Social and Solidarity
Economy: A Path to Inclusive and Sustainable Development in India
India has one of
the youngest populations in the world, with 1 million young Indians
entering the employment market every month . By 2027, India is
projected to have the world's largest working-age population . Its
demographic dividend and huge economic opportunities offer immense
potential for economic growth and job creation in the coming years.
However, to fully realise the benefits, there is a need to build a more
inclusive, equitable, and sustainable economy that not only leads to
economic development but also simultaneously addresses social, economic,
and environmental challenges.
Although India is one of the fastest growing economies, with its gross
domestic product (GDP) touching $3.5 trillion, it falls behind in other
socio-economic indicators. India has been a victim of jobless growth,
high migration rates, low female labour force participation rate, and
inequality, among other factors. Estimates suggest that India will need
to create 70 million new jobs over the next 10 years to solve the job
crisis; however, with the current growth rate of 6.5%, only 24 million
jobs will be created, leaving behind ‘46 million missing jobs’ . In
addition, female labour force participation is as low as 30% and has
remained fairly constant for the last three years (Need citation). The usual strategy
towards growth has crippled India’s overall development and is
indicating a new economic paradigm that emphasises inclusive growth and
equitable distribution of resources and opportunities, making a
transition towards a social and solidarity economy (SSE).
SSE, also known as social economy, is an alternative economic model that
prioritises social well-being over profit maximisation. Globally, the
social economy accounts for about 7% of the GDP and up to 12% of the
employment rate in some countries . Owing to its growing prominence
in recent years, the United Nations General Assembly has adopted a
resolution on promoting the social and solidarity economy for
sustainable development, as this can also contribute to the achievement
and localization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) . India
has been one of the pioneers in innovating significant and influential
solutions in socio-economic empowerment models based on principles of
solidarity, as evidenced by the emergence of community enterprises,
associations, self-help groups (SHGs), and producers’ cooperatives.
Successful demonstration of these models influenced other organisations
to recognize and adopt social practices. Over the last few years, these
models have provided institutional structure for equitable economic
activities, serving as an instrument for government agencies to tackle
issues of poverty through economic and social empowerment.
The three critical pillars of the SSE include inclusive economic growth,
job creation, and social cohesion and empowerment. Development
Alternatives Group, since its inception in 1982, has been contributing
to the promotion of SSE in the country by focusing on developing
inclusive and sustainable solutions to the challenges of poverty,
unemployment, and the environment and applying at scale through
multi-stakeholder partnerships. Development Alternatives has adopted a
unique social innovation approach that is ‘social in purpose, systemic
in nature and inclusive by design’. This approach is based on
collaboration, community-led, and bottom-up action principles.
Through its flagship programme, Work4Progress (W4P), Development
Alternatives is enabling under-represented groups such as youth and
women to access entrepreneurship opportunities, thereby leading to
social inclusion, quality employment, and sustainable economic growth.
It has also led to the development of advanced tools and methodologies
for key processes of listening to multi-stakeholder perspectives,
co-creating solutions with the communities, prototyping these solutions,
and sharing learning to accelerate impact at scale.
This initiative has contributed towards different indicators aligned
with SSE in terms of bringing inclusivity and diversity in the
enterprises, unlocking barriers in enterprise support services, and
enhancing the sustainability of enterprises in 350+ villages of Uttar
Pradesh. The programme has brought 5000+ individuals from the most
marginalised communities into the purview of opportunity-driven
entrepreneurship, enabling them to make a shift from need-based income
generation activities. Furthermore, W4P has helped co-create a diversity
of enterprise models with communities, contextualised based on local
requirements. In the last five years, 120+ enterprise models have been
identified, and validated in seven districts of Uttar Pradesh and are
now replicated in states like Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Maharashtra,
Bihar, and Andhra Pradesh under various other entrepreneurship
A social and solidarity economy can foster a fair, adaptable, and
sustainable future for everyone. Development Alternatives remains
committed to spearheading the advancement of SSE by mainstreaming
bottom-up action, catalysing entrepreneurship as a pathway for job
creation at scale and prioritising the integration of women and
marginalised rural communities into the economy. Going forward, a
crucial aspect of this effort will involve building solutions that
unlock macro-level barriers while being cognisant of the social and
1 World Economic Forum, 2023.
2 Ernst and Young, 2023.
India@100: reaping the demographic dividend. ey.com.
3 Reuters, 2023..Where are the jobs? India's world-beating growth falls
4 World Economic Forum. 2023.
Why UN resolution on social and solidarity
economy matters. weforum.org
5 United Nations. 2023.
Promoting the social and solidarity economy for
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