Canada’s economy is pluralistic, made up of three distinct sectors: private; state; and the social economy. Actors in the social economy (cooperatives, non profit societies, civil society associations, credit unions and social enterprises) make up a substantial proportion of employment and economic activity and play a unique role in creating inter-related social, economic, and environmental outcomes that contribute to a people-centred economy. Results from the Social Economy Research Program indicate that globally the social economy plays a unique role in addressing the social, economic, environmental and human development needs of people, communities, nations and the world at a time when the challenges of increased poverty, climate change, social inequality and the failure of many economic policies requires new approaches and models, those that contribute to a people-centred economy. The research also indicates that Canada is falling behind other jurisdictions in developing public policy and other mechanisms to ensure that the social economy maximizes its impacts. New and innovative mechanisms for collaborative development, governance and co-construction of public policy for the sector have emerged, and have proven key to success in Canada and other jurisdictions. Strengthening and building on these mechanisms is a key agenda, involving the building of sector-owner structures that unite components of the social economy in collaborative efforts based on common values.
From May 30 to June 1, 2010, the National Summit on a People-Centred Economy was an unprecedented gathering of leaders and representatives of the community economic development, cooperative and social economy sectors to build a common agenda and mobilize action for a secure, sustainable economy that puts people and the planet first. The Summit sought to mobilize networks and organizations by building on the best research, agreeing on a common action plan, and increasing awareness of this sector among politicians, policy makers, non-governmental sector leaders and the mainstream media.
As part of the preparatory process for the Summit, six issue papers were drafted on themes which outline the key strengths, challenges and proposals for action to further reinforce this movement. These issue papers were subject to an engagement and outreach process for feedback and revisions by Summit participants and other stakeholders between March 1 and May 15. The revised papers were presented at the Summit, where a common declaration and action plan were developed.