that is spurred by the values of altruism, mutualism, honor, and dedication.”
Over the past four years, Seoul has achieved both quantitative and qualitative growth through the creation of high-quality jobs and improved social values. The Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) has seen an increased profit of KRW 1.46 trillion and has increased the number of jobs by 17,000 over the past three years.
|Inside the Seoul Social Economy Hub||Number of supporting organizations and areas of social economy classified by region|
Over the past three years, the employment and sales of social enterprises, cooperatives, and town companies have doubled. The number of social economy enterprises since the establishment of the GSEF has increased four-fold from just 819 in 2012 to 3,318 as of July 2016.
The number of cooperatives in the city has increased exponentially from 16 in 2012 to 2,541 as of July 2016 following the enactment of the Basic Law. Sales have almost doubled from KRW 687 billion to KRW 1.46 trillion, and employment has risen from 9,300 to 17,400.
In the wake of these changes, Seoul was awarded 12.9 points on the Social Performance Index, an index which measures the value of jobs and social services created for vulnerable people groups by social enterprises (as opposed to through financial investments by the government).
|Mayors of major cities participating in the opening ceremony of the GSEF 2016||Mayor Park Won Soon with Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre|
Numerous studies on social economy have highlighted the importance of achieving a high degree of cooperation between local governments in order for social economy to reach its full potential. Professor Christian Iaione of Guglielmo Marconi University also emphasized the role of cities as a common pool of resources during his presentation of the Bologna case study as part of the forum’s ‘Urban Policy for the Sustainable Development Goals’.
He noted that since local governments have the unique ability to directly hear the needs of the general public and reflect these needs when creating policies, it is crucial that social economy movement should cooperate with local governments. Local governments must design urban spaces and enforce laws so that relevant resources can be effectively used to serve the public.
At the forum, Professor Marguerite Mendell of Concordia University also took the stage to share Montreal’s experience of cooperating with social economy organizations. In 2009, the municipal government of Montreal signed an agreement with key social organizations including academic societies, local field specialists and city representatives for the purpose of sharing information and improving related services. However, the agreement failed to achieve its purpose since the municipal government was unable to effectively cooperate with the organizations and was ignorant of the goods and services offered by said organizations. The city also proved to be unable to expand the reach of the social economy organizations that provided the goods and services. Currently, these organizations and the Montreal municipal government are still in the process of discussing ways to improve the original agreement. The Mayo of Montreal responded to this request at the forum.
Denis Coderre, the Mayor of Montreal, also took the forum stage to emphasize that social economy is deeply related to the livelihoods of the public. He stressed that in order to transform the social economy ideology into a mainstream movement, local governments and the general population must join hands to think globally and act locally.
At the conclusion of the GSEF 2016, GSEF members pledged to establish a platform to exchange key knowledge and expertise related to social economy.
As part of this pledge, the city governments of Seoul and Montreal agreed to share knowledge and information on social economy and promised to establish C.I.T.I.E.S, a major organization for the promotion of knowledge exchange between social economy activists.
The newly established organization is expected to play a role in improving the executive abilities of the GSEF in strengthening ties between local governments and the general population and spreading knowledge and exemplary cases of social economy.
At the closing ceremony of the forum, all the attendees signed the ‘Montreal Declaration’. In signing the declaration, attendees pledged to contribute to and take the lead in tackling regional issues using innovative ideas based on social economy.
A number of domestic organizations also made presentations at the forum, including: the SMG, Seoul Social Economy Network, Ddabok Community Support Center (Gyeonggi-do), Association of Korean Local Governments for Social Economy and Solidarity, and iCOOP KOREA, a consumer co-op federations. Many of these organizations made presentations at the forum and spoke about collaborative governance, public procurement, social agreement, moving, urban change, regeneration, and gentrification. There was also a focus among the speeches on encouraging networking between politicians and CEOs to form a social and solidarity economy and establish a local ecosystem that would allow social economy to flourish.
After the forum, a follow-up forum was held with the general public and other interested parties to share the achievements of the GSEF 2016. At the follow-up forum, presenters shared cases of successful social economy from around the world and discussed ways in which social economy could be applied in Korea.
Mayor Park Won Soon praised the GSEF 2016 forum and follow-up forum, saying that the events provided an opportunity for local governments and social economy organizations to gather together and find ways to overcome the latest global economic crises. He also added that the forum provided an opportunity for GSEF members to share their visions and reconsider the ideologies of the GSEF (written in the Seoul Declaration), upon which the organization was founded. Mayor Park concluded his comments at the follow-up forum by saying that, as the chairman of the GSEF and the mayor of Seoul, he would do his best to ensure that the GSEF would play an important and leading role in achieving sustainable development based on social economy.