Images courtesy of Instituto para la Economia Social (IPES), Bogota.

SOCIEUX+ in Bogotá:

Strengthening innovation, entrepreneurship, and formation of informal sector vendors

Despite its newfound political stability and impressive economic development, Colombia still struggles with high rates of unemployment (above 13% in major cities), and high levels of work in the informal sector, estimated at 51% in 2013. The forced displacement caused by fifty years of armed conflict drove many people into the city of Bogota. There, the financial and psycho-social vulnerability of the displaced population, aggravated by a low level of formal education and labor competency, pushed them into the informal sector for work. In order to mitigate this situation, the Instituto para la Economia Social (IPES), a public entity of the Bogota Mayor’s office, delivers a wide range of services to informal workers through different programs and modalities.

The government requested SOCIEUX+ assistance to carry out an assessment of the impact of an IPES program targeting street vendors (peddlers), and to support IPES to improve a wide spectrum of services provided to informal workers on the streets and in markets: employment services; vocational orientation; vocational trainings; and, support for formalization.

One public-sector expert from the French Public Employment Services (Pôle Emploi), and one private expert, were mobilized by SOCIEUX+ to assess the strengths and shortcomings of the current IPES program. They spent two weeks in the field – visiting marketplaces, organizing focus groups and individual interviews with street vendors, visiting help centers run by IPES, interviewing their functionaries, and participating in roundtable discussions with the key stakeholders.

This first intervention was undoubtedly fruitful. The main outcomes, challenges, and recurrent problems of the IPES program have been identified, and a set of recommendations established to prepare for the next phase of cooperative support.