Seminar on the social economy


Jacques Defourny (professor) and Séverine Thys (assistant)


The goal of this course is to make the realities of the third sector of the social economy better known and to make their specificity better understood, both in developed and in developing countries.

The third sector mainly brings together enterprises of the co-operative movements, mutual organisations and activities with an economic relevance carried out by non-profit organisations (non-profit organisations and de facto associations). In order to apprehend these realities, whose importance is generally strongly undervalued, two main analytical frameworks are exploited in a complementary way: on the one hand, approaches based on the concept of "social economy"; on the other hand, approaches based on the notion of "non-profit organisation" (NPO), about which many theoretical and empirical works have been published since the second half of the 1970s.

Prospective participants:

Prospective participants are students taking part in the following study programmes:

  • Master in Economics
  • Master in Labour Sciences
  • Master in Population and Development Sciences
  • Complementary Master in Development, Environment and Societies


The course is organised during the second semester (from February to May), under the form of a seminar. The first seven sessions are devoted to the presentation of the main conceptual and theoretical approaches. The following sessions are organised as follows: two or three students present a major theme on the basis of a few articles and two or three other students play the role of "discussants"; a general debate is then led by the teacher.


The final evaluation is based on four elements: the quality of the written work and the oral presentation, the quality of the "discussion" of the presentation made by other students, the participation in the debates and an oral exam.


The pedagogical supports are the following: