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About us:

The Social Economy and Sustainability Research Network


On this page:

Introduction to our Research Network | Description | Background documents


Other links:

Governance | Related Social Economy CURAs | Research Themes and Sub-node Clusters | Team Directory



Introduction to 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.


Project Description:

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. 


Background Documents: