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Abstract

This paper constitutes a contribution by the Solidarity Economy and Co-operative Economics Research Group at Unisinos (Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos, a university in southern Brazil) to the theoretical debate promoted in the scope of the ICSEM Project. The definition of social enterprise by the ICSEM Project stresses specific governance models, often found in social enterprises, rather than the profile of social entrepreneurs. A democratic control or a participatory involvement of stakeholders and citizens reflects a quest for more economic democracy inside the organisation, in the line of the tradition of cooperatives and, more recently, of the social and solidarity economy. Examining the current layout of “solidarity economy enterprises” (empreendimentos econômicos solidários) in Brazil, this paper builds on continuous studies linked to the “SIES” Project, promoted by the National Secretariat for Solidarity Economy in association with Unisinos. The main observational support for these studies has been data coming from the second National Mapping of the Solidarity Economy, the analysis of which will enable, throughout the paper, to establish a retrospective notion of the experiences of solidarity economy in the country, distinguish its main current expressions and propose a theoretical model with a view to qualifying such experiences and comparing them to other national scenarios.