On Alternative Ways of Living Sustainably: Lessons From Solidarity & Social Economy in Madrid

A sneak peek of the Solidarity Economy Fair in Madrid, June 14th 2015

By Gaia Paradisio
Huffington Post

June 16, 2015 – The majority of times we think we are not free to think of the world as a unity of people all working towards human development, evolution and res-publica, which- as the Greeks taught us- means contributing to the development of the society’s state of the art.

I think the Greeks (along with the Romans) became the pioneers and the propellers of the management of “res publica”. Democracy for them meant taking care of the people and of the res-of the things- that the citizens created for the good and the progress of society’s hustle and bustle. Just think of horses and carriages, and of metro and cars. Two alternative and revolutionary ways, for the times, to facilitate transport and to allow people to freely move around the city and to get business and trade done, providing food and shelter to family and kids.

In modern times, I perceive and I see on a day to day basis that if we stand by the ideals of social justice, solidarity economy, participatory economics, the work of cooperatives, human dignity and equal rights between genders and at work, independent and free press, sustainable consumption, eco-markets and green economy, ethical banks, fair trade and food security and sovereignty, social inclusion and cultural diversity, sustainable development, ecological sustainability, corporate social responsibility in businesses, micro finance and micro-credit, we are not taking the res-management into consideration, but we only think of nature, utopia and social well-fare where people are at the center of the discourse.

Recently I visited the third edition of the Social and Solidarity Economy Fair, which took place at Matadero, an open, free and eco-cultural center in Madrid offering a wide variety of cultural events – including bike rentals and an impressive film library- aimed at raising awareness and stimulating debates around society’s problems and potentials solutions, powered by participatory mechanisms, constant dialogue, ideas and group brainstorming, critical thinking and new and better ways of imagining the future, and therefore of creating it.

Social Market is a system of production, distribution and consumption of goods and services that works by adopting ethical, just, democratic, ecological and solidarity principles, consisting of businesses and cooperatives, as well as groups of consumers, striving to pursue an economic activity that does not damage the environment and works for salary equality, gender policy and whose objective is to satisfy a good amount of the society’s needs within the community network, disconnecting the solidarity economy from the capitalist one. By re-adjusting the modern version of the economy, understood now as a vicious cycle of money and goods accumulation, we can manage to retrieve the first meaning of the economy to its real role of provider of the material ground to sustainably contribute to the personal, social and environmental development of the human being. (Continued)

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Tunisia’s Habib Essid and His Government Is Developing Strategy to Organize Social and Solidarity Economy


Tunis Afrique Presse, May 19, 2015

Gammarth — Prime Minister Habib Essid said the government is currently developing a comprehensive national strategy to organise, structure, regulate and define the areas of intervention, funding and managing the sector of social and solidarity economy.

Speaking Tuesday in Gammarth at the opening of a tripartite national conference on “Social and Solidarity Economy: Catalyst for Development and Employment,” Essid spoke of the launch of a comprehensive training programme and upgrading human resources operating in this sector based on joint investment initiatives through a participatory approach developed by associations, private health insurance companies and co-operatives.

The PM said the social and solidarity economy promotes the establishment of a local and regional development. It also values local resources so as to ensure a sustainable development, protect the environment and facilitate the socio-economic integration of poor communities, he added.

Essid said the government has started preparing for the stage of significant reforms and defining a new development model based on added-value sectors and activities. This model gives priority to new sectors such as the social and solidarity economy as a third sector which has been annexed to the public and private sectors, he said.

The PM commended the efforts of the private sector in boosting growth and increasing job opportunities, expressing will to consolidate this sector and its role in launching development projects, thanks to the provisions to be included in the new investment code that will be submitted to the cabinet meeting soon.

A Social, Solidarity… and Female Economy

Ginebró school, a cooperative education founded 40 years ago in Catalonia. A company model of solidary and social economy supported by l’iesMed (photo iesMed)

Ginebró school, a cooperative education founded 40 years ago in Catalonia. A company model of solidary and social economy supported by l’iesMed (photo iesMed)

With the support of the Secretariat of the UfM
The Social and Solidarity Economy is playing an active role in the economic integration of women in the Mediterranean. View of Rodérick Egal, president of iesMed (Innovation & Social Economy in the Mediterranean) cooperative company.

A social, solidarity… and female economy

What role does the Social and Solidarity Economy play in women’s economic integration?

Rodérick Egal:  The Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) plays an active part in women’s integration in the Mediterranean, particularly in Morocco, where many female-run cooperatives have been developed, mainly in the craft and agricultural industries. But it remains a category that is unfairly thought of as the “economy of the poor”. However, these companies are just as concerned with profitability, except that in the Social and Solidarity Economy, money is not an end in itself but rather a means. Income is not redistributed to benefit shareholders but rather to reward producers, as well as being used to grow the company, as demonstrated by the largest cooperative in the world, the Spanish group Mondragon.

But how can the SSE allow women to better integrate into the economy?
R.E.: Women are directly affected because it is a type of economy that allows them to establish their own livelihoods and independence, particularly in traditional societies. The social and solidarity economy depends on people’s willingness to play their role as citizens and participate actively in society. I am convinced that this is a major issue for women.
To the south of the Mediterranean, this embryonic economy continues to be affected by the difficulties of development. That’s one of the reasons why SSE companies have trouble accessing funding in these countries. Bankers do not trust these companies because they believe that they are unlikely to grow significantly, which is why we need to change this view.

