our Research Network:
We are a group of researchers from academic
institutions, community organizations and various levels of
government, who have come together to explore the Social Economy
in Atlantic Canada.
Atlantic Canadians have developed many formal
and informal organizations to meet their needs and those of
their communities. Current responses to the challenges facing
the region build on a long established tradition of innovation
and cooperative effort. As a few examples, we can think about
women’s shelters, church groups, Lion’s Clubs, local credit
unions, the YMCA/YWCA, sports leagues, community gardens, youth
leadership camps, organizations to help shut-ins,
community-owned arenas, farm supply co-ops, meals-on-wheels,
farmers’ co-ops, housing co-ops, community health clinics, co-op
book stores, non-profit foundations, charitable societies,
sports equipment exchanges, food banks, community-shared
agriculture farms, farmers’ markets, local or regional
environmental organizations and watershed groups. The list can
go on and on.
Oriented more toward social values and goals than towards making
a profit for shareholders, these successful initiatives are an
expression of a strong entrepreneurial spirit! Whether as
individual social entrepreneurs who develop enterprises that
emphasize social goals, or as collective entrepreneurs who work
together to create collectively-owned organizations that are
focused on the social and economic betterment of people and
their communities, the people who create these organizations are
definitely entrepreneurs. They have vision, drive, willingness
to take risks, and ability to attract needed investments of
time, money, and other valuable resources. The organizations
they create have both social and economic impacts.
A term now being used to describe these many
initiatives is “Social Economy”. The three main groupings of
social economy organizations are: co-operatives (including
credit unions), non-profit societies and charities, and mutuals.
These organizations have the following characteristics in
common: they are not controlled by government, they put people
before profit, they engage stakeholders in their governance and
decision making, and they are likely to rely on volunteer labour
as well as, or in addition to, paid labour.
There are however, wide gaps in our knowledge of this sector.
The members of the Social Economy and Sustainability Research
Network (SES) are working to narrow some of these gaps. In the
process, we aim to increase the region’s capacity for a dynamic
social economy by building partnerships, knowledge, and networks
across the region and its peoples; by orienting the research to
meet the needs of community partners (themselves part of the
social economy); and by making an impact on policy at the
provincial and municipal levels.
This site will grow and adapt as our project progresses. We hope
that you will come often to explore it. We welcome your
reflections and observations.
With the help of a
grant from the
Social Sciences and Humanities Research
Council of Canada, over eighty social economy
practitioners, academics, collaborating institutions, government
agencies, and community partners came together (2005-2010) to study the
social economy in Atlantic Canada. Over the 5 year period, we
expanded on the initial collaboration, linking with new
community and research partners. The original 80 partners grew
to over 200!
The Atlantic Network is
one of six such regional research centers across Canada. Each
individual or organization is willing to contribute their
complementary strengths, networks, and tremendous depth and
breadth of experience in social economy research and practice in
Atlantic Canada and abroad. Our partners include self-defined
community economic development organizations, non-profits,
service sector organizations and co-operatives of a local,
regional and national scope.