The rise of interest in the social economy as a sector with a significant role to play in the changing dynamic of state/private sector relations has engendered a wide range of policies and practices that seek to both clarify and amplify the strategic role of this “third sector”. In Ecuador, this issue has recently become linked with the attempts of the state to promote the notions of a social knowledge economy and Buen Vivir as new references for a type of political economy that is oriented around service to the common good.
This paper examines the particular relation of the social economy to these two notions, and also what this relationship implies for new forms of governance and the idea of the Partner State as a new form of state/civil symbiosis. Particular attention is paid to the unique role of the social economy with respect to the provision of social goods. The paper explores key principles associated with the proper functioning of the social economy in this new context, and proposes a public policy “ecosystem” geared towards maximising both the efficacy and autonomy of the social economy as a driver of new forms of social and economic production, and as a template for the reform of government itself.