Scaling Up: The Convergence of Social Economy and Sustainability

Athabasca University

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Edited by: Mike Gismondi, Sean Connelly, Mary Beckie, Sean Markey, and Mark Roseland

Year: 2016

When citizens take collaborative action to meet the needs of their community, they are participating in the social economy. Co-operatives, community-based social services, local non-profit organizations, and charitable foundations are all examples of social economies that emphasize mutual benefit rather than the accumulation of profit. While such groups often participate in market-based activities to achieve their goals, they also pose an alternative to the capitalist market economy. Contributors to Scaling Up investigated innovative social economies in British Columbia and Alberta and discovered that achieving a social good through collective, grassroots enterprise resulted in a sustainable way of satisfying human needs that was also, by extension, environmentally responsible. As these case studies illustrate, organizations that are capable of harnessing the power of a social economy generally demonstrate a commitment to three outcomes: greater social justice, financial self-sufficiency, and environmental sustainability. Within the matrix of these three allied principles lie new strategic directions for the politics of sustainability.

Whether they were examining attainable and affordable housing initiatives, co-operative approaches to the provision of social services, local credit unions, farmers’ markets, or community-owned power companies, the contributors found social economies providing solutions based on reciprocity and an understanding of how parts function within the whole—an understanding that is essential to sustainability. In these locally defined and controlled, democratically operated organizations we see possibilities for a more human economy that is capable of transforming the very social and technical systems that make our current way of life unsustainable.

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About the Editors

Mike Gismondi is professor of sociology and global studies in the Centre for Social Sciences at Athabasca University, where he also teaches in the Masters of Arts – Integrated Studies program.

Sean Connelly is currently lecturer in geography at the University of Otago and a research associate with the Centre for Sustainable Community Development at Simon Fraser University.

Mary Beckie is an associate professor in the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Extension, where she teaches and conducts research in sustainability.

Sean Markey is an associate professor with the School of Resource and Environmental Management and an associate with the Centre for Sustainable Community Development at Simon Fraser University.

Mark Roseland is professor of planning in the Simon Fraser University’s School of Resource and Environmental Management and director of the SFU Centre for Sustainable Community Development.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Social Economics and Sustainability
Chapter 1 – Towards Convergence: An Exploratory Framework
Sean Connelly, Mike Gismondi, Sean Markey, and Mark Roseland
Chapter 2 – The Green Social Economy in British Columbia and Alberta
Mike Gismondi, Lynda Ross, and Juanita Marois
Chapter 3 – The Role of the Social Economy in Scaling Up Alternative Food Initiatives
Mary Beckie and Sean Connelly
Chapter 4 – Human Services and the Caring Society
John Restakis
Chapter 5 – Towards Sustainable Resource Management: Community Energy and Forestry in British Columbia and Alberta
Julie L. MacArthur
Chapter 6 – Evolving Conceptions of the Social Economy: The Arts, Culture, and Tourism in Alert Bay
Kelly Vodden, Lillian Hunt, and Randy Bell
Chapter 7 – Non-Profit and Co-operative Organizations and the Provision of Social Housing
George Penfold, Lauren Rethoret, and Terri MacDonald
Chapter 8 – Land Tenure Innovations for Sustainable Communities
Marena Brinkhurst and Mark Roseland
Chapter 9 – Sustaining Social Democracy Through Heritage-Building Conservation
Noel Keough, Mike Gismondi, and Erin Swift-Leppäkumpu
Chapter 10 – Strong Institutions, Weak Strategies: Credit Unions and the Rural Social Economy
Sean Markey, Freya Kristensen, and Stewart Perry
Conclusion – Social Economizing Sustainability
Mike Gismondi, Sean Connelly, and Sean Markey