AvAnces recientes en investigAción
en econoMíA sociAl y eMpresA sociAl:
clAves desde unA perspectivA internAcionAl
Revista Iberoamericana de
Economía Solidaria e
Innovación Socioecológica
Vol. 3 (2020), pp. 7-16 • ISSN: 2659-5311
Social and Solidarity Economy; Social En-
trepreneurship; Covid-19; early-career scho-
lars; international networks.
P 
Economía Social y Solidaria; emprendi-
miento social; Covid-19; jóvenes investigado-
res; redes internacionales.
The current situation the world is experien-
cing with the Covid-19 pandemic is bringing
forward the weaknesses of the prevailing eco-
nomic system. In these circumstances, a de-
mand for a change of paradigm is emerging,
and the Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE)
and social entrepreneurship play a key role in
such scenario. This paper reflect on this situa-
tion and emphasizes the importance of going
in depth in the field of research of SSE and so-
cial entrepreneurship, focusing in early-career
researchers whose hands may hold some im-
portant keys for our future.
La actual situación que estamos viviendo
con la pandemia del Covid-19 está poniendo
de manifiesto las debilidades del sistema eco-
nómico vigente. En estas circunstancias, está
surgiendo una demanda para un cambio de
paradigma, y la Economía Social y Solidaria
(ESS) y el emprendimiento social juegan un rol
clave en dicho escenario. Este artículo reflexio-
na sobre esta situación y recalca la importan-
cia de seguir profundizando en el ámbito de
investigación de la ESS y el emprendimiento
social, poniendo especial énfasis en las perso-
nas investigadoras que comienzan su carrera,
en cuyas manos se encuentra parte de nuestro
futuro próximo.
Carmen Guzmán Alfonso
Associate Professor, Dept. of Applied Economics. Universidad de Sevilla
Rocío Nogales Muriel
Managing Director, EMES International Research Network
códigos Jel
: J00, J20, J22.
Fecha de recepción: 9/11/2020 Fecha de aceptación: 20/11/2020
9RIESISE, 3 (2020) pp.7-16
Public administrations and academic researchers have recently taken
a keen interest in the social and solidarity economy (SSE) and social
entrepreneurship (Defourny and Nyssens, 2017; Guzmán et al., 2019).
The exponential development of entities over several decades within
an international context that conform to these realities is a key factor in
this surge of interest. They have contributed to: job creation and work
integration (Prazzkier and Nowak, 2014; Chaves and Monzón, 2018); the
fight against poverty and exclusion; access to health and education; and
the development of sustainable agriculture, renewable energy and means
to tackle social justice and wellbeing (Zimmer et al., 2018).
A significant rise in inequality throughout the world, both in economic
and social terms, can be understood as the trigger for such expansion.
Globalization has increased inequalities not only at an international level
but also at national and local levels. In response, the core values of SSE
and social enterprises such as stakeholder participation and democracy
prioritize human wellbeing over profit maximization. These values provide
the fundamental pillars that support any social transformation aimed at
improving equality across different societies. In responding to increasing
needs, SSE entities and social enterprises are proliferating throughout the
world, building a fairer and more equitably distributed society, creating job
positions and even correcting certain extreme social issues not addressed
by the market nor the State (Utting, 2014; Borzaga et al., 2019; Newey,
2018). Such initiatives tend to combine drivers of a bottom-up nature, led by
group of citizens, and institutional dynamics, led by public policies (Borzaga
et al., 2020).
SSE and social enterprises are attracting even greater attention during
the current Covid-19 pandemic. The resultant health and sanitation crises
that present multiple problems reveal the limitations of existing economic,
political and social settings. The collapse of public sanitation systems and
the pervasive economic effects of lockdowns are a common denominator
in many countries around the world (Androicenau, 2020). Importantly, SSE
Carmen Guzmán Alfonso · Rocío Nogales Muriel
10RIESISE, 3 (2020) pp. 7-16 ISSN: 2659-5311
entities and social enterprises are playing a key role in recovery, mirroring
the essential position they held in the aftermath of the 2008 economic crisis
(UNTFSS, 2020).
The 2008 crisis has been linked to financial speculation (subprime
markets) and profit maximization exarcerbation, questioning neoliberalism’s
sustainability. The moment was seen as an opportunity for change towards a
new paradigm based on values coincident with those of the SSE and social
entrepreneurship (Hulgård, 2011; Bauhardt, 2014; Fernández and Arca,
2016). However, although SSE experiences and social entrepreneurship
have increased, neoliberalism still dominates the international economic
system. Some academics consider this period as a missed opportunity to
change the rules that favour capitalism and intensify competition throughout
open markets (Wigger and Buch-Hanssen, 2012).
Some authors agree that the current crisis will constitute an inflexion point
in the global economy (Reinhart and Reinhart, 2020). So far, the destruction
of employment and economic growth is much more significant than in
the 2008 financial crisis, and we have yet to see the pandemic through. In
addition, unlike the previous financial crisis, the Covid-19 pandemic not only
affects the financial and economic dimensions of our lives but also the health
and wellbeing of citizens and societies. We are facing an unknown situation
where traditional economic tools such as interest rates or subventions are
far from enough. And governments are investing vast amounts of energy
and resources across different administrational levels to manage the crisis
within their territories.
Conservative, protective initiatives such as confinement and travel
restrictions stand out among the measures adopted by public administrations
to mitigate infection. These actions, linked to the fear of being infected,
have had a direct effect on consumption habits and business activities (He
and Harris, 2020). People are being asked to spend more time at home and
avoid crowded events and places to prevent contracting the virus. Activities
involving mass social interaction such as tourism, certain sports and attending
cultural and entertainment events have consequently been substituted by
others pursuits perceived as less risky. Also, the shortage of certain products
such as masks in many countries has revealed the numerous deficiencies of
global distribution. Dependency on external markets is once more under
scrutiny, leading to increased contemplation of local production as a more
secure option, avoiding unnecessary elements in the supply change. New
opportunities and threads have emerged. As more businesses close their
doors, those that remain open despite Covid-19 are forced to reflect on
their way of doing business, prioritizing health and safety and maintaining
their workforce, supply chain and cash flow (Donthu and Gustafsson, 2020).
Social and solidarity economy and social entrepreneurship
11RIESISE, 3 (2020) pp.7-16
The SSE and social entrepreneurship are proving adept at addressing
some of the challenges that have recently emerged. They prioritize people
over profit, remain connected to their local contexts and act according to
values that may offer some alternatives to the multifaceted crisis. Although
many entities are facing uncertainties about their future, initiatives have
emerged all over the world to alleviate various pandemic-related issues. For
example, the SOLIVID platform collates solidarity-based initiatives created
during the Covid-19 crisis under categories that differentiate between
provision for psychological accompaniment, support for the elderly and
vulnerable people, economy and labour, education, culture, sport, health
assistance and production of medical supplies, food and other consumption,
housing and gender-related violence (SOLIVID, 2020).
This special issue arrives at a moment when citizens require alternatives.
Many are eager to engage in new, co-built, shared horizons and the
SSE constitutes a feasible option. Therefore, a robust line of research is
necessary, whose theories and findings could strengthen the foundations
for developing new socio-economic paradigms.
A new generation of researchers with an international perspective is
looking ahead. This issue gathers a selection of papers in English and Spanish
for a broad readership that were presented at the REJIES-COST International
PhD Seminar held in April 2019 at the University of Seville, Spain, which
was co-organized by the CIRIEC’s Network of Young Researchers in Social
Economy (REJIES), the EMES International Research Network and the
Empower-SE COST Action (CA16206). The seminar was aimed at connecting
different PhD networks and fostering synergies and collaborations among
international early-career researchers investigating social enterprise from
different perspectives. It brought academics from various disciplines
together, focusing on different methodologies to reformulate SSE and social
entrepreneurship-related topics, which are usually approached through
traditional, neoclassical economic means. The process gave those who have
developed other tools and strategies the opportunity to demonstrate that an
option other than pure capitalism exists.
The first article, ‘Sustainability, endogenous development and social
economy’ (Sostenibilidad, desarrollo endógeno y economía social), is by
Adoración Mozas Moral, Domingo Fernández Uclés, Enrique Bernal Jurado,
and Miguel Jesús Medina Viruel. Dr. Mozas Moral, president of CIRIEC-Spain,
opened the seminar that inspired this special issue, explaining the suitability
of the SSE to address Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The co-
authored contribution begins with a focus on new processes of economic
Carmen Guzmán Alfonso · Rocío Nogales Muriel
12RIESISE, 3 (2020) pp. 7-16 ISSN: 2659-5311
development, known as bottom-up or endogenous development, based
on local resources that are rooted in environmental, social and economic
responsibility. Within this context, the concept of sustainability and
overall social economy acquire new relevance through shared values and
principles. The authors also highlight the social economy’s role in sustainable
development processes, underlining the alignment of social economy and
SDG characteristics, particularly those of agricultural cooperatives.
The second contribution, ‘Local ecosystems of social and solidarity
economy in the Basque Country: An approach from the entities’ (Ecosistemas
locales de economía social y solidaria en la Comunidad Autónoma Vasca.
Una aproximación desde las entidades) by Asier Arcos, identifies whether
or not an SSE ecosystem exists in the Basque Country, one of the most well-
known regions within an international SSE context due to the successful
initiative of the Mondragón cooperative. Based on previous theoretical
contributions, the author has designed a methodology consisting of semi-
structured interviews for different regional SSE organizations aimed at
categorizing existing SSE initiatives. The method facilitates the detection
of necessary measures that could progress a favourable ecosystem whose
final aim is the SSE’s local development.
Despite links between the SSE and local development having already
been studied since the 80s (McRobie, 1981), they remain one of the most
popular topics for current research. While it already seems clear that
social enterprises promote local development, the relationships between
different variables in this process are relatively unknown. Their study from
new perspectives may well shed new light on this existing issue.
In the third article, ‘Social economy as politic priority: Analysis of
participative budgets in Ecuador’ (La economía social como prioridad
política. Análisis de los presupuestos participativos en Ecuador), authors,
Katherine Guerrero Arrieta and Teresa Savall Morera define the Buen Vivir
concept prevalent in Latin American political agendas. The text attempts to
detect if citizen SSE preferences are aligned with those of public authorities
in Ecuador. Although different patterns of participative budgets exist, in
analyzing the participative budgets of three different Ecuadorian regions,
they observe that both citizens and local administrations place importance
on SSE initiatives and their visibility. The paper brings three different
yet equally important SSE and social entrepreneurship research field
issues together: the notion of Buen Vivir linked with the social economy;
participatory budgeting, which allows for greater social inclusion and
democratic governance; and public policies, which play a key role in the
SSE’s promotion and its institutionalization within civil society. The overall
aim of these three aspects is related to fostering local development through
local resources.
Social and solidarity economy and social entrepreneurship
13RIESISE, 3 (2020) pp.7-16
Aside from the above ideas related to the needs of a general ecosystem
that can favor the SSE and recognize the importance of public policies, a key
point in the literature is the long-term sustainability of these organizations.
Leandro Morais analyzes this issue in ‘The importance of the entrepreneurial
ecosystem for the social and solidarity economy in the new technological
era’ (La importancia del ecosistema emprendedor para la economía social y
solidaria en la nueva era tecnológica). The author investigates the social and
economic consequences of technological advances and digital integration,
emphasizing the importance of SSE organizations to adapt to this new era.
He also remarks on the importance of an appropriated ecosystem that could
achieve such a goal involving the public sector, universities, cooperatives,
labor unions, etc.
Another significant topic focuses on the effects of initiatives such as the
social impact assessment on SSE entities and social enterprises. Although
no consensus yet exists on the most appropriate methodology (e.g., SROI or
cost Benefit analysis), there seems to be agreement around the need to know
how organizations can effectively change their environment. The fifth article,
‘Social impact assessment: A possible challenge for social enterprise?’,
addresses this issue within a specific context where social enterprises are
still arising: the Baltic States. Its author, Audrone Urmanaviciene, conducted
twenty interviews among Estonian work integration social enterprises,
ascertaining that, despite organization leaders being interested in measuring
the social impact of their activities, they understand this social impact
differently. Consequently, they use different, mostly self-created methods.
This translates into a lack of knowledge about how to measure their social
impact, as they devote the majority of their efforts to achieving their social
mission. Therefore, training programs are necessary to professionalize these
activities for those in charge.
The sixth article, ‘Interplay of theory and practice: Experiences from
the Hungarian social enterprise field’ by Julianna Kiss, relates reflexive
isomorphism theory and practice in Hungary with analysis of emerging
SSE and social entrepreneurship initiatives. Dr Kiss studies how the
discourses of dominant paradigm-building actors (development and
support organizations, the European Union, the State, network builders
and academia) have influenced the emergence and institutionalization of
organizations. She also records the experiences of social entrepreneurs
after conducting semi-structured interviews with twenty participants and
examining official SSE and social entrepreneurship-related documents
published by ecosystem agents.
The seventh research study, ‘Quality. Local. Social. What else? – Factors
that motivate consumers to participate in alternative food networks in
Hungary’ presented by Anna Torok, focuses on the consumer side of
Carmen Guzmán Alfonso · Rocío Nogales Muriel
14RIESISE, 3 (2020) pp. 7-16 ISSN: 2659-5311
debate. Torok studies the motivations that influence consumer participation
in alternative Hungarian food networks. Through twenty-three interviews
with people in these networks, she ascertains that both individual factors
(related to food security and nutrition) and community factors (related to
supporting local economies) affect participation in these structures.
These two studies constitute very important contributions not only
because of their advances in the knowledge of emerging SSE and social
entrepreneurship in Hungary but also because these new entities may
advance some concrete alternatives to face pertinent issues. Hungarian
citizens are currently experiencing very complex circumstances due to the
reduction of social policies and resultant increase in suffering. Therefore,
both articles can be understood as examples of the SSE and social
enterprises’ potential in a country under pressure.
The final article by Samuel Barco (Diesis) and Rocío Nogales Muriel
(EMES Network), closed the international seminar with a lively debate called
‘Social enterprise research from an international perspective: Key agents,
challenges and opportunities ahead’. This paper gathers the contributions
of both researchers who describe some of the challenges facing scholars
when developing their activity. In particular, they analyze how research can
increase its relevance and reach in collaboration with different stakeholders,
who provide a realistic vision of needs within any given field, informing
research processes and agendas. Based on their experience and an in-
depth literature review, the authors analyze different international initiatives
and research projects using the ecosystem approach, understanding as
such that the SSE researcher is a person in contact with practitioners and
policy makers and, consequently, has a certain role (and responsibility) in
transforming society.
The papers included in this special issue let us to conclude that the SSE
and social entrepreneurship constitute already stable lines of research
aiming to contribute to local development, increasing human wellbeing
and the creation of social value, something inspiring deserving to be
highlighted in these complex times. However, we can also conclude that it
is still necessary to continue deepening the analysis of the different aspects
included in the SE field, and the new generation of early-career scholars
are already facing this task, making great efforts to increase the knowledge
about the SSE and social entrepreneurship using different methodologies
and perspectives. To this regard, it is equally essential to emphasize the
importance of being involved in international research networks while
nurturing direct collaboration with ecosystem agents. Without these
bridges, the social function of researchers will have hardly any repercussion
Social and solidarity economy and social entrepreneurship
15RIESISE, 3 (2020) pp.7-16
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