"The SSE is a way of making an economy. It is also a way of having values, of constructing the social model we want"

Raquel Gil Eiroá, elected councillor for Economic Promotion and Employment, for Feminism, Equality and Democratic Memory, and for Sants-Montjuïc

18/09/2023 - 09:40 h - City Council Ajuntament de Barcelona

We have interviewed Raquel Gil Eiroá. She was elected councillor at the last elections, and she is Councillor for Economic Promotion and Employment, for Feminism, Equality and Democratic Memory, and for Sants-Montjuïc, and part of her brief is to promote the Social and Solidarity economy. She studied law, and her career as a lawyer has been focused on employment law and women’s rights at the UGT; she has also been chair of the Mutual Assistance Association for Immigrants in Catalonia. More recently, her career has been focused on Public administration. First, working for Sant Feliu de Llobregat city council, and then, during the last term of office, she was Commissioner for Promotion of Employment and Policies against Job Insecurity at Barcelona City Council. As she likes to say, a woman with a social profile and career.

During the last term of office, you were the Commissioner for Employment and Policies against Job Insecurity. So you were already familiar with the area you cover now as Councillor. How are you finding the change of responsibilities? What are the main goals you wish to achieve through the Councillor’s Office?

As I was particularly focused on employment-related matters in my previous role, this enabled me to get to know Barcelona Activa and the way it touches people’s lives. Approaching projects from this perspective will be very important now that I’m responsible for the economic promotion of the city.

We should not lose sight of the fact that people need to be at the centre of the policies we develop. The economic policies we launch from the city need to help guarantee the city model we want: a city that is competitive, respects talent, and generates opportunities … but at the same time, a city that puts people at the heart of its decision-making and that generates quality job opportunities.

So, incorporating this vision into economic promotion in general, and not only active employment policies, is an approach that could help us to generate more opportunities.

During the previous term of office, you had the opportunity to work with the previous Commissioner for Social Economy, and you also took part in some of the Estratègia #ESSBCN2030 sessions. What’s your view on the SSE in Barcelona?

We are a city where the social and solidarity economy sector (SSE) is really flourishing. Not only due to the efforts being made by the institutions, particularly Barcelona City Council but also because we are a city that historically has had a lot of social and solidarity economy, lots of cooperative movements, lots of social movements, which is also the basis for this type of economy. It is a way of making an economy, at the end of the day. But it is also a way of having values, of constructing the social model we want. The economic model can help; it can enrich the city as a whole.

Since 2015, Barcelona City Council has been implementing a public policy to promote the SSE. What’s your opinion on this and its continuation and the direction it is taking?

There are stakeholders at city level and at regional level (Catalonia) that are doing lots of good work. From the City Council, what we always try to do is help to make things happen. And in this case, also help to strengthen this economic movement with lines of subsidies, with support for projects, with joint projects between administrations and with the various players in the economy… all these things have helped to solidify and strengthen what was already there. Barcelona City Council has become one of the key players when it comes to boosting and speaking up for the values of the SSE and the various projects.

Within the SSE, there are a diverse range of sectors, a diverse range of sizes, a diverse range of projects and huge capacity. There is also a working methodology that has been implemented over the past few years, with lots of networking, lots of respect, lots of collaboration … which, without a doubt, makes all the projects in this area stronger.

Closely linked to these projects, and since you are also the Councillor for Sants-Montjuïc, is the future Bloc4BCN in the La Bordeta neighbourhood. What is your view on this opportunity? What are the challenges faced by this future facility?

An immediate future, the project is already very advanced. We have a facility that is coming along at a good pace and that, from an architectural and aesthetic point of view, looks spectacular. But, above all, it is a facility that will place us at the forefront in the promotion of the SSE, not only in Barcelona and Catalonia but also in the whole of southern Europe.

There are also some challenges. We have a space where things have to happen. We need to help ensure that lots of things happen and that this space is filled with life, filled with activity; we need to make it the heart of this whole cooperative movement and the SSE and ensure that we not only have a fantastic container but that the content we are capable of generating is up to scratch.

A lot of great work has been done up to this point. A lot of reaching agreements and rethinking the project together. It’s a sound project with a team that is keen to do things, and I think that the challenge will be, apart from the people who are already involved in the project, getting lots more initiatives to join in.

And what are the opportunities?

Just having a reference space in itself is always an opportunity: it helps you to visualise and give value to the work being done. It is much easier to explain things when you have a physical place or a space where you can see what you’re talking about. From this point of view, it generates new opportunities for meetings, networking, and new projects, even at different levels.

The building is designed not only to house service cooperatives. There are also spaces for some form of industry, small-scale because we’re talking on a city scale, but where things can be manufactured, where products could be produced.

This space we’re creating presents both a challenge and an opportunity. It’s a space where lots of things can happen. Our challenge is to help make these things happen.

In its promotion of the SSE, Barcelona City Council has been working in close collaboration with the Generalitat de Catalunya and with other Catalan local authorities. Will this collaboration also be a priority?

More than a priority, for us, networking is an intrinsic aspect of our work. That is, we don’t see other administrations as our competitors but rather as necessary collaborators. We need to keep joining forces and working closely with all the other stakeholders if we are to achieve common goals. If not, we’ll be all the poorer for it.

If we have administrations that are in competition with each other and entities and a sector in competition, we could have something very powerful, but in terms of the bigger picture, it’s likely to hinder our efforts. And not only in the world of the Social and Solidarity Economy. We’re also doing this in relation to active employment policies with the Generalitat, with other areas where we understand that we have to create synergies, as this is the perfect way to multiply the effects of the public policies we put in place.