The Union for the Mediterranean plays a paramount role

What can the Union for the Mediterranean do to improve the situation?
R.E.: I believe that the Union for the Mediterranean has a very important role to play to ensure better integration of women in the social and solidarity economy. It is essential that the private sector be involved in this area to the south of the Mediterranean. Indeed it is the capacity to create synergies between the public and private sectors that makes the Union for the Mediterranean so important. And we mustn’t forget its ability to connect stakeholders in this economy with lenders, in order to spread funding tools that are not truly available yet. One of iesMed’s aims is to create a “meso” culture by connecting “macro” lenders (i.e. those that currently fund development in the Mediterranean) with “micro” projects, particularly those led by women in North Africa. The Union for the Mediterranean is particularly well placed to support this drive.

Special issue : Fostering women’s participation in Mediterranean economic life

Read more: http://en.econostrum.info/A-social-solidarity-and-female-economy_a374.html?print=1#ixzz3aVSXSkwu

Texas Taxicab Drivers Rally for Worker-Owned Co-op

By Tyler Whitson

April 22, 2015 – As Austin’s ground transportation service industry faces upheaval due to new competition, taxi drivers are using a looming expiration of the city’s taxicab franchises as an opportunity to push for, among other requests, a cooperative, driver-owned franchise.

Dave Passmore, president of the taxicab union Taxi Drivers Association of Austin, garnered attention Tuesday morning when he and association members, taxicab drivers and supporters rallied in front of City Hall, waving signs and shouting in unison. “Today, we are trying to get the driver’s voice heard,” he proclaimed during an impromptu news conference.

Passmore gestured toward a supporter holding a sign with the number “405” on it, which refers to the total number of new taxicab permits that Transportation Department staff have recommended City Council make available as part of the city’s franchise renewal and an upcoming overhaul of taxicab regulations.

“We’re asking the city to allow the drivers to have these permits to form a co-op, so that we may be able to compete. We keep hearing that the landscape is changing,” Passmore said, referring to smartphone hailing and transportation network companies, or TNCs, such as Uber and Lyft. “We don’t want the landscape to change and be broadened, and we are left behind.”

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Economics From the Bottom Up: Designing Strategies, Making Alternatives

Springfield's Wellspring Collaborative worker-owned upholstery shop brings jobs, training

Talking with Emily Kawano, Co-Director, Wellspring Cooperative Corporation

Interviewed by Steve Dubb, Research Director, The Democracy Collaborative

March 2015

Emily Kawano is Co-Director of the Wellspring Cooperative Corporation, which is seeking to create an engine for new, community-based job creation in Springfield, Massachusetts. Wellspring’s goal is to use anchor institution purchases to create a network of worker-owned businesses located in the inner city that will provide job training and entry-level jobs to unemployed and underemployed residents through worker-owned cooperatives. Kawano also serves as Coordinator of the United States Solidarity Economy Network. An economist by training, Kawano served as the Director of the Center for Popular Economics from 2004 to 2013. Prior to that, Kawano taught economics at Smith College, worked as the National Economic Justice Representative for the American Friends Service Committee and, in Northern Ireland, founded a popular economics program with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

Could you talk about your background and how it led to doing economic justice?

I have been interested in social justice and economic justice issues from a young age. I decided to go to graduate school in economics because it seemed like something that I couldn’t learn on my own. I wanted to get a background in economics in order to be a more effective activist. But while I did some teaching, I found that there was a continual pull back to activism and being involved in a social justice organization.

While I was in graduate school at UMass, Amherst, I joined the Center for Popular Economics, which is a collective of economists. Our target audience is grassroots organizations and activists who can be more effective by understanding the economy. I have been a member for about 25 years. When I finished graduate school, I worked at the American Friends Service Committee, doing economic justice work. Then I did popular economics education work in Northern Ireland for five/six years. Continue reading Economics From the Bottom Up: Designing Strategies, Making Alternatives

Co-ops Enable Low-Income Women to Work as Owners and Decision Makers

By Eleanor J. Bader
SolidarityEconomy.net via Truthout

March 30, 2015 – At Cooperative Home Care Associates, in their state of the art training facilities, these workers in training are finding eachothers pulses with the help of their training instructor (seen to the right). (Photo: Jordanna Rosen)At Cooperative Home Care Associates, in their state of the art training facilities, these workers in training are finding each others pulses with the help of their training instructor.

Co-ops not only give low-income and immigrant women a way to enter an often unwelcoming – and in some cases, hostile – economy, but also give them a way to exert some control over their work lives and simultaneously support themselves and their families. They have consequently been some of the early adopters in the not-yet-critical-mass movement of worker-owned cooperative businesses that has begun to catch fire in towns and cities throughout the United States.

Melissa Hoover, executive director of the Democracy at Work Institute, estimates that there are presently between 300 and 400 worker-owned businesses operating domestically. The fledgling cooperative movement is diverse. There are co-op bakeries, catering companies, tortilla-makers and cafes; bike repair shops; taxi companies; dog-walking and cat-sitting services; and upholsterers. There are also worker-owned farms, elder- and child-care agencies, tutoring programs, and factory and construction businesses.

A growing number of co-ops have been established as a way for low-income and immigrant women to earn a living.

What’s more, they run the gamut in terms of size. Some have just three to five members while the largest, Cooperative Home Care Associates in the Bronx, has 2,100. And while most involve both men and women, a growing number of all-women co-ops have been established as a way for low-income and immigrant females to earn a living. (Continued)

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BUILDING ALTERNATIVES FOR PEOPLE AND PLANET: News and reports from the grassroots on worker and community coops, land trusts, participatory bufgeting and other explorations in mutual aid