The conference aimed to bring together representatives of social economy enterprises and “traditional enterprises”, policy makers, stakeholders and representatives of networks and umbrella organisations in order to provide an opportunity to exchange and open new avenues for collaboration.

The results of the conference will feed the study on “Cooperation between Social Economy Enterprises and Traditional Enterprises” conducted by a European consortium on behalf of the EC, which will be finalised in September 2018.

On behalf of CECOP, Diana Dovgan, Secretary General, was asked to comment the preliminary findings of the upcoming report in the panel on “Preliminary recommendations to enhance collaboration”. She stressed the importance of enlarging spectrum “when we talk about social economy enterprises and not to reduce them only to social activities such as work integration of disadvantaged groups. Although it’s an important dimension of the social economy, it’s not representative and dissimulates the rich variety of type of activities and contribution they provide to the society”. Moreover, has emphasized Diana Dovgan, “the distinguishing features of the social economy enterprises compared to the “traditional” ones are the democratic governance and the accumulation of the capital, and those elements are completely missing in the study findings!”.

If we take the example of cooperatives in industry and services, she added “their identity is multiple; they are cooperatives, but very often SMEs, characterized by the sectors in which they operate etc. They do not live in a separate world, isolated from “traditional enterprises”. Exchanges and collaborations are quite natural for many of them, because of the market or sectoral requirements, roots in the same territories, etc.”

We should pay attention not to focus only on social economy enterprises benefiting from collaboration with “traditional enterprises”; it can also be the other way round. Many examples from CECOP network show how cooperatives can be a great source of inspiration or support for non-cooperative enterprises”, concluding with the example of CoopVenture, a French cooperative fund designed to support digital start-ups, accessible to non-cooperative enterprises but willing to include employees in the governance process.