A solidarity or social economy is the sum of productive activities of goods and services organized in the form of independent structures (associations, cooperatives, ONG, etc.) that are subject to democratic and participatory management, and are free to engage in them.
These activities are central to social and community objectives (sustainable development, employment, fair trade, fighting poverty and exclusion…) in their purposes, and solidarity relations among members are prioritized at the expense of individual interest or material gain. The institutions of the solidarity economy are characterized by giving priority to people rather than giving them capital in the decision-making process (vote for each member), and the refore the establishment of these institutions is described as democratic.
The solidarity economy seeks to reconcile the objectives of growth and economic development with the principles of equity and social justice. It puts the human being at the centre of the development process and above any purely economic considerations such as profit or accumulation.
According to several experts, most notably Joseph Stiglitz, a solidarity economy is a third pillar after both the public and private sectors, on which any economy aiming to improve its performance should be based.
The solidarity economy is not an alternative to the world’s dominant market economy today, but it can be a parallel economy capable of freeing up the dynamics of integrated growth and rebalancing societies by reducing the magnitude of inequality and stark social inequalities.
The world’s interest in the solidarity economy increased after the 2008 economic crisis, which demonstrated the disadvantages of the capitalist production pattern and its structural instability. The solidarity economy has often been raised in international meetings that have discussed the effects of the crisis and sought effective ways to protect humanity from the social repercussions of such crises.