Ricardo Rio, Mayor of the Portuguese city of Braga, has said that it is vital for European cities and regions to promote the Social Economy if they want to create resilient economies.
Speaking in an interview with the EU Committee of the Regions (CoR), Rio defines a social economy as one where people prioritise social wellbeing and objectives over profit.
He said that he believes it is essential for local governments in the EU to take on social economic policies in order to create local economies that can stand strong against shocks and changes.
In particular he emphasised the role of charities, ngos. volunteer groups, and other social economy organisations
“Social economy organisations play a crucial role in fostering community development.” he said.
“They are often deeply rooted in their local areas, providing essential services, creating jobs, and contributing to the overall well-being of communities.”
Rio is a Member of the centre-right and christian democrat European People’s Party in the CoR. In his native Braga, a small historic city in the north west of Portugal, he has been Mayor, or President of the Municipal Council since 2013 for the Portuguese Social Democratic Party.
Rio stressed the need for local governments in the EU to adopt social economic policies to strengthen local economies against shocks and changes.
He outlined the significance of social economy organizations, including cooperatives, non-profits, social enterprises, mutual societies, and community organizations, which prioritize social, cultural, or environmental needs over profit maximization. These entities contribute to social inclusion, job creation, environmental sustainability, and community development across various sectors.
“In the context of the green transition, cooperation between cities [and/or] regions and the social economy sector is vital,” Mayor Rio stated. He proposed establishing strong partnerships and networks between local governments, social economy organizations, and relevant stakeholders to drive green projects and policies.
Emphasizing the need for dedicated funding and investment opportunities, he suggested grants, subsidies, or preferential financing terms for eco-friendly projects.
Mayor Rio underlined the role of local governments in supporting social economy enterprises engaged in green activities through sustainable procurement policies. Aligning local and regional policies with the goals of the green transition, integrating social and environmental criteria, and establishing incubators or innovation hubs were additional strategies he recommended.
Regarding challenges hindering the social economy, Mayor Rio highlighted limited access to capital, lack of awareness, and burdensome regulations. He urged the creation of a more friendly environment for social economy actors and emphasized the need for stronger political commitment and better alignment between different levels of government to advocate for the Social Economy.
In conclusion, Mayor Rio’s insights underscore the pivotal role of the Social Economy in creating resilient and inclusive local economies. By prioritizing social well-being, fostering collaboration, and addressing challenges, cities and regions can unlock the full potential of the social economy for a sustainable future.