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The sales of craft over a Lively Talk and a cup of Coffee: social representations in a commercialization center of solidarity economy.


The phenomenon, movement or ideology known as solidarity economy has been developing over the years from the generation of numerous possibilities of work and income for several groups who, oftentimes are out of the formal labor market and they envisage possibilities of starting over and reintegrating to a productive activity in this format. The logic behind this movement, even though it is inserted in a capitalist market, follows a guideline that is not based on economic efficiency or operational efficacy, but on human valorization and collective well--being (SINGER, 2002; GAIGER, 2009). On the scope of this movement, work gains a major connotation, because from it people seek visibility spaces in any activity they choose. Amisdt the possibilities, crafts stands out as an option of low-cost production and that can bring return to the craftsman and to the local community (BECKER, 1979). The search for producing something, which is handmade, even though it represents an undervalued activity and invisible to a part of society, may reflect on symbolic rewards to the craftspeople, going beyond mere financial return.

Understanding solidarity economy as a key element for the articulation of groups marginalized by the capital (SINGER, 2002), leads to the building of enterprises based on cooperation, self-management and solidarity; therefore, constituting a fertile ground for the development of craftwork. The knowledge produced not only about the undertaken business ventures, but also about the networks established through partnerships of groups with the same profile, deserves especial attention, while the perspective of those not familiar with the organization may disguise some elements, which are fundamental in comprehending the organizational dynamics and the representation of importance to the group (MANCE, 2005).

In the field of Organization Studies (OS), some authors (e.g., SILVA; CARRIERI; JUNQUILHO, 2011; FIGUEIREDO; CAVEDON; SILVA, 2013; GUIMARAES; FANTINEL, 2015; SARAIVA; SO ARES; NATT, 2016) are mobilizing the Theory of Social Representations (TSR) to uncover those meanings that circulate amongst the members of the organizations. The articulation of the TSR to understand organizational contexts, although it gives rise to some criticism, such as the noncritical and instrumental usage of the theory at times, allows the comprehension of societal matters in particularities that highlight social processes of construction and reconstruction of common sense, going beyond the levels of intra and interindividual analyses (MARTINS-SILVA et al., 2016).

Thus, the TSR enables us to avoid obstacles of the organizational analyses, known as traditional, and to produce knowledge on different organizational forms from the symbolic constructions of the participants themselves. It uncovers and interprets seemingly controversial and ambiguous senses produced within the organization, which, however, compose this complex kaleidoscope, which is the symbolic organizational universe. In particular, it is important to highlight that the culturalist approach we mobilize in this study aligns with the procedural and interpretative perspectives we adopt, epistemologically and methodologically. In this regard, one comprehends that social groups develop intelligible understandings of certain aspects of their reality, produced and reproduced in their daily life, through processes of social interaction and communication. Those understandings, even if individually expressed, evidence perspectives and ways of thinking that are common to the group, which forge meanings and provide daily life with senses that change over time in a complex dynamics (SAMMUT et al., 2015).

Considering the comprehensive potential of using the TSR in the production of knowledge on organizational realities, the aim of this paper is to present the social representations circulating among the craftswomen of the Public Solidarity Economy Commercialization Center (PSECC) in the city of Cariacica-ES, about the work carried out there and the movement in which they are included. The proposal of the paper is to bring to light relevant elements to the field of OS, which reflect information that previous approaches oftentimes neglected that do not explore the symbolic side of organizations. We justify this approach since the TSR, by valuing the practical knowledge and the knowledge produced in the locus of the one producing and reproducing it, meets the proposal to expand human relationships developed by the Solidarity Economy. Assuming that the Solidarity Economy boosts the creation of various organizations that share the proposal of social and democratic management, the understanding of its multiple realities through the TSR inaugurates a path of investigation that aims to fulfill the scientific gap on working practices that are guided by specific values, driven towards a logic that goes beyond economic performance.


The Theory of Social Representations emerges with the contributions by Serge Moscovici in 1961, with the theoretical proposal of explaining and weaving supporting ideas about social reality from a critical and historical perspective. Based on Social Psychology, Moscovici's (1978) contributions unveiled a new way of thinking about social relations and the forms of production and reproduction of reality based on knowledge systems constructed collectively. Moscovici broke away from the traditional Psychology patterns of that time, highlighting the concept of social representations constructed from different objects, supported by two forms responsible for the construction of the particular universe: consensual and scientific. The consensual universe originated from the informal and daily life conversations, while the scientific one involves the theoretical and hierarchical perspective of the academia (ARRUDA, 2002).

The proposal of consensual universes brings new ways of understanding the reality constructed in everyday life, considering that, from this perspective, we are all wise regarding infinite subjects. By valuing the knowledge of common sense (JODELET, 1989), the TSR contradicts principles stated as traditional by some fields of science, once it legitimates not only the speech of owners of knowledge of a certain topic, but also the one of erudite people recognized and legitimized to discuss topics in their field. Thus, we understand the consensual knowledge as fundamental to the scientific knowledge and vice-versa, being incompatible to shape them under antagonistic perspectives. Therefore, Moscovici (1978) questions the "ivory tower" constructed over the academic knowledge, uncovering a theory that seeks to favor practical and common knowledge as a form of symbolic and historical valorization.

For Moscovici (1978), the valorization of practical knowledge as a way of studying the reality of subjects, groups and society represents an attempt to understand the world in the individual perspective where we create representations that we share on a social level. Cavedon and Ferraz (2005, p.6) emphasize that there are no isolated representations, because they are constructed and disseminated through the individual's communication and cooperation, since "when they are created, they end up coming alive, circulating, finding one another, attracting one another, repelling one another and making way for the emergence of new representations, while others, which are older, end up disappearing".

The arguments Moscovici (1978) developed, allow understanding the TSR as structured in two basic processes: objectification and anchoring. We may understand objectification as the process of construction of the object, i.e., transforming it into something concrete. We initiate the construction of this path with the selection and de-contextualization of elements, reducing the volume of information about what is being represented (ARRUDA, 2002). Thereafter, we extract sections based on the information the individual has, incorporating the "product" through a reconstruction to a core that portrays the representation. Then, from a perspective of naturalization, the abstraction is transformed into something "material and tangible". As for anchoring, it represents different ways of making sense of a determined object from elements that facilitate comprehension. For Moscovici (1988), this process represents a form of classifying reality in categories previously known, in which one seeks to bring the strange into a familiar context.

The definitions presented so far compose what is commonly denominated as "the great theory", which gave rise to the developments of other researchers that began to compose the field (ARRUDA, 2002; JODELET, 2008; MARTINS-SILVA et al., 2016). For Martins-Silva et al. (2016), such developments appear compatible with Serge Moscovici's general theory, but they allowed the construction of complementarities to elaborate better-detailed descriptions of certain structures and their functioning. In addition, according to the authors, the main developments would be the following: (1) the approach focused on socio-cognitive processes through studying the structures of social representations; (2) the approach of sociological emphasis, aiming to understand production and circulation conditions of the representations; and, finally, (3), the culturalist approach, which is intensified in the study of significance and meanings processes that allow the construction of the subjects' social reality.

The present paper aligns to the third approach, as it elaborates on the processes of construction and reconstruction of organizational reality, understanding these phenomena as profoundly connected to the cultural dimension. This concept are ideas by Denise Jodelet, for comprehending social representations initially based on studies about madness. Jodelet (1989) shares the view of social representations as forms of constructions and sharing of practical knowledge, yet she amplifies the operationalization of TSR investigations based on three fundamental questions: Who knows and from where does one know it? What does one know it and how do they know it? What does one know about and with what effect?

This culturalist approach, also termed as processual, sheds some light on interpretative processes elaborated by the group and how they influence and are influenced by the production and reproduction mechanisms of the representations (MARTINS-SILVA et al., 2016). Its symbolic focus and its orientation to the role of representations in practices open important paths for the theoretical articulation of this perspective in Organization Studies, as the analyses produced seek to uncover the complexity of the symbolic construction of human reality (JODELET, 2008).

Solidarity Economy (SE) emerges, then, as a phenomenon originated from the field of practical action of the individuals, unfolding into three dimensions: political, economic and scientific. In the political area SE aims to develop through public policies that result in opportunities to groups that are invisible to and marginalized by the capital (SINGER, 2002), which relate to the ideals of the movement to articulate groups and seek professional, economic and human development opportunities (RAKOPOULOS, 2014; VAUXANCOURT et al., 2006). In the economic area the creation of Solidarity Economy Business Ventures (SEBV) inaugurate job positions in a number of formats resulting in income generation from self-management and solidarity of capital, as a guiding axis of their actions (HELLY, BARSKY, FOXEN, 2003; LAFOREST, 2014). In the scientific area, SE develops from investigations that understand it as a counterpoint to the current economic model, based on socialist roots (SVENSON, 2014). It seeks more egalitarian conditions for its groups, but fights for survival in a capitalist scenario. Therefore, it triggers tensions that numerous investigations discuss, exploring the subjects' action and behavior, management forms, the impact caused by solidarity relationships and the struggle for survival of both the SE movement and the SEBV in the face of countless challenges (LAVILLE, 2003; YAMASHITA, 2013). As highlighted by Singer (2002), SE shapes itself as a form of interpretation of "another economy" based on the cooperation of the subjects articulated in economic business ventures seeking identity and visibility. Alcantara (2005) feeds the concept of "identity refitting" when believing that the movement rescues the human being deemed distant from the options standardized by the market. Thus, considering this rescue in relation to the subjects' action, the valorization of their particular practices of work development, and the elevation of the practical knowledge produced, we understand that the articulation between TSR and SE may contribute by bringing to the field of OS investigations anchored on guidelines that go beyond organizational performance. This comprehension is essentially based on historical and cultural dimensions, surfaced from the daily life of the subjects, uncovering the forms of construction and reconstruction of their social realities. By highlighting phenomena that are normally neglected by conventional theorizations, such as the very notion of common sense (which is characterized as the very foundation over which the

TSR is built), this theoretical articulation allows understanding the dynamics of this social construction (that is always in progress) through the subjects' experience in the production of guiding meanings to their daily practices.

Understanding representations and practices from the perspective of social experiences allows making some arguments in order to try to comprehend the individual through their eyes and their interpretation of the world. Figueiredo, Cavedon and Silva (2013) emphasize that the TSR has been the target of numerous research in the field of OS from analyses like the cultural context of organizations, the social practices on behalf of organizational strategies, constructions and discursive strategies and individuals and group identity. For Silva, Carrieri and Junquilho (2001), since a group of macro and micro-social practices permeates organizations, the analysis through the lenses of social representations allows an approximation between the individual perspectives of daily life construction, given that the individual is included in groups and in several social contexts. At the same time, the articulation of the TSR to the SE permits to broaden the density of the investigations, because, as emphasized by Oliveira et al. (2017), organizations with a cooperative and associative character are rich spaces for understanding the workers' reality. It allows us to understand particularities in the completion of work, which are constructed and deconstructed in the speech that comes from the perspective of its practitioners.


Dating back to its etymological meaning, the word work derives from the word tripalium or tripalus, which corresponded to a tool used to immobilize the paws of oxen and horses to receive horseshoes. Curiously, this was also the name of an object used to torture prisoners and slaves. Thus, it emerged the verb tripaliarie, which consisted of the form of submitting someone to tripalium (OLIVERO, 2003).

This Latin origin view about work, largely influenced by the catholic tradition, affects negatively the concept of hard work, differently from the Anglo-Saxon (protestant) concept, that admits work as the only way to salvation (DAMATTA, 1986). In this context, the notion of crafts, which comprehends the craftsman as naturalized with the art or skill of executing a certain task, producing something with the hands (BECKER, 1978), may be refrained, representing sometimes a tough punishment, and at other times a rewarding activity.

We can consider crafts as a metaphor to the corporal, moral and affectively engaged human doing, simultaneously translates into concept and practice. At the same time, in opposition to an industrial production, mass-oriented and segmented, may represent, under certain perspectives, a disqualified and archaic productive process (DAVEL; FISCHER; CAVEDON, 2012). On the other hand, in the field of the so-called fine arts, crafts may be considered a "poor cousin", a form of inferior art (FIGUEIREDO; MARQUESAN, 2014), subject, in addition to aesthetic, to the dictates of functionality.

Nevertheless, the traditionally used concept of crafts comprehends it as a human cultural expression provided with certain characteristics. We adopt here, based on the contributions of Sennett (2008), American author, who is therefore, influenced by the Anglo-Saxon view of work, the comprehension of crafts as something produced by hand work, by the intelligent hand of the human being with the articulated use of hands and mind to build forms. From the authors' point of view, crafts is only possible with the articulation of work with the appropriate tools through a high-level aptitude, understood as the skills to the function. In addition, Sennett (2008) highlights that the craft ability aims to a constant search for quality, in relation to doing a job well done and the motivation to work. Thus, this "doing it well" comes not from an institutionalized work, but from the gradual learning and habit. Therefore, in addition to the mere acquiring of skills, craft represents a constant dialogue between thinking and doing, the control of the craftsman over the creative and productive process (SENNETT, 2008).

Not only in the Brazilian context, but also global, one may say that crafts is a field of symbolic and material disputes. On one hand, the craftwork process is traditionally linked to the handmade production of unique pieces, which do not align to standardization for several reasons, such as variations in the style of the craftsman or in the material used (MAZZA; IPIRANGA; FREITAS, 2007). However, these and other particularities that permeate the craftwork, differ from the characteristic ways of production of modern capitalism, which are profoundly tangled in an ideology that advocates massification, efficiency and standardization.

In this regard, many discussions highlight the need for placing craftspeople in the formal labor market. Therefore, if Martins (1973) already emphasized the difficulties of crafts in terms of informality, Marquesan and Figueiredo (2014) argue that the inclusion of these workers in the formal market is often, marked by entrepreneurship and managerialism. This logic seeks to turn craftspeople into entrepreneurs, techniques and products of mass production, taking the craft activity away from the aesthetic and functional standards that traditionally define it.

Therefore, as it often occurs, it turns the unfair and unequal working conditions invisible, the current logic of the relationship between society and crafts brings to light the perspective of social division of the work. From Silva's (2015) point of view, for example, who developed a study with craftswomen of a gaucha popular art and crafts cooperative, many of these professionals are exposed to a double exclusion, given that great part of these activities are executed by women, who carry out a work disarticulated from the capitalist logic of mass production (SILVA, 2015).

In Becker's (1974) point of view, the articulation of groups in cooperation networks allows the connection of groups, whether they are families or not, with these relationships being essential to the broad work of sensitivity of the workers linked to activities that demand art to "deliver" the final product. However, Sennett (2008) affirms that this same logic of cooperation, opposite to the competition normally privileged by the hegemonic economic and political system of the contemporaneity, can jeopardize the execution of the job, which, in certain moments, is conducted by the well-being of the community, and in others, is guided by individual competition, compromising the quality of the product.

However, in spite of the above arguments, we need to remember that crafts, as a human expression, represents a form of identity construction of a group, turning such identity into a lifestyle based on the manifestation of values and its own culture (MAZZA; IPIRANGA; FREITAS, 2007). In this regard, these conflicts and disputes are present in the routine of craftwork, as a background of the issues faced by the subjects researched for this study.


The present research may be characterized as qualitative and the interpretative character in the grounds of the analysis supports it. We justify the perspective chosen sine there is a movement of several researchers in the field of OS that tend to go beyond the functional guidelines of analysis, allowing to highlight elements that are frequently neglected and that may reveal a lot about organizational routine, management practices and behaviors, as well as leading to more coherent reflections on human life from symbolic processes (MORGAN; FROST; PONDY, 1983; TURNER, 1990).

We structured data collection through the triangulation of the following techniques: 1) non-participant observation of ethnographic inspiration; 2) interview; and 3) documentary research. We explain the techniques below.

Non-participant observation was possible as the researcher introduced himself in the routine of the PSECC, experiencing the reality faced by the group during four months, sharing from those moments in 4 meetings of approximately 5 hours each, observing their emotions and feelings in the completion of the job, acting as a spectator for data collection (BARLEY, 1996). We justify the ethnographic inspiration since we seek to develop the research under the perspective of estrangement based on the "native" daily life, and then building a detailed analysis about the field experience. According to Yanow (2012), research of ethnographic intent in organizations permit creating possibilities to feel the field from the comprehension of elements, for instance, language, acts of interaction and "things" we carry out, without the restraints of certain tools or methods. The non-participant character is due to the fact it was a first contact with the group, especially aimed to learn about their dynamics and to create the first bonds with the subjects of the research. We need to highlight that we produced field diaries at the end of each observation in order to report properly. We seek the highest detail of information, not only about what was observed in the field, but also the feelings, the emotions and the perceptions of the group and of the researcher in a broad process of reading and re-reading the data, as stated by Goldman (2003, p.469) "the act of writing modifies the one who writes".

We conducted the interviews with the three women that work at the PSECC. The selection criterion lies on the fact that these three women are the only ones who work regularly, from Monday to Saturday, at the location, following a schedule of shifts during the week. The interviews were semi-structured; we opted for working only with categories a priori that came up in the theoretical design, though. The semi-structured characteristic of the interview allowed making the most of the opinions articulated to other topics which were linked to the categories of analysis, direct or indirectly.

In addition to the interviews and observations, we performed a documentary survey in materials from Cariacica-ES City Hall, such as meeting minutes and notes. We consulted these materials in order to ground the analysis regarding the background, the organizational dynamics and the current range of the project.

The categories we adopted: 1) solidarity economy; 2) work; and 3) crafts, emerged from the theoretical frame and complemented by the vibrant

"speech" from the field. We base the data analysis on the technique known as content analysis of direct type, according to Rossi, Serralvo and Joao (2014). In this dimension, we are able to create key-concepts or initial categories based on prior studies, because we believe that, given the fact that the topic is still under construction of the concepts discussed, the proposal raised permits adding a new way of analyzing such enterprises, relying on assumptions emerged from the interpretative analysis.



[...] So, actually it begins with the community, right?, because of the lack of opportunity to commercialize what we produced. So we had done an experience with the community, it was at the time when we had a Social Assistant there. So, it didn't work very well, because there at the suburbs, away from everything and everyone, we couldn't do what we wanted to do there. Then, this opportunity appeared of writing the project to SENAES, it the city hall who actually wrote it, right. Then, we thanked God they approved it. It's been a long time, right, because this project is not a recent thing, and only in August last year we managed to get the public center of Cariacica started, but there's still a lot of limitations [...] so it took a lot of time to manage to get the resources because things are very bureaucratic, they take too long. Then, the city administration changed, so they only took action when they nominated the secretary. So, only last year thank God the public center was opened. (Craftswoman 2).

The speech presented at the beginning of this section is the report of one of the craftswo-men interviewed, which highlights, with great detail, how and why the PSECC was created. As we can observe, the community had already been producing numerous products and, for several reasons, such as the peripheral location in relation to the center of the city and for the "lack of opportunity", they did not commercialized those products. The speech of the craftswoman reveals that the intervention of an external agent was necessary -a Social Assistant in this case - to elaborate and send the project that, because of bureaucratic reasons of the city hall, went through difficulties before being initiated. We can verify, that the initial proposal of the business venture emerges as a community demand, being materialized thanks to the intervention of the local public authority in partnership with the federal government via SENAES.

As part of the Good Living Program of Solidarity Economy Development from the agreement signed by the National Secretariat of Solidarity Economy (SENAES) of the Ministry of Labor, the PSECC was inaugurated on August 19th 2014, as a way of meeting a historical demand of the craftspeople (MARQUES, 2015). Besides the support on federal level, the initiative became possible due to the articulation with the Municipal Policy of Promotion and Development of Solidarity Economy (CARIACICA, 2013).

The space created aims to provide working and income conditions to groups from neighborhoods considered peripheral by the city hall, creating conditions to present the work and discuss forms of managing the enterprise. Based on the values of solidarity economy, the space cherishes for the union of the group and solidarity of the activities and capital. The PSECC is described not only as a place for buying and selling crafts and food products, but also as a possibility of aligning various guidelines, as emphasized in Figure 1.

These pillars, as presented above in a structured way, are part of the story told and publicized by the official means of the city hall, based on the main purpose of the PSECC. However, the recurrent narrative in the speech and in the daily experience of the enterprise highlights it in a more particularized way and less broad as described in official documents. The background history we observe and that the interviewees describe reflects a constant struggle for workspace, meaning not only having their own physical space, but also gaining visibility before the local society. This demand is part of a long process of participation in groups, fairs, assemblies and discussion forums on the articulation of solidarity economy, as well as meetings with city councilors, and, mainly, with candidates for public offices.

The historical timeline until the creation and operation of the PSECC is understood as "a dream come true", according to the speech of one interviewee. The symbolic repertoire, which involves the dream that comes true, refers to the materialization of the proposals that, at first, would not appear to take shape, nor to be part of their reality. Therefore, with the inauguration of the business venture, the ones involved started to gradually understand the proposal of each pillar developed for the project.

Nowadays, given numerous possibilities anchored to the continuity of the work, the space gathers the product exhibition of several groups, not just from crafts and the coffee shop. The current proposal makes it possible to articulate and give visibility to roughly 60 craftspeople included in three axes of key activities: crafts, agroindustry and coffee shop. We present the groups in each activity in Table 1.


Solidarity economy is understood by the interviewees, based on the guideline that conceives it as a means of salvation from the difficulties that are faced. At every space of the PSECC, the visual reinforcement created over the movement is clear, with instructive banners. The entrance sign, where the name "Art and Coffee" is exposed, is followed by the definition "Public Solidarity Economy Commercialization Center". This visual reinforcement is produced because of the accounts of the craftswomen interviewed, who give the idea of solidarity economy as a means of sharing and solidarity, as we can observe in their speeches:
(...) because, actually, solidarity economy exists since human history
began. That sharing, you know, that exchange. Back there in Jesus
time, before Jesus, there was that thing of exchanging, you would
exchange the sheep for the vegetable, the wool for...that was
solidarity economy already, it just didn't have this name. Because,
before currency existing, there was a way for you to trade.
(Craftswoman 1)

(...) solidarity economy is, in this sense, a way of helping the
other, everybody produces, put everything in common in the same space
and we sell. (Craftswoman 2)

We notice, in the field speeches, the evident concern the craftswomen had to report the understanding of solidarity economy not only as a way of sharing and helping, but also as a form of trust. Three pillars represent this trust: God, the craftswomen that stay at the PSECC and the other craftspeople. Firstly, the reliance on God is remarkable, from the sentence that initially sounded as a vice of the language, given that at the end or beginning of a sentence the craftswomen would use the expression "Thank God". However, when understanding the symbolism involved in the craftswomen's speeches, which goes beyond the mere frequency of those terms, we notice that great part of the group is connected to a religious basis, largely catholic, and they understand solidarity economy as an alternative granted by God's grace. Caritas (a religious entity of social promotion and action) is currently one of the greatest articulators of solidarity economy in Brazil and it may be regarded, even if indirectly, as a promoter of the movement, disseminating the imagery tied to God as mentioned before.

It is interesting that both the symbolic image of trust and the one that refers to the divinity represent movements that try anchoring solidarity economy to the collective symbolic construction (MOSCOVICI, 1978), which appropriates the common knowledge (JODELET, 1989). Anchoring, the process of formation and conformation of representations that circulate in a certain group, is part of the production and reproduction of these consensual universes established among the individuals we investigate. In this regard, it is possible to say that the anchoring process of the SE representation as an expression of divine grace is manifested by the construction of notions, which are linked to common sense, based on something already familiar to the interviewees: the Christian narrative. Thus, there is the collective construction of consensual knowledge, which guides the subjects' actions, in a symbolic process understood as being related to cultural and historical dimensions inherent to these subjects (JODELET, 2008).

The craftswomen's perspective of trust is justified once the format of solidarity economy adopted at the PSECC is established through the sharing of the same physical space, where only the three craftswomen interviewed do the sale itself. Thus, these craftswomen communicate the sale and do the distribution of the money raised. According to them, this process would generate little distrust, because most of the group believes that all of them intend for the well-being and the development of the collectivity.

Trust would be, therefore, the key meaning around which the representations of solidarity economy circulated within the group are built, the basis of the consensual universe (ARRUDA, 2002) of these subjects, constructed and reconstructed daily. This concept appears as a fundamental factor, so that the speech created and disseminated by solidarity economy can be understood as the best alternative to the different particularities of each group, which seek the same ideal, though.

Even though trust is regarded as a fundamental factor, the concept of solidarity economy as a synonym of risk draws the attention in the speech of one craftswoman:

If you don't trust the other, you do nothing (...) You live dangerously you have to risk. Either you take the risk or you cringe and you get nothing. It's better to take the risk and see what happens, than staying there quiet minding your own business and growing old in vain. Watching the time go by (laughter). Dealing with solidarity economy is a good risk, but it's still a risk. (Craftswoman 2)

The risk, in the speech of craftswoman 2, is tied to the notion of "dangerous life", evidencing a perception of solidarity economy that goes beyond the definitions commonly linked to solidarity and help. This perspective enables us to understand that the history experienced by the group may not have achieved the best results over the years, leading to the belief that the investment done represents something that is still questionable by the craftswomen. However, the perception of "good risk" emphasizes that they are willing to face it.

Regarded as necessary, the risk is mitigated by an idea of "positivity". The speech of the craftswoman, who is percevied by the others as the "leader" of the group, reveals how the participation in numerous spaces directed to the articulation of solidarity economy has allowed its representation in a dense way, valuing elements that are present in the theoretical table:

I have a feeling it is, therefore, an opportunity for the people who stayed out of the economic, social and cultural development process so they can be included, because it is an opportunity, right, besides the big ones who broke from capitalism, being able to get together and build their companies of self-management, the small one also has the opportunity and it is a well-constructed public policy, if well consolidated and well executed it means giving an opportunity to everyone and it also makes people's citizenry to really happen. People become less alienated of waiting. Self-management is something really good. But it has to be more appropriated by everyone. Because the person keeps depending on what the other is going to do, I think it's very sad, so I think that we have to be more autonomous, more independent, and solidarity economy gives us that freedom. Working, making our own working hours, taking care of our family, taking care of our stuff and living our life to the fullest, right?! (Craftswoman 3)

The speech of craftswoman 3 brings elements frequently advocated in the pieces and expositions of Paul Singer, opposing the advance of capitalism. However, the report presented by the craftswoman broadens such definitions, because the representation of the movement is seen as a philosophy of life, allowing the craftswoman to see not only a form of work, but also a possibility to enjoy life to the fullest.


While we unraveled the representations about solidarity economy circulating in the group, we noticed how the physical space of the initiative was symbolically represented to each craftswoman, going beyond a simple physical structure. The participation in the routine of the group allowed us to understand that the space represented a dream come true and a disappointment at the same time.

The fulfillment of a dream is visible not only in the speech of the craftswomen, but also in the way each of them takes care of the physical space. The preoccupation with the details while displaying the product, the way they treat the clients and the planning they have detailed, evidences that the dream planned is gradually coming true. Each action executed daily is part of a plan they have longed for since the first talks about the creation of the space. However, we can understand the duality that makes the group feel disappointed based on the speech of one of the craftswoman on the representation of the PSECC:
(...) it's a dream come true to all the producers of solidarity
economy of the city and at the same time a disappointment because we
thought that when we were in a space like this, that the whole
population would actually come, that we would have solid sales, and
the sales are still low, you know (...) (Craftswoman 3).

The frustration occurs given the need for an immediate return with the sales which, according to the interviewees, is not happening, specially related to the crafts, that remains for a long time on the shelves. During the moments of observation, the field researcher noticed that the few people who visited the space say they find the products interesting, but only a few end up buying them. Most of the visitors prefer to consume the products from the coffee shop and the agroindustry products.

The space also represents a frustration, because, according to the interviewees, its location does not facilitate the visibility of the community of Cariacica. Even though it is on the main avenue of the city, it does not have a pedestrian lane or any traffic lights near the PSECC. This perception coming from the craftswomen contrasts with the lack of comprehension from the local community about what that physical space really represents. For the craftswomen, this misunderstanding comes from the lack of local "culture" of consuming crafts, justified by the high prices, devaluation of crafts itself and nourished by the difficulty of access to the space.

This representation meets other studies that approach craftwork production, such as Mazza, Ipiranga and Freitas (2007) and Silva (2015), which highlight craftwork as a practice disconnected from the capitalist production logic. This disconnection, that happens from the perspective of the productive process (production which dodges the industrial principles of productivity and efficiency), but also from the logic within organizational purposes (focus on other kinds of results, not necessarily profit), may also occur in relation to the representations and expectations circulating among the clients, that may often find the product overpriced, if compared to the abundance of objects produced in an industrial scale, standardized, sold at any corner. These purchasing habits, highly disseminated in post-industrial capitalist societies, may be associated to the one the craftswoman refers to as the lack of culture of the consumption of crafts.

These representations about the business venture, which gravitates between a dream come true and a disappointing scenario, allows confronting ambiguous symbolic constructions that coexist in a complex organizational reality, without overlapping each other, which is a perception made possible by the culturalist perspective of the TSR we adopt in this article. These complexities are inherent to the social and organizational dynamic, which, gives rise to meanings that are sometimes positive, sometimes negative, about the same phenomenon - in this case, the accomplishment of a solidarity economy enterprise. The diversity of the organizational symbolic universe is comprised of those representations, and it becomes essential to understand that daily life is full of significances, seemingly contradictory, but that, from the interviewees reports, give sense to organizational life.


The representation of work by the group is far from the torturing perspective advocated by Olivero (2003), but it does not mean it is not represented with difficulties by the group. The routine we observe allows us to believe that a trivial and standardized job cannot be considered institutionalized, once the craftswomen carry out different tasks at every moment. As each of them work 2 days a week, they must perform the tasks from the coffee --shop to the sale and wrapping of crafts. This process, which is handmade at every stage, permits to do the task while talking and interacting with the customers. The perspective of work is tightly connected to the notion of the very own crafts developed, handmade, personalized, as a means of dialogue and supported by the division of tasks.

Dialogue is regarded by one of the craftswoman as a fundamental way to do the job; however, this takes a different definition from the activities of the craftsperson, according to what is highlighted in the speech about the representation of work:
I think it is very important because even if we don't have the
attendance of the public we would like to have, people come here for
something else (...). It's not an ordinary place, people come here and
they feel good about being here, the things that are here they can't
find anywhere else, especially the welcome. People come, talk about
their personal life, it seems like we are shrinks. There are days that
we listen to so many things from people, and there's this tranquility
of talking to us and we won't tell anyone else about their pain, their
feelings. A space where people trust who is here. (...) So if there's
a place where you go, you can sit down, it's an oasis. As if you're in
the desert and there's a shade where you can sit down, lie down and
rest your head (Craftswoman 3).

The perspective of the craftswoman reports the valorization of the space as a way of representing work. By reporting the possibility of seeking for the attention of clients, the craftswoman emphasizes that dialogue is a fundamental tool to maintain the activity. Understanding the client, "offering water", hearing and keeping to themselves everything that was heard, becomes part of the job, similar to the tasks performed by a psychologist, in the concept of the interviewee. This possibility, besides inaugurating a new development on the work of the craftsperson, brings to light the need for this professional not to standardize the products made, as well the relationship with the clients.

In this regard, it is possible to draw parallels of such aspects with findings by Fantinel, Cavedon and Fischer (2014), which relate organizations such as coffee shops to artisanal consumer organizations, which commercialize quality products maintaining traditional production practices, putting themselves in creative contexts and generating spaces for sociability. Therefore, the understanding of organizational spaces as places of consumption and sociability, not only among clients, but also between clients and employees, in movements that conceive both proximity and separation between the parts involved, evidence organizational characteristics that result in challenges to management (FANTINEL; CAVEDON; FISCHER, 2014).


During the interviews, the craftswomen frequently highlight the problems that they find daily in the execution of their job. While the representations about work were being forged by the words of the craftswomen, management problems almost took a key role in the speech and in the routine of their actions. The observation made in the business venture made it possible to visualize problems related to marketing, production and accountancy. In the marketing area, the strategies are merely word of mouth advertising and the advertising of the prices are displayed on the walls in balloon-format posters written with marker, but most had already faded because of the sun. From the comments, one notices that the demand for promotion is constant:

(...) promotion is very important because advertising is the soul of the business, so our enterprise doesn't have the means to go out there advertising, each person has to speak, so we ask people to come here to help with the advertising, you know. (Craftswoman 2)

Lack of advertisement, wow! There's also lack of promotion from people that don't get it. So now we are going to promote it with fliers (Craftswoman 3)

The particularity in managing a solidarity business venture is noticed in the speech of craftswoman 2, who overcame this difficulty with word of mouth advertising through the customers and the craftswomen themselves as expressed in the speech of craftswoman 3.

The difficulty to manage the production is also regarded as an obscure problem by the craftspeople. Stock management and sale is facilitated because the demand is still low and there are practically no large stocks formed. On the other hand, the coffee shop faces problems with production cost management and sales price, according to what is mentioned by one of the craftswomen:

(...) we did the math and we saw that we were losing (...) we were paying to make the sandwich. (...) (Craftswoman 1).

The difficulty to comprehend production costs resulted in the group working with a loss margin during a long time. This difficulty reflects directly on low income and low sales volume, justifying on one hand the dissatisfaction pointed out by the craftswomen.

The relationship with the accountancy is a mix of professionalism with improvisation. In the first observation that we carried out at the enterprise, we had the chance to witness the organization and accountability of the month. On a table on the corner of PSECC, one of the craftswomen was making the calculations with several invoices in her hands and with a pen, a little notebook and a cash book. One servant from the city hall was helping with the process. The other two craftswomen were constantly moving the money among the "registers" of the space. When we say "registers", by the way, we are referring to the storage of money distributed in empty milk cans, reused and allocated to the storage of money from the different products of the coffee shop. According to the craftswomen this division into the cans facilitates the distribution in the end of the month. While the money was moved, the accountancy was almost over, and after relaxing from the tensions caused by the calculations, the craftswomen lovingly say goodbye with kisses on the cheek, thanks and hugs. The daily accountancy is also done in an improvised way: there are no calculators in the place and all the checks of the clients are made with a pencil and a piece of paper. In one of the observations we notice the client himself helping with the sum.

Besides all these problems, the "crisis" is seen as the explanation for great part of the PSECC problems. While the craftswomen explained the management issues or as few daily customers would enter the space, we always heard the same explanation: "It's the crisis!". What we believe to be the financial crisis is in the definition of the job itself, since to justify the choice of that activity, the craftswomen would say that with "the current crisis they wouldn't find anything better". These speeches are in accordance with the discussions proposed by Marquesan and Figueiredo (2014), which expose the difficulties to introduce craftspeople in the formal labor market. On the other hand, the low level of consumption and the difficulty to elaborate management strategies are also blamed on the financial crisis that the country faces.


The social representation circulating about crafts is initiated by the smile on the face of the craftswomen. In all observations, watching each of their relationships while explaining to a customer or to us about what they see in the crafts, we cannot help noticing their joy when talking about their job. The saying "crafts is a therapy" became unanimous in the speeches and actions of the interviewees. The perspective of therapy is shared mainly because of the act of sitting down, talking and elaborating the product. During the process of elaboration of the crafts, the workers emphasize that each of them exposes a problem or a joy or any other matter, the important thing is the act of opening up without losing focus of the product. We notice here that, regardless of the emotional state, the preoccupation in doing well-done crafts is constant. One of the craftswoman reports that "the craftsperson dwells on things" and all they see draws their attention, they want to do it, regardless of feeling well or not. This search and persistence to produce something with the hands represents some kind of escape from any problem experienced, turning persistence into motivation to perform what was faced as a challenge to the craftswoman.

Even if we tried to mildly consider the emotion in the understanding group about crafts, none of the speeches stood out more and raised more curiosity than the one of craftswoman 3:

So it represents that I can do something, because the things that I do no one has ever taught me (...) So that feeling of creation of being able to do, of being something different, people coming and thinking that's beautiful, enjoying that production, it gives a certain feeling of achievement. (...) Also, because we take it from nature something that was there piled up, so far no one had seen the possibility of it being anything. And that's how we all are. Although you are a very handsome doctoral student, depending on where you are, you don't have the feeling of being there. Like a folded newspaper, there are lots of things in you, but nobody has ever seen it and never will, because the way you talk less every day, how is anyone going to know you? Sometimes you will not even be able to see a smile. I see that the recyclable material that I take, that I transform is like myself, depending on the place where I am I'm nothing in nature (...) So we give a new meaning to the things we see, so it's like someone gave a new meaning to our own existence. This is what crafts means to us, the art of bringing to life something that was dead (Craftswoman 3, my emphasis).

The speech of the craftswoman is full of several representations about crafts, but that reflect a lifestyle proposed by Sennett (2008) about the notion of an intelligent hand headed by the craftsperson. By the author's definition, the link between hand and head is conditional so that the craftsperson can express their emotion and their feeling in the elaboration of the object. The perspective of "being able to do something" translates the constant struggle of inclusion in the labor market as pointed out by Silva (2015), in which women fight for a recognition space. At PSECC the women in evidence find in crafts this possibility of visibility. The allusion to "a folded newspaper" brought by the craftswoman reinforces even more the argument that they seek visibility since they live in a broad process of social invisibility and search for identity re-fitting (ALCANTARA, 2005).

On the other hand, crafts is seen as a way of contributing to the environment for it reuses recyclable materials and allows a new meaning to something that was useless or lifeless and that is transformed by the craftswomen. The proposal raised by the craftswoman reflects their importance as an agent of change and preparation of something to someone. To Mazza, Ipiranga and Freitas (2007), crafts, differently from the essentially aesthetic component of a conventional work of art, is permeated by the notion of utility and functionality of the object. The craftswomen frequently highlight that the most sold crafts are the ones with a specific function, such as frames, carrier bag holders and magazine rack. Crafts with decoration purposes have a low volume of sales, except for the ones with seashells, which according to the craftswomen, sell more, because they are colorful and people look for happiness in the colors.

The representation about crafts, anchored in historical and cultural dimensions (JODELET, 2008) supports the actions of the subjects in the organizational routine and, although it does not hide the frustration for the low volume of sales, it emphasizes the satisfactory speech of the craftswomen. As pointed out, the lack of "culture" of consuming the product, the management problems, the current financial crisis experienced in the country and the discredit of the local community, do not reduce the satisfaction of producing something with their own hands and that represents something full of emotions because of the design created. The fact of mentioning therapy may somehow explain not only the continuity of the business, but also its importance for being in a format (solidarity economy) that is different from the conventional.


The analysis based on the interpretation of the social representations circulating in the organizational context that we studied allowed understanding the existence of elements particular to solidarity economy enterprises, which deserve special attention. Understanding the SE from functionalist reflections or traditional ways of analysis limits its perspectives of comprehension of the organizational reality. The theoretical approach we use, in addition to allowing an analysis that reverses the logic of knowledge production about the routine of the subjects, changing the focus to the point of view of the craftswomen through the significances related to common sense, also allows us to comprehend the symbolic universe and the local reality, in the perspective of who deals with each of the problems daily, but with a bonus of feeling satisfaction in the job.

According to Matarazzo and Boeira (2016), understanding the speeches of the workers connected to Solidarity Economy is part of a process of identification of numerous spaces of tension between substantive and instrumental rationalities full of hybrid, fluid and complex meanings that coexist in the same space, though. This perspective is evidenced in this study, as ambiguities and contradictions are uncovered and interpreted in light of the routine of the craftswomen researched. Thus, we believe that an outside look could conceal elements considered essential to the daily life of the group, such as the tension between the representations of trust and risk inherent to the solidarity economy practice, or between a dream come true and the disappointment related to the enterprise.

In addition, the ethnographic view adopted, based on the daily experience of the group, made it possible to understand the value given to solidarity economy and, specially, to crafts, complementing the speeches collected during the interviews. Living the environment, experiencing the routine and tasting the coffee shop products are fundamental elements not only to reach inclusion in the field, but also to help in the process of shifting the view of the researchers during the data treatment and interpretation process, always looking for the historical and cultural perspectives inherent to the circulating representations (JODELET, 2008).

The articulation between Solidarity Economy and the Theory of Social Representations carried out in this study contributes significantly to the production of knowledge in the field of OS, since it values practical knowledge produced by the subjects as a means to study their reality (MOSCOVICI, 1978), in a perspective that shifts the discussion from the great organizational matters, with rationality and instrumentality, to focus on people's routines, in an embodied analysis dimension, well-grounded in an experience that makes sense to those who produce the organizational practices.

In this regard, the contribution is both in the theoretical and empirical fields. From the theoretical point of view, it occurs when bringing to light the particularities in the way of thinking and acting of the subjects, such as the representation of solidarity economy as an expression of divine grace, strongly anchored in the previous consensual knowledge of the group - in this case, from religious origin - that welcomed this perspective of social development. This is, in fact, a representation that deserves new studies, seeking a more profound comprehension of the importance of such convergence between the business world and the religious universe.

From the empirical point of view, we believe that the study advances in its descriptive characteristic, when evidencing details of a SEBV that might be experienced by many other enterprises that depend on articulations among various economic sectors for their survival. In this regard, this study provides the participants, whether they are workers, managers or creators and executors of public policies, with more information about the operationalization of enterprises that experience possibly similar difficulties and problems.

With no intent of exhausting the subject that approaches any of these themes, we understand that the TSR still has more to contribute to the field of OS, evidencing organizational dynamics and their transformations from the point of view of those who live the organizational routine. Therefore, assuming that the SEBV are organizational forms provided with meanings created and recreated by workers, bringing to light perceptions of solidarity, particular forms of management as well as of human relationships, may lead us to better understand not only the enterprises, but also the reality of their members.

Finally, we emphasize that doses of coffee both at home and at the PSECC became essential to the reflections that helped us to draw, in a thoroughly handcrafted way, the lines in this article. Although understood as a peripheral element in the craftswomen's representation, the coffee allowed to alert the senses to the arduous process of interpretation (and re-interpretation), given the myriad of elements collected and experienced in the field.


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Layon Carlos Cezar (1,2[dagger])

(1) Universidade Federal de Alfenas, Varginha, MG, Brazil

(2) Universidade Federal do Espirito Santo, Vitoria, ES, Brazil Leticia Dias Fantinel (3,[omega])

(3) Universidade Federal do Espirito Santo, Vitoria, ES, Brazil

Corresponding author:

[dagger] Universidade Federal de Alfenas, Varginha,

MG , Brazil

[dagger]UFES, Vitoria, ES , Brazil


[omega] Universidade Federal do Espirito Santo,

Vitoria, ES, Brazil


Received: 08/23/2017.

Revised: 10/30/2017.

Accepted: 12/06/2017.

Published Online: 06/26/2018.

Table 1. Productive Activities.

Productive Activity  Group

Crafts               Sea and Sun
                     Traditions Arts Association
                     City CAPs (Center for Psychosocial Attention)
                     Moxuara CAPs (Center for Psychosocial Attention)
                     APROAC (Crafts Producers Association of Cariacica)
Family Agroindustry  7 M - Rural Women
                     Family Agriculture Group
                     Moxuara Apiary
Coffee Shop          Nutrition Project
Productive Activity  Key Productive Activity
Crafts               Seashells crafts
                     Banana tree fiber crafts
                     Crafts involving painting, shreds and buttons key
                     chains, recyclable material, pictures, and others
                     made by people with mental disorder
                     Crafts in general from individual craftspeople
Family Agroindustry  Food derived from banana (candies, bonbons, banana
                     chips, and others)
                     Production of handcrafted cookies, candies and
                     cakes Extraction of honey and other related
                     Based on food safety--Production of goods for
Coffee Shop          the coffee shop, such as ground coffee,
                     cappuccino, snacks,
                     natural sandwiches, detox juice, natural juice, and

Source: Developed by the authors.
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Title Annotation:ARTICLES
Author:Cezar, Layon Carlos
Publication:Brazilian Business Review
Date:Sep 1, 2018
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