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Cities, the social economy and inclusive growth: a practice review

This report explores the actual and potential roles of the social economy in bringing about inclusive growth that generates more and better jobs in cities, particularly for people who are either in or at risk of poverty. We provide recommendations for how city policy-makers and social economy organisations (SEOs) can develop the kinds of support and enabling environment needed to further develop the impact and potential of SEOs and encourage nw start-up activity.

What is the social economy and why is it relevant to inclusive growth?
We take a broad view of the social economy to include a range of organisations that have a core social mission, different levels of participative and democratic control by members, and use any financial surpluses or profits primarily to achieve their social and environmental missions. This includes the following overlapping categories of organisation:

• social and community enterprise
• voluntary and community sector organisations (including charities)
• housing associations
• co-operatives and mutuals
• informal self-help initiatives
• social finance and support providers
• alternative business models, such as multi-stakeholder companies with social or environmental missions.

The concept of the social economy emphasises the principles of how people relate to each other – through reciprocity and solidarity – and meet their needs through co-operation. It also provides a set of models for how economies might be differently understood or structured, to improve people’s quality of life. It is therefore a useful lens to consider how different types of SEOs can contribute to more inclusive growth within UK cities.

This approach widens understanding of how different business and organisational models can help create a more responsible, equal and inclusive economy, and innovate new economic approaches. It also means going beyond seeing SEOs as filling in the gaps which are not being addressed by the market or the public sector.