European Social Economy Summit

Social and solidarity economy solutions for small towns of tomorrow

Publié le 26 mai 2021
On the occasion of the European Social Economy Summit, Avise was invited by Diesis Network and the European Commission on May 26th to present social and solidarity economy (SSE) solutions for small towns of tomorrow and the links between SSE and The New European Bauhaus. This article summarises the key elements of the discussion.

The New European Bauhaus

The New European Bauhaus is an environmental, economic and cultural project, launched by the European Commission, and aiming to combine design, sustainability, accessibility, affordability and investment in order to help deliver the European Green Deal and connect it to our living spaces.

As Xavier Troussard, head of Unit - New European Bahaus at the Joint research centre of the European Commission expressed during the conference, the project is trying to combine 3 fundamental dimensions: sustainability (Green Deal) in terms of energy efficiency, circular economy, new relationship to nature and securing biodiversity ; inclusion, in order for these new spaces to be affordable for all, accessible and promote the discovery of togetherness ; and aesthetic, to ensure its cultural relevance. 

The programme is divided into 3 different phases: communication, to bring experiences, ideas, visions and challenges ; codesign, with a pilote call for proposals; and dissemination.

The links between The New European Bauhaus and social economy are obvious, as social economy organizations are creating connexions between social needs, green needs and people's aspirations

Social and solidarity economy solutions for small towns of tomorrow

Since 2020, Avise is a partner of the “Small towns of tomorrow” programme led by the ANCT, France’s national social cohesion agency. This 6-year national public programme launched in 2020 provides tailored services to 1,500 small towns (less than 20 000 inhabitants) in order to design and implement a regeneration strategy around different topics: retail, mobility, arts and crafts, heritage and housing. 

To answer the strong need to increase and give local authorities access to SSE knowledge and solutions, Avise made an inventory of 150 social and solidarity economy (SSE) solutions located in the targeted small towns. Avise thus provides support through dedicated workshops, webinars and learning expeditions to help local authorities developing their SSE projects. During its presentation, Avise shared two inspiring examples of SSE projects creating links between local organisations and residents to reinvent the local social and economic life.

  • The Jean Moulin Workshops

Within the small town of Plouhinec, The Jean Moulin Workshops are installed in a former vocational school and supported since their creation by the local government. One of a kind, it is a multi-activity place which brings together companies, associations and parapublic services but also catering and accommodation.

To implement this place of innovation and experimentation, an association has been created, the Association for the animation of the Jean Moulin workshops (A3JM), which integrates five local elected representatives into its board. The association is thus a real tool of shared governance. To design this third place, a dialogue process with the inhabitants was driven through different workshops and studies organised by the cooperative Plateau Urbain and the collective La Nouvelle Imagerie.

Three major needs emerged from those exchanges and the association developed its activities consequently:

- Affordable premises: with a surface area of 12,000 m², the place has the capacity for accommodating many activities. From the 9 m² office to the 250 m² workshop, companies can benefit from premises and dedicated services (catering, maintenance, etc.), and take advantage of the multi-activity place which stimulates collaborations and common projects.
- Temporary accommodation: the former boarding school has been transformed in a cottage that can accommodate more than 30 people, and offers affordable housing for seasonal workers and volunteers in an area where expensive touristic accommodations are mainly found.
- Support services to cultural associations: methodological assistance on project proposals, communication and crowdfunding strategies, etc.
- Solidarity actions: such as food and cultural home deliveries (books, in particular), partnership with social services, awareness campaigns about ecological transition, etc. 

  • Saint-Loup-sur-Semouse SSE hub

In Saint-Loup-sur-Semouse, social and solidarity economy orgnizations moved in an industrial wasteland turned into a real cultural, social and economic hub

Recognized as the capital of seating and furniture in the 19th century, Saint-Loup-sur-Semouse housed a well-known factory of seats for 150 years before their final closure in 2012. Since the 21st century, with the decline of local industry, the population of the city (3,200 inhabitants) has been decreasing and became poorer (29% of the population currently lives below the poverty line). In order to fight against this social precarity and against the isolation of the inhabitants (53% of the inhabitants are living alone), the municipality wishes to use its strengths and history. 

The city council decided to acquire part of the old industrial site, close to the town center. In this place, various activities have been created, all carried out by residents, elected representatives and entrepreneurs, willing to get involved in a local project in order to create jobs and maintain the local heritage. In this hub can be found:

- a conservatory and an association to administer it
- a multi-stakeholder cooperative which develop a local timber construction industry for work integration
- an intergenerational housing
- a food aid grocery
- an inter-municipal media library.

We had a real know-how to promote and we could make this site a cultural, social and economic cluster. As elected representatives, we have the duty to find answers. These projects are possible answers imagined together with residents and partners. The local resource must allow us to activate local economic development." Thierry Bordot, Mayor of Saint-Loup sur-Semouse. 

SSE added-value to small towns of tomorrow

As perfectly illustrated by the examples above, SSE organizations contribute to:

  • The creation of goods and services that are relevant to residents, and more resilient jobs safe from relocating since they are made for and by the residents and local stakeholders.
  • Strengthen community mobilisation and local democracy: through its principles of democratic governance, limited profitability and social utility, SSE responds to the residents' aspirations in terms of commitment to their living area and the local economic life, and allows the formalization of collective projects, as illustrated by the many examples of groups of inhabitants mobilized against the closure of a service in their city through the creation of an association or a cooperative to relaunch the activity.
  • Spread social innovation: making the link with the inhabitants and their local area a force to reinvent their actions. In constant search of new responses to local challenges and mobilizing hybrid resources (public, private, voluntary), SSE are often pioneers and initiate innovative projects at the heart of transitions and future sectors such as circular economy or sustainable food. SSE players are often developing interdisciplinary actions, creating connexions between people and public and private organizations.

As such, their collaborative culture makes them privileged partners in the development of regional projects alongside regional and local anthorities. They also share their know-how with other organizations, frequently developing projects support engineering alongside their core activities.

The Fabrique à initiatives, a programme to co-create local SSE solutions

In France, a programme was actually founded by Avise and its partners in 2010 to gather local stakeholders around social, environmental and economic needs and impulse SSE solutions. The Fabrique à initiatives is a social innovation programme detect local needs, stimulate collective ideas and connects public and private organisations and residents to develop targeted SSE entrepreneurial responses. The programme is run locally by more than 28 bodies which then model activities or share innovations which have already proven their value elsewhere, tailoring them to local needs and facilitating implementation and connexion to local players.

For example, after the closure of the last shop in a small town, the Fabrique à initiatives helped a city council to design a new collaborative shop with residents and local associations.

To learn more


Coopération territoriale
Innovation sociale

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