Keynote Speech of 2014 Inaugural Meeting of the Global Social Economy Forum
Date November 17th, 2014 | Venue Multi-purpose Hall, Seoul City Hall
It is a great pleasure to be here today. I am the mayor of Seoul, Park Won Soon. Welcome to the 2014 Inaugural Meeting of the Global Social Economy Forum. I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to Minister Juan Maria Aburto Rique of Basque, Vice Mayor Josefina Belmonte of Quezon City, CEO Nancy Neamtan of le Chantier, Professor Marguerite Mendell of Karl Polanyi Institute, as well as representatives of each city and areas of the private sector, as well as social economy experts for coming all the way here. I also thank Chairman Park Nea Hak of the Council, Chairman Song Gyeong Yong of the organizing committee, who prepared this event with us, and the government staff related to social economy.
Today, through the establishment of GSEF, we have finally made the two beautiful and touching words solidarity and cooperation our own. Marcus Aurelius said all men are made to cooperate with one another, like the rows of the upper and lower teeth. Human beings have created the greatest history when they worked in solidarity and cooperation.
The world, however, is facing more serious and important challenges and crises than ever before.
The gap between the rich and poor, resource depletion and energy issues, low birth rates and ageing societies, and low growth and unemployment have become pending issues right before our eyes. They have emerged as global problems that the world, beyond one region, city, or nation, is going through together, and the world must resolve together. However, as the saying goes, “Crisis is another word for opportunity;” we should turn these crises into opportunities for a new, global conversion. We must make these opportunities stepping-stones towards another world, where world citizens live together in happiness.
Social economy will be the key to opening the door of hope wide, leading to a new world. Social economy is already recognized as a new means to solve our immediate problems, such as economic crises, environmental issues, and the collapse of local communities. Social economy provides an opportunity for us to solve our problems ourselves by viewing ecological problems in an integrated perspective, inducing democratic decision-making and participation. Above all, social economy opens the door to unity and cooperation of world citizens and a global community beyond the borders between cities and regions.
In November 2013, we met each other in this very spot. We looked into the examples of successes and failures of societal innovation through social economy in many regions and cities, including social enterprises, cooperatives, and local community businesses. Furthermore, we emphasized that it was necessary to actively share experiences and resources between cities and countries. We agreed to do so by adopting the Seoul Declaration. I am confident that the newly-established Global Social Economy Forum will connect city governments and private organizations all over the world, and our unity will change the world.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government is also implementing a variety of policies to create and develop an ecology of social economy. Based on the belief that a balanced development of a market economy, public economy, and social economy can maximize the abilities of individuals and solve the problems of society, the Seoul Government is expanding joint purchases, establishing a systematic intermediate support system, discovering innovative social economy organizations that can solve social problems, and nurturing social economy organizations based on local communities.
The common purpose of Seoul’s social economy policies is to establish mutual solidarity, cooperation, and trust. Based on that, we are presenting alternatives, hoping to address all the problems in our society, including inequality, imbalance, alienation, isolation, and employment.
For that purpose, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has established the Social Enterprises Support Center to promote cooperation between social economy organizations, to discover new entities, and to provide a variety of education and consulting so that the organizations can foster their own ability to propagate. The social enterprises development program of the Social Enterprises Support Center is an innovative model. So far, approximately 1,700 representatives from 37 countries and 63 cities and organizations in Korea have visited to benchmark the model and cooperate with the center.
In addition, the Seoul Government is not sparing any support for social enterprises that do not have proper marketing by operating social economy markets, on-line shopping malls, and other forms of marketing. The government itself became a client of these social enterprises and is striving towards the goal of 80 billion won of joint purchases in this year alone. The GSEF event this year has been prepared by various social economy organizations in every detail, from translation and interpretation to refreshments, exhibitions, and performances.
We are also seeking to discover other innovative models with business models that have a large social influence and foster a variety of enterprises. We are dedicated to providing outstanding social enterprises with intensive support in marketing channels and promotion, so that they can grow to be promising enterprises. Consistent execution of these social economy policies will be an engine to form and develop a sustainable social economy ecology.
Let me introduce you to some policies of Seoul to show how Seoul’s different attempts regarding social economy are changing the landscape of the city as well as citizens’ lives.
Social economy considers democratic decision-making and participation as the most important core value. Likewise, citizens are at the center of the decision-making process and participation of every policy of Seoul. Seoul City is striving to induce active and voluntary participation from citizens, under the principle that “citizens are the mayor.” The administration of the city is operated through cooperative governance with citizens and innovations in the governance system.
The Listening Policy Debate and Seoul Idea Expo are good examples of cooperative governance with citizens by inducing the participation of citizens. The Listening Policy Debate is the most representative window of off-line communication channels in which the government listens to citizens’ various opinions on one topic and applies them to policies.
Listening Policy Debates have been held so far with topics including “One Less Nuclear Power Plant” and “Countermeasures against Ultrafine Particles” and twelve thousand citizens have participated. Out of 1,141 cases, 76% of the citizens’ opinions have been reflected in policies and are being executed in the administration. Additionally, in September every year Seoul Idea Expo, which benchmarked Almedalen in Sweden, is a festival where citizens participate and make policies themselves.
The festival started in 2012, and this year approximately thirty five thousand citizens participated in the 3rd festival and offered around 400 ideas for the administration of Seoul in every area, including safety, housing, and childcare. 35 civil organizations conducted discussions and debates on a variety of topics of social economy, historical and cultural heritage, and others.
Governance with citizens using social media is also a pillar of our administration. My Twitter account has more than 1.3 million followers, and social media provides anyone in the world with a forum of policy debates. Citizens’ voices posted here are being applied to our administration and are being reflected in policy.
The late-night bus service Owl Bus is a policy created by cooperative governance of citizens, corporations, and the government. As a city with its lights on 24/7, Seoul has a lot of late-night traffic.
For citizens who work late, the government concluded an agreement with mobile-service companies to analyze over 3 billion cases of telephone traffic and big data of 5 million cases of late-night taxi pick-up and drop-off points in order to begin the Owl Bus service. The requests citizens posted on social media were also reflected in the policy. In this way, the Owl Bus has topped the list of the citizens’ top 10 favorite policies.
The Healthy Weight 3.3.3 project is another representative health policy created by cooperative governance of citizens and private corporations. The name of the obesity prevention project means losing 3kg of weight in 3 months, and then maintaining that weight for 3 months. The same weight of rice as citizens lose is donated to the underprivileged. The project became known as a good-hearted project in which citizens could take care of both themselves and neighbors, and approximately 17 thousand citizens have participated so far.
Realizing smart and good-hearted policies by grasping new trends and policy demands through information sharing with the private sector: this is true private-public governance.
In 2012, the Seoul Metropolitan Government announced a “Seoul of Sharing” under the motto of moving “Beyond Having Towards an age of Sharing.” Its results have started to come out as specific achievements. In particular, corporations and Seoul’s administration supporting them are creating synergy effects.
For Nanum Car, one of the brands of Seoul, we integrated the licenses of middle and small-sized car sharing businesses into one brand. Since the Seoul Government conducted public relations and provided administrative support, including discounts on parking fees of public parking lots, its usage rate has increased by over 150%. In the case of Kiple, a sharing corporation for children’s clothing, after matching autonomous districts and local public daycare centers, its sharing rate has increased by a whopping 120%.
Sharing things, space, information, time, and talent provides a starting point to address countless problems in modern society, such as limited available resources and loss of human relationships, and it is changing citizens’ lives for the better.
Currently, about 1,000 social enterprises are operating in Seoul. They restore collapsed communities and take the lead in developing individuals, neighborhoods, and regions, and in solving social problems.
Social economy can be pulled off only when it is based on neighborhoods and regions. A representative example is the handmade shoe cooperative in Seongsu-dong, Seoul. This area is populated with 70% of the handmade shoe manufacturers in the country. The shoes produced here are among the highest quality in the world, so they are supplied to quality stores, including department stores.
Despite their high quality, the shoes were given a cold reception by customers because they were not a big-name brand. What mattered was the brand. In response, we organized the Seongsu-dong handmade shoe cooperative. Seongsu-dong handmade shoes succeeded in establishing an image as top quality shoes for a reasonable price, and the business area, which used to be in decline, emerged again as the center of handmade shoes where people all over the country come to buy shoes.
The low birth rate is a common issue that Seoul and many other cities in the world are facing. Difficulties in childcare are considered to be among the main causes of the low birth rate. Instances of women quitting work or giving up their career to take care of their children are increasing as well. This is a big loss not only for these women, but also for society as a whole. Social Mate SOM is a cooperative organized by women with discontinued careers in order to find a use for their education and skills. Instead of fixed working hours from 9 am to 6 pm, they manage their own time to complete assignments that each of them is assigned based on their skills and available hours. They help each other to compensate for any shortages caused by differences in working hours. In this way, they manage to continue their career while taking care of their children.
Seoul is dreaming of a transformation from an energy-consuming city to an energy-generating city. One of the representative projects of this dream is the One Less Nuclear Power Plant project. Its goal of saving 2 million TOE, the amount of energy generated by one nuclear power plant, has been achieved. Reliable assistants of the policy are 11 cooperatives related to photovoltaic energy. About 3,500 members of the 11 cooperatives gathered to set up 7 power plants and another 7 are going to be established. The biggest achievement is that citizens agreed on the importance of alternative energy and voluntarily invested funds and set up power plants.
I have only briefly introduced you to several policies and cases, efforts and achievements regarding social economy. I think Seoul still has a very long way to go. I also think today’s establishment of the Global Social Economy Forum will be a wonderful guide on Seoul’s way forward. The forum will provide a platform for sharing the visions and experience of a number of cities and organizations all over the world. The activities of the forum will give us opportunities to spread the values of social economy into the center of awareness and practice of world citizens. I also expect them to build another level of solidarity and cooperation.
Yoko Ono once said, “A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is a reality.” I firmly believe that our meeting today will make our dreams come true. I could not be happier and more proud that the event is being held in Seoul. Thank you again for joining us.