Three research papers on SSE statistics have been released by the UN Inter-Agency Task Force on Social and Solidarity Economy (UNTFSSE)

The papers on Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) statistics aim at supporting stakeholders to deepen their understanding of the methodologies on SSE and policymakers to establish and improve SSE statistical systems.

Although policymakers increasingly pay attention to SSE organizations and enterprises (SSEOEs), in particular, their potentials to address social, economic and environmental problems in alternative ways, the lack of statistical information about the weight, size and scope of SSEOEs in their territory often prevents them from establishing sustainable and inclusive policies for the development of SSE.

To address these problems, UNTFSSE began a research project, “Opportunities and challenges of statistics on SSE”, funded by the Government of the Republic of Korea (represented by Statistics Korea) in 2019 and coordinated by UNRISD, as the implementing agency of the UNTFSSE Knowledge Hub for the SDGs and with the support of CIRIEC International and its network of experts. The project aimed to contribute to knowledge diffusion and transfer about robust methodologies and high-quality approaches for data collection, analysis and interpretation of SSE statistics.

The first paper “Producing Statistics on Social and Solidarity Economy: The State of the Art provides an overview of the existing conceptual frameworks and international standards related to building statistics about the social and solidarity economy (SSE). It then looks at how the perimeter for SSE is set in the cases of the two main frameworks presently at hand: the “social economy approach,” as embodied in the CIRIEC Manual on drawing up satellite accounts and in the ILO Guidelines concerning statistics on cooperatives, and the “NPO approach”, as embodied in the United Nations NPI and TSE handbooks on non-profit and related institutions. The third section of the paper discusses how constructing statistics about SSE typically entails identifying sources, such as registers, surveys and censuses, that will serve as the basis for the statistical construction of the SSE population.

The next two sections explore how the SSE organizations thus selected are then classified, based on criteria such as the sector of activity and the type of organization, and how the information that relates to them is collected, based on methodologies such as satellite accounts or observatories. Section six then shows how indicators related to employment, membership and economic contribution could complement this work of measurement. The paper concludes with an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of each approach, as well as recommendations for future work. The authors of this paper are Marie J. Bouchard and Gabriel Salathé-Beaulieu.

The second paper on “Mapping International SSE Mapping Exercises” outlines how key mapping exercises dealing with the SSE were selected for this first review process, 2020 being the cutoff date for inclusion. The diversity of concepts and scopes, including or excluding organizations and entities, is then discussed and the two main frameworks (“social economy approach” and “NPO approach”) are reviewed briefly. The second chapter looks at the literature contributing to creating, presenting and developing SSE statistics. The selected mapping exercises were then divided into three types: 1) administrative, legal and institutional data containing statistical information; 2) international research on SSE contributing to the development of statistical methodology and data; and 3) thematic maps that portray the geographic pattern of SSE. The third and main chapter of the paper discusses how selected SSE organizations are classified, based on criteria such as the sector of activity or the geographical scale. Other classification filters are time range, replicability, and implementers of the mappings. The annexes are extremely useful as they contain all the information for the different mapping exercises listed. A last section places the different mappings in graphical representation according to Bouchard and Salathé-Beaulieu (2021), with respect to the two main frameworks (“social economy approach” and “NPO approach”). The paper concludes with an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of this first mapping exercise, as well as with recommendations for future work. The authors of this paper are Coline Compère, Barbara Sak and Jérôme Schoenmaeckers.

The third paper titled “Producing Statistics on Social and Solidarity Economy: Policy Recommendations and Directions for Future Research” is a guide for governments interested in developing SSE statistics in their country and for researchers interested in working on improving and developing SSE statistics. The first section details why the production of SSE statistics is so important for governments and SSE actors. It highlights that these statistics help to make visible and legitimize the SSE as a new field of public action, and contribute to a better design, implementation and evaluation of policies aimed at promoting the SSE. The next section identifies the main types of SSE statistics to be produced. The first are quantitative economic statistics on the SSE within the framework of conventional economic aggregates and standard methodologies. The second are statistics that allow the quantification of SSE impacts. The third are statistics allowing comparisons at different levels, and between SSE and other types of economic entities such as for-profit enterprises.
The next section focuses on the producers of statistics. It points out that, in addition to national statistical offices, which should play a leading role, universities and research centres, as well as “umbrella” organizations, are also key producers of statistics that can work together. Obstacles in the production of SSE statistics are the focus of the following section. The main ones are technical skills, tensions that blur the field of SSE, lack of funding to carry out statistical work and, finally, the absence of a normative mandate to push governments and statistical institutes to undertake this statistical endeavour. The paper concludes with recommendations for policy makers interested in the development of SSE statistics, as well as an outlook on areas for future research. The author of this paper is Rafael Chaves Ávila.

The main results of the project and the findings of the research papers will be presented in upcoming international fora, such as the ICA Cooperative Research Conference.

For more information on the UNTFSSE Knowledge Hub please visit this page.