Sustainability, the Social Economy, and the Eco-social Crisis: Traveling Concepts and Bridging Fields
Soots, Lena K.
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Current global issues such as climate change and peak oil have brought attention to the severity and complexity of our eco-social crisis and called for local action and community-based solutions. There is a need for middle level analytical concepts and tools that engage the organizational and operational forms and practices of mutuality and trust needed for a conversion to eco-social sustainability. The purpose of this paper is to explore how the social economy can help to address local issues in this context and contribute to the transition to a more sustainable society. The paper compares the historical and ideological foundations of the social economy with those of the sustainability movement, identifying both theoretical similarities and ‘traveling concepts’ used by practitioners in the two fields. We argue that effective community responses to current socio-ecological crises would benefit from some bridging and building between the two schools of thought and fields of practice. As part of the British Columbia-Alberta Social Economy Research Alliance (BALTA) our paper presents some early analysis from three sectors in BC and Alberta (farmers markets, land trusts and built environments). Using these examples, we highlight how practitioners in both the social economy and sustainability fields can understand the eco-social crisis and compare how each organizes its alternatives around notions of trust, mutuality and sensitivity to community locale.