The social and solidarity economy: feedback of the round table of May 21

July 8, 2019

On May 21st, Philea and IRED organized a round table about “The Social and Solidarity Economy: Realities, Impacts and Challenges. Sharing experiences between Burkina Faso, Burundi and Switzerland” to better understand the Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) movement and to question about its objective: finding a balance between the environmental and economic social dimensions.


  • Mrs Milasoa CHEREL-ROBSON (moderator), Economist, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)
  • Mrs Isabelle CHEVALLEY, National Councillor (Green-Liberals) and President of the Swiss-African Parliamentary Intergroup
  • Mrs Elisabete FERNANDES, Co-Director of the documentary “Tomorrow-Geneva” (2018)
  • Mr Deogratias NIYONKURU, Agronomist, Development Advisor and author of “Pour la dignité paysanne” (2018), Head of IRED Africa
  • Mr Sylvestre OUEDRAOGO, Professor of Economics (University of Ouagadougou) and Director of the Pan-African Development Institute for West Africa and the Sahel
  • Mr Jean ROSSIAUD, Dr in Economic and Social Sciences, Member of the Grand Council/GE, International Delegate of the Geneva Chamber of the Social and Solidarity Economy

Diversity of status: what are the differences in legal frameworks?

During the debate on May 21st, the diversity of the statutes was mentioned as a difficulty for the SSE, particularly in Switzerland. Indeed, while APRES-GE requests its members to subscribe to a charter, other large cooperatives have chosen not to do so. This example was opposed to the successful French case which adopted a legal framework covering very different situations.

Sylvestre OUEDRAOGO then stressed that a uniform legal framework does not necessarily respond to the contrasting realities between small one-man businesses and large cooperatives, which is the case in Burkina Faso. This point is also underlined by Deogratias NIYONKURU, who explains that in Burundi there is a great diversity of statutes: mutual, association, cooperative, company, etc.

Although the cooperative is the legal form that best reflects the principles of the SSE, the major challenge is to find a consensus in order to develop a charter that brings together the goals to be achieved by the different actors of the SSE, taking into account their inequalities in relation to legal frameworks.

Local initiatives: civil society at the heart of the SSE success

Another important point was underlined: the essential role of civil society. Indeed, the initiatives created by the associations are a very important step to allow the different dimensions of the SSE to find their balance.

Elisabete FERNANDES, co-director of the film “Tomorrow-Geneva”, explained that this project was possible thanks to a participatory fundraising campaign. She understood the impact that this film could have by seeing the large number of projects proposed to produce it (400, 27 of which were selected). Seeing the material and the number of initiatives from civil society, an internet platform and a foundation were launched to continue their promotion.

Isabelle CHEVALLEY gave us another example of a civil initiative: a women’s action group that, with the purpose of stimulating the economy in Burkina Faso, recycles plastic waste into handbags that are sold for export.

Jean ROSSIAUD illustrated this idea with the example of the local currency of “Leman”, which is used as an instrument for circular local development, solidarity and the identity of a movement.

Training to understand SSE

Although the SSE is a movement that is built thanks to its actors, a general awareness of a change could be possible by discussion and debate, driven not only by politicians but also, and above all, by civil society. Financial education was also cited as an example.

Isabelle CHEVALLEY explained that thanks to the support of Philea and its expertise in financial education, a training of cost accounting had been introduced within the women’s group in Burkina Faso, which enabled them to develop their project and by extension their independence, leading to their empowerment.

Sylvestre OUADRAOGO described the SSE training project by IRED which was initially intended to train new entrepreneurs in this movement and since then, a strong demand for training increased to further understand and develop the SSE.

Final considerations – what is the result?

These specialists in the field of the SSE presented us their point of view on the different topics discussed. Specific examples, based on their experience, have helped to understand the challenges related to this theme, whether in Burkina Faso, Burundi or Switzerland. There are contemporary economic, environmental and social challenges, but a multitude of economic solutions that contribute to building a new way of living and thinking the economy are nevertheless available for everyone. Now, we only need to take an active interest in it.

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