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Social Economy Guide

co-operatives, community-based businesses, non-profits, social enterprise, teaching, voluntary sector


For definitions of the Social Economy, check the Atlantic Node of the Canadian Social Economy Network. A social economy blog, Value Added in the SE Brand provides up to date research, news and events specific to the Atlantic region. Research papers on the Social Economy are available on SE Space (see below for more information).


Social Economy Space (SE space)

SE space

SE Space collects digital documents on co-operatives and the wider social economy. The purpose of the SE space is to promote the widest possible dissemination by collecting and preserving intellectual output written by both academics and practitioners, and ensuring that it has high visibility and accessibility.

The SE-Space site is focused on the works, publications and research by persons involved in researching and writing about matters pertaining to the Social Economy and co-operatives. The main focus is on materials that are relevant to the Canadian experience, and that highlight the work of Canadian researchers. You can visit SE space here.

Social Economy and Sustainability Research Network

          Visit the Social Economy and Sustainability Research Network homepage.


About the Social Economy and Sustainability Research Network

Current responses to the challenges facing the Atlantic region build on a long established tradition of innovation and cooperative effort. These responses have coalesced into a sector known as the social economy. The social economy takes many forms; co-operatives, credit unions, non-profits and mutuals are all aspects of the social economy sector. What these organizations tend to have in common is that they put people before profit, that they exercise democratic principles in their governance, that they put an emphasis on participation, empowerment, and individual and collective responsibility; and that their management is independent of government.

There are, however, wide gaps in our knowledge of this sector. The members of the Social Economy and Sustainability Research Network are working to narrow some of these gaps, particularly in our knowledge about the social economy of the Atlantic region. In the process, we hope to increase the region’s capacity for a dynamic social economy by building partnerships, knowledge, and networks across the region and its peoples; by working with our community partners to meet their research needs, and by making an impact on policy at the provincial and municipal levels.

The Network is committed to facilitating others’ research on the Social Economy, and to encouraging student research. This guide is a collaborative effort of the MSVU Library and the Social Economy and Sustainability Research Network and will grow and adapt as the project progresses. The work of the Social Economy and Sustainability Research Network is supported by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).  For more details please see: 

Definition of the Social Economy

Separate from the private sector and government, the social economy includes co-operatives, foundations, credit unions, non-profit organisations, the voluntary sector, charities and social economy enterprises. These enterprises are run like businesses, producing goods and services for the market economy, but manage their operations and redirect their surpluses in pursuit of social and environmental goals.

This guide is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License. You may copy the guide as long as credit is included. We encourage you to license your derivative works under Creative Commons as well to encourage sharing and reuse of educational materials. Please be aware that many of our guides contain links to subscription-based services for which access is restricted, and collections of resources that may have additional rights reserved. Please consult the licenses and terms of use for each resource.