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Small footprint, big heart: Vilafranca supermarket designed as inclusive neighborhood hub

Caprabo, one of Spain's larger supermarket chains, recently opened its first Supermercado Inclusivo y Social (SIS) in the Catalonian city of Vilafranca del Penedés. In addition to creating 11 jobs for people with disabilities and from vulnerable groups, the 299 square-meter store was conceived as a social hub for its neighborhood.

The SIS concept features a bar and cafe where Caprabo and community groups will host workshops, exhibitions, book presentations and other activities. On the retail front, the store promotes items by local producers, agricultural cooperatives and mission-driven brands. The goal? To advance the social and solidarity economy — a model that prioritizes beneficial social (and increasingly also environmental) outcomes over profit.

On an individual level, Caprabo provides opportunities for people from disadvantaged groups and engages customers in tangible efforts to rebalance economic, social and environmental objectives. The store's emphasis on cohesion and inclusivity could help create a virtuous circle on a societal level, too — building awareness of the need for systemic change through the ordinary act of shopping for groceries.

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Over the past few years, especially in countries unaccustomed to inflation, consumers have become acutely aware of the downsides of concentrated markets where dominant players have the power to set prices. The social and solidarity economy (SSE) offers a people-centric alternative across industries and business models, from Caprabo's new supermarket to ethical banking and renewable energy co-ops.

Your own brand might not be ready to switch to a cooperative model or deviate from its focus on quarterly earnings. However, opportunities exist in partnering with SSE enterprises. Your for-profit business could improve their access to finance, expertise and other resources. In return, beyond the satisfaction of doing good, you're likely to learn a thing or two. Unafraid of experimentation, SSE entities have a knack for pioneering innovative solutions to pervasive problems. Time to dip a toe in those alternative modes of doing business?