The collective social enterprises that the informal workers had so painstakingly built over the years are struggling to survive. Many have already collapsed. Investing in these enterprises is the way forward.”
-Miraiben Chatterjee at the Social European Social Economy Summit
The stark divide between the haves and have-nots has only increased with the progression of the pandemic. Such times call for solidarity and collaboration such that the Global North and South can come together to create appropriate solutions such as infusing capital and resources into informal worker collective enterprises.
The European Social Economy Summit was organised to build such solidarity. In the ensuing discussion, several ideas were exchanged to understand existing practices and potential policy responses to strengthen the social economy, development, and inclusion accompanied by green digital transitions. A mutually agreed solution highlighted in the conversation included investing in micro, nano and small collective enterprises, such as those supported by SEWA Cooperative Federation.
Our Chairperson – Miraiben Chatterjee made recommendations on two fronts: health and livelihood for informal women workers. She discussed the scale of challenges in India pre and during the pandemic. Besides the raging health crisis, there is an emerging livelihood crisis, which has disproportionately impacted the informal sector workers and among them, most severely the women workers. Many collective social enterprises set up by the informal sector workers have collapsed, rendering their members with little to no security for food and income.
In line with Miraiben’s points, Mr. Jonathan Wong, Chief of Technology and Innovation at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), added how governments can serve as market regulators, market facilitators and use public procurement to de-risk investment in small ventures.
Mr. Gonzalo Muñoz, CEO of the Triciclos & High Level Champion of COP25 explained the methods through which businesses are increasingly recognising their roles in creating positive social impacts.
Ms. Sharon Thorne, Global Director for Deloitte discussed some of the recent social innovations that governments and small enterprises in developing countries have pivoted to so that they could survive the pandemic induced challenges and build resilience for the future
Through the conversation it was evident that there is a need for government intervention with respect to setting up a decentralised livelihood restoration fund, which could be used to revive collectives/ cooperatives. As Miraiben explained, member-owned and run collectives are inclusive and have extensive grassroots level networks; thus, investing in these collectives will help effectively combat the pressing challenges of today and the future to reduce the adversities introduced by the crises.
Access the full video here.
This blog is written by Prachi, Research Associate at SEWA Cooperative Federation