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  Project Information

Investigating the Social Economy

Last Updated on February 8th, 2013

Northern Ontario, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan Social Economy Regional Node

Welcome to the web site of the Linking, Learning, Leveraging SSHRC-funded research project investigating the Social Economy which ran from 2006 to 2011. This project was comprised of multiple community partner organizations, academic researchers, and university students. While the project reached completion in December 2011, this website is being maintained to make available the wealth of information and data that resulted from the research. We invite you to explore the site and we hope you will find some useful materials here. You may find the Annotated Subject Directory useful for finding projects and reports that are of interest to you. Bound copies of the reports can be purchased from the Centre for the Study of Co-operatives.

What Does the Social Economy Look Like in Northern Ontario,

Manitoba, and Saskatchewan?

The social economy in Northern Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan is strong and diverse. Co-operatives are the dominant organizational form, but not for profit associations and social enterprises are significant players as well.

Social economy organizations have built and strengthened rural and remote rural communities, and contributed important services in urban centres. Sustainable food production, consumer sponsored agriculture and alternative energy production are emerging growth areas, which demonstrate a commitment to sustainable practices. Civic engagement and democratic decision-making are fundamental characteristics, empowering communities to direct social and economic initiatives in directions consistent with community needs. Traditionally marginalized communities have found inclusion through social economy organizations focused on the disability community, newcomers and others often disadvantaged in the employment market. Within Indigenous communities, the social economy takes the form of band-owned enterprises and social service delivery associations. It is playing a growing role in resource-based economic development in forestry and non-timber forest products. Social economy as a term may be limiting, imposing economic boundaries on social relations in particular as it pertains to Indigenous communities. The “holistic” approach goes beyond social, economic and environmental. It means “life projects” where life, justice and happiness are part of the equation. The need to incorporate all aspects may be more evident in isolated and rural regions, especially those influenced by Indigenous communities.

The region studied within this project is geographically large and culturally diverse. The common hinterland experience, however, lessened the sense of difference. The research demonstrated that rural and northern development tends to be ignored; the impact of globalization and wealth concentration are more evident. The diversity of impacts requires diverse approaches, which may be more likely to pursue radical options. There tends to be more focus on the local, allowing for greater flexibility and diversity. The research findings of LLL have been as much about the learnings gained regarding how to carry out, and the benefits of, community-based research as it is the knowledge gathered through the completion of 84 individual research projects over the five year time frame. We have learned that community-based research (CBR) is an ongoing process, built on long-term relationships. CBR requires community development skills and the willingness to share lives with one another. It has required a rethinking of research methods leading to democratizing and demystifying of the research activity. In the process community knowledge and community research skills have been legitimized.

The LLL project created a space for the social economy to be recognized and acknowledged. The social economy has gained credibility as a driver within the economic sector with a great deal to contribute to the transition from resource-extractive industries and one-industry towns, tot new economies based on more sustainable and resilient forms of social and economic activity. Although this transition is by no means complete, LLL has deepened the interest and understanding of social economy activities and community-based organizations in all three provinces.

– Lou Hammond Ketilson, Director, Centre for the Study of Co-operatives