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Round tables in Lyon – “Cities and SSE: practical policies to transform the economy”

On the 4th of July 2019, in Lyon (France), RIPESS Europe with the support of the Municipality of Lyon organised a round table meeting on “Cities and SSE: practical policies to transform the economy”. In preparation of the World Social Forum on Transformative Economies to be held in Barcelona in 2020, it marked the beginning of the RIPESS Europe General Assembly which took place from the 4th to the 6th of July in Lyon. Given the fact that public authorities play a key role in defining policies which impact communities at different levels (housing, tourism, health, finance…) the occasion was given to highlight major practical trans-local and open, participatory policies which transform the economy.

The three-session event brought together RIPESS Europe members and partners, policy makers, local actors who shared their experience. The first panel on “Transforming cities through SSE practices and public policies” facilitated by Jason Nardi, the RIPESS Europe General Delegate was composed of Dounia Besson, Deputy Mayor of Lyon and representative of RTES (SSE Mayors network), Jeanine Verna, Director of the Arobase Vocational training centre and Julie Maisonhaute of Commerce equitable France (Fair trade movement).

For Dounia Besson, the strength of SSE is determined by its territorial anchoring and it is more than crucial to place the “inhabitants at the centre of all preoccupations regarding SSE initiative before shareholders”. In the dynamic of valorising and reinforcing SSE initiatives, the label LVED (Lyon ville equitable et durable / Lyon fair and sustainable city) was put in place. With regards to environmental protection, health, citizens’ participation, education, cultural development, the LVED SSE organisation of Lyon plays an active role in transforming economic practices and building a human society.

Jeanine Verna sees in the sustainability of SSE actions a vocational training dimension based on SSE values and principles. The Arobase vocational training centre created 30 years ago has trained more than 2000 SSE professional and promoted the convergence of different SSE families, in partnership with the XES Catalonia network and REVES network, through a recent European project. Therefore, training SSE local actors constitutes an essential resource which needs to be popularized and supported by local authorities.

Sustainable production and consumption has been at the heart of Fair trade movements and is today more necessary than ever. Julie Maisonhaute outlays an optimist view of a modern society bringing together citizens, civil society organisations, enterprises, local authorities with a common objective of mainstreaming fair-trade practices. Commerce equitable France has as its main mission to transform consumption modes, promote effective fair-trade skills, promote equality in public policies and help structure the fair-trade sector, therefore developing a strong alliance with local authorities is inevitable, which is what the Fair Trade Towns network is trying to do.

Josette Combes of MES (the French Solidarity economy Mouvement) facilitated the second session on “Citizens movements – Transformative cities”, with Melissa Koutouzis of the Transnