BLOC4BCN: strengthening the foundations of the SSE in Barcelona

The complex will open its doors to the public in early March 2024.

13/09/2022 - 11:50 h - Urban planning and infrastructures Ajuntament de Barcelona

The BLOC4BCN cooperative space will be one of the major centres of European cooperativism. The centre for the promotion of the Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) will have an area of 4,500 m2 and will house around sixty business projects. The complex will open its doors to the public in early March 2024.

The Centre for the Promotion of Cooperativism and the Social and Solidarity Economy in Barcelona, the BLOC4BCN, is one of the strategic resources of the city’s Social and Solidarity Economy Strategy (#ESSBCN2030) and one of the 10 related city projects. It will be a meeting place where mutual support and encouragement will increase the impact of other economic models on the well-being of citizens and the socio-economic development of the city. This project will help to strengthen the foundations of the SSE in the city.

BLOC4BCN will host up to 60 business projects as part of incubation and acceleration programmes. These programmes include co-working spaces, areas for workshops, training, advice, and meeting points with the citizens. The initiatives will form part of the priority sectors of the SSE business sector in Barcelona. They will focus on sustainable food and agroecology, social care, local commerce, culture, energy, housing, mobility, the technology and digital sector, tourism, and textiles.

What services will BLOC4BCN be offering?

The facility will offer services both to the cooperatives and incubated initiatives and to citizens.

It will host the Barcelona Cooperative Athenaeum, Coòpolis, a public service for the promotion and dissemination of cooperativism. Since 2016, the year in which the project started, it has helped more than 500 SSE initiatives, contributed to the creation of more than 130 cooperatives and helped to generate around 300 jobs.

In addition, BLOC4BCN will be the satellite for the Sants-Montjuïc Activa area of Barcelona Activa, similar to the Nou Barris Activa satellite. It is expected to provide support to more than 2,000 people in the district every year, mainly unemployed people, those with particular difficulties in finding work, migrants or those in vulnerable situations.

BLOC4BCN will also provide services for analysing needs and opportunities in neighbourhoods and districts, the hosting of sectoral hubs and the internationalisation of SSE companies:

  • SSE Information Point
  • Communication
  • Outreach
  • Training
  • Cooperative hand-over
  • Housing initiatives
  • Landing and networking
  • Consolidation pathways
  • Creation pathways
  • Acceleration
  • Access to funding
  • Community economies
  • Support for socio-economic actors
  • In-house and external activities and events
  • Addition and creation of hubs and clusters
  • Inter-cooperation
  • SSE analysis, research and strategic lines-hubs-ecosystems
  • Support for the formal and non-formal educational sphere
  • University relations area
  • Technical specialisation training
  • Internationalisation
  • Laboratories and prototyping

Governance, funding and innovative public-cooperative management

The governance of the new incubator will also be innovative in itself. Its management will be in the hands of Barcelona’s cooperative and SSE network through public-cooperative management, through the municipal Citizen Assets programme and its principles: Universal access, participatory management, community involvement and social return.

After months of work by Barcelona City Council and the organisations to define the management model, the Bloc4 Association was set up to oversee its management, formed by the Confederation of Cooperatives of Catalonia, the Federation of Worker Cooperatives and the Coòpolis Association. The Generalitat de Catalunya, through the Directorate General for the Social and Solidarity Economy, the Third Sector and Cooperatives, will also participate in the governance and funding of the activities of the Bloc4.

Barcelona City Council ceded the building to this association, initially for a period of 4 years. It will be funded through its own revenues and the support of the City Council and the Generalitat de Catalunya.

 Why promote the SSE?

The Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) is a social and economic reality that benefits both individuals and society as a whole. Its role in economic growth, its transformative capacity and the protection of people make the SSE a real alternative to the prevailing economic models.

Currently, the SSE and cooperativism account for 7% of Barcelona’s GDP and 2.2% in Catalonia as a whole. These SSE companies show greater resilience in times of crisis: they help to guarantee quality jobs, ensure the well-being of workers and strengthen communities.

For example, the Cooperative Barometer 2021 of the Catalan Federation of Worker Cooperatives (FCTC) shows that in 2020, 40% of cooperatives did not have to apply special measures such as furlough schemes, wage cuts or reductions in working hours. In fact, half of the worker cooperatives increased their turnover compared to the previous year.

This resilience is nothing new, and in previous economic crises, it has been observed how cooperatives and other SSE initiatives overcame the obstacles with better results than other enterprises. Research carried out in Catalonia on agricultural cooperatives shows that they recovered more quickly from the 2008 crisis and maintained greater control over employment. A study carried out in the Canary Islands on the impact of the 2008 crisis also showed that limited companies eliminated 48.67% of jobs compared to 12.94% in the case of cooperatives.

BLOC4BCN will offer a new approach to these other ways of doing business where people’s well-being is placed above economic profit and where we work to ensure no one is left behind.

About the site

BLOC4BCN occupies 4,500 m2 of space at Can Batlló, space rehabilitated with environmental and social sustainability in mind. Existing elements have been reused, such as wood, roof tiles, paving stones, metal structures and hydraulic paving. Photovoltaic panels will also be installed to create sustainable energy production.

The building has two floors, and it is divided into functional spaces for developing business activities and projects, incubation programmes, coworking areas and workshop spaces for manual or semi-industrial activities. The adaptation of the space preserves the historical and architectural values of the building, and existing wood and metal materials and structures will be recycled.

Work on the BLOC4BCN building began during the summer of 2021, and Barcelona City Council has invested €9.5 million in the refurbishment and adaptation of the building.

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