UVic Leads National "Social Economy" Initiative

Across Canada, organizations providing everything from health care and banking services to housing and food production engage thousands of workers and volunteers, yet never show a profit. These are the organizations that drive the “social economy,” plowing profits back into their communities or into expanding their own services.

While sharing a similar vision, these organizations often operate in isolation. A new national research network, announced today by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), will examine how the organizations can work more effectively, avoid duplication of services, develop partnerships and influence social policy. The network will be led by the University of Victoria, in conjunction with the Victoria-based Canadian Community Economic Development Network.

SSHRC’s $9 million investment, announced today at the Université du Québec à Montréal, will connect university researchers with the organizations that make up the social economy. UVic receives $1.75 million a year over five years to oversee a network of four regional centres that will carry out research in partnership with community organizations.

“Our national network will have about 60 members from all over Canada—60 per cent from universities while 40 per cent will come from organizations in the social economy,” says Dr. Ian MacPherson, director of UVic’s B.C. Institute for Co-operative Studies (BCICS) and co-director of the social economy national network. “We’ll work with regional nodes, or groups of researchers and practitioners, to determine how the social economy can be used more effectively to meet the needs of the groups it serves. We want this network to generate benefits for the community.”

MacPherson says he hopes the network will also develop an online database of information and resources to assist social economy organizations to work together more effectively, something he admits the different sectors haven’t always done in the past.

“We hope to educate academe more and influence a generation of students since all the centres will employ students as part of their research work,” says MacPherson. “We hope to find innovative ways to fund social economy initiatives so they’re not always dependent on grants. With the right resources, the social economy can address certain areas of the economy better than the market economy.”

The four regional centres in Atlantic Canada, southern Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and Québec will each address specific concerns of the social economy from youth unemployment and First Nations issues to urban food security and environmental issues. For more information about SSHRC’s social economy program, please visit www.sshrc.ca and the BCICS at web.uvic.ca/bcics.

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Media contacts

Nov. On Pitts (UVic Communications) at (250) 721-7656 or ppitts@uvic.ca

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Keywords: uvic, leads, national, social, economy, initiative

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