Social Economy Europe welcomes its new Director Sarah de Heusch. A Belgian-Canadian citizen that grew up in Italy, and mother of 2 boys, Sarah is an activist for a fairer world, insatiably curious of grass-rooted collective initiatives that enforce social bounds and local dynamism.
Her first job was assistant to UNICA´s Secretary General, where she learned all about running a European-wide network. In the last 14 years she worked for Smart, a structure that started out in Belgium as a non-profit organization supporting artists, and now open to freelancers in all activity sectors in 7 different EU countries. She started out as a researcher (she holds a Master’s degree in Sociology), and then quickly took part in Smart’s international development. This experience initiated her to the European approach of what is commonly called “atypical employment”. She has worked with many researchers in this field as well as on the issue of platform workers. Smart’s swarming also led her to discover the world of cooperatives, a movement in which she has been very active in the past few years; first, with the platform coops movement, then by chairing working groups such as CECOP’s “atypical employment, platform workers and cooperatives” and ICETT’s working group on the “Future of Work”. She led advocacy and lobby activities on all these topics at both national and EU level.
Sarah is also involved in the Commons movement, as a La Coop des Communs board member. With this organization she has particularly developed a dialogue between commoners, cooperatives, unions and cities, as she believes that the ongoing major EU’s challenges call for collaboration between these progressive forces.
Improving democratic practices in the workplace is one specific line in which Sarah has been highly active in the last few years; she contributed to the development of Smart’s participatory working groups, and, most notably, the set up and presidency of the cooperative’s ethical committee, an innovative governing body. She looks forward to bringing her experience of participatory governance to SEE to increase members’ participation in shaping the network’s future.
The European Social Economy Action Plan is a great opportunity, throughout which Sarah would like to make sure SEE maintains its pivotal role in implementing it and empowering its members to make the best use of it. She also believes it essential that SEE contributes to the EU’s twin transition, and that social economy organizations embark in the environmental transition while grasping the unique opportunities brought by digitalization. Social economy, she believes, is one of the rare movements that can democratize and shape digitalization to ensure it is designed to improve human condition and communities rather than the opposite.
With the forthcoming 2024 EU elections, SEE has a unique opportunity to keep the social economy momentum high both on national and EU agendas. It is also a unique opportunity to work together with other progressive forces to foster social economy’s development and stand for legal frameworks that empower an economy based on the primacy of people as well as social and environmental purpose over profit. The recent acknowledgement of the pivotal role of social and solidarity economy for sustainable development by the UN and decent work by ILO support these views.
Sarah is thankful to the President Juan Antonio Pedreño and Vice- Presidents, Patrizia Bussi, Alain Coheur and Jérôme Saddier, for entrusting her to lead the network. She is thrilled to continue the great work that SEE’s team has done so far in pushing forward social economy on the EU agenda and growing the network. She is delighted to put her expertise and experience to the service of the network in order to promote a human-centered, democratically governed economy the world needs. She looks forward to getting to know and working with SEE members, and more.