The Cross-border School on Social and Solidarity Economy (ETESS)

August 2020

Conseil économique, social et environnemental régional (CESER)

ETESS aims to equip local actors (local authorities, associations and companies) as promoters of collective initiatives and new forms of activities. The creation of activities based on SSE is approached as a lever to take advantage of the endogenous economic potential of the territories and to strengthen the local economic fabric.

The project aims to extend the activities and practices of the Social and Solidarity Economy to a cross-border territory including the South of Aquitaine (Pyrénées-Atlantiques and Sud Landes) but also the autonomous communities of Navarre and Euskadi. It is the result of several years of cooperation between the CBE and the cooperative networks of Navarre (ANEL) and Euskadi (KONFEKOOP).

The social and solidarity economy: a regional ambition shared beyond the border

The Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) designates a social and economic movement bringing together collective organisations seeking to reconcile an economic activity with a social utility 1. In New Aquitaine, the SSE represents one of the two major axes of the Region’s economic development established within the 2016 Regional Plan for Economic Development, Innovation and Internationalisation (SRDEII). The « Neo Terra » roadmap dedicated to the environmental and climate transition refers, for several of its objectives, directly or indirectly to the actors of the social and solidarity economy. Our region is the first French region to have a dedicated SSE Directorate. Among the reasons for this regional commitment to support the SSE: its significant weight in the region (third region in France in terms of weight of the SSE) and reasons related to the history of the region. To cite a few examples: the Deux-Sèvres department, and more particularly the city of Niort, is the historical cradle of mutual societies in France, while the Creuse, a true laboratory of innovation in rural areas, has a strong associative dynamic, and the Basque Country, with 3,556 cooperatives, has a very marked culture of cooperation.

In Navarra, SSE enterprises include more than 13,000 employees. In 2017, the SSE represented 25% of private employment in the region, having increased by 73% since 2015. The Foral Community has an Integral Plan for the Social Economy 2017-2020 which defines the strategic lines for the sector.

In the Basque Country, the number of employees in cooperatives in the territory decreased in 2014. On the other hand, the number of new cooperatives created is increasing: 213 in 2014 alone.

The Cross-border School for the Social and Solidarity Economy (ETESS)

The ETESS project was conceived both as a structuring factor for the cross-border area and as a tool for permanently putting the social economy and cooperation on the agenda through collective work between actors from New Aquitaine, Euskadi and Navarre 2. The project was initiated by a group comprising the Confederation of Basque Cooperatives (KONFEKOOP), the Comité de Bassin d’Emploi du Seignanx (CBE-Seignanx), the town of Hendaye and the Association of Social Economy Enterprises of Navarre (ANEL). Training was identified as a priority following a diagnosis of the needs of the territories. Objectives: while exploiting the endogenous potential of the territory, the project aims to mobilise SSE practices to equip the bearers of collective initiatives and to support the emergence of new forms of activities creating quality employment. Ultimately, the aim is to provide answers to social issues and strengthen the local economic fabric. The direct beneficiaries of the project are local authorities, local actors, SSE companies, project leaders and employees of SSE networks in the three territories involved. The expected results are the development of a joint training offer, a cross-border network of local agents, the establishment of a resource centre and the setting up of collective projects and jobs created in the experimentation territories

Cooperation as a training method

ETESS sees cooperation in general and cross-border cooperation in particular as another way of learning, developing and « changing glasses » to understand the other’s point of view. Put to the test of cross-border exchanges, this option is validated by concrete results, notably: the adaptation of the French model to the Navarrese reality with the creation of the first cooperative of entrepreneurs in Spain and its replication in other Spanish regions 3. Cooperation is thus systematised as a step-by-step method ranging from the development of mutual knowledge to the implementation of cross-border cooperation based on a sustainable organisation, via the development of a joint training offer and the implementation of joint initiatives in each region4.

This co-construction of practices makes it possible to remove, or at least reduce, a certain number of obstacles inherent in cross-border exchanges in the field of training and employment, such as the language barrier, differences in status and difficulties in validating diplomas 5. It also makes it possible to overcome the economic, administrative and institutional differences between the various territories 6.

As for innovation in training and employment, understood as a territorial phenomenon « from below » referring to the capacity for action of citizens, it implies the convergence of economic objectives, the development of individual potentialities and citizenship. It is about putting into practice new forms of work, production, mutual aid, knowledge and learning. It is experimentation in a new way in response to contemporary challenges 7.

With the help of the Pôles territoriaux de coopération économique (PTCE), economic and social issues are organised in the territories around alternatives to competitive forms.

The scope of cross-border cooperation

The practices of the actors are at the heart of the ETESS project. As a result, the projects are embodied in the realities of employment and local needs. This is what defines in the first instance the cross-border perimeter of ETESS’ action. Nevertheless, this does not exclude the use of conceptual and methodological innovations emerging within the framework of the project (the cooperative training modules, for example), by other actors in other territories. The ambition of the project is to inscribe the achievements of ETESS in a long-term process with continuity ensured by future projects that would aim to integrate the knowledge centres of the three territories, to develop training, methodologies and concrete result indicators. From the outset, there is a real desire to spread and disseminate the results.


The structures participating in the project find technical answers to the problems linked to certification. These are based on an informal system of recognition at the level of the members of the network, which enables skills to be recognised. Nevertheless, the project notes that it is also necessary to reexamine the policy in order to formalise solutions and make them sustainable

1 Depuis 2014, l’ESS est reconnue en France par la loi n° 2014-856 du 31 juillet 2014 relative à l’économie sociale et solidaire.

2 Audition de Stéphane Montuzet, Gérant de la SCIC INTERSTICES CAE (Société coopérative d’intérêt collectif) et membre du CESER, 9 octobre 2019.

3 Audition de Antonio Martinez de Bujanda, Gérant d’ANEL, 9 octobre 2019.

4 Audition de Antonio Martinez de Bujanda, Gérant d’ANEL, 9 octobre 2019.

5 Audition de Laurent Rebiere, Gérant de SCIC PERF (Centre territorial de formation) et membre du CESER, 9 octobre 2019.

6 Audition de Antonio Martinez de Bujanda, Gérant d’ANEL, 9 octobre 2019.

7 CESER Nouvelle-Aquitaine, 2019, Systèmes et bonnes pratiques en matière de services sociaux et innovants en Nouvelle-Aquitaine. Rencontre entre les délégations du CES de la CAPB et du CESER Nouvelle-Aquitaine, février 2019.


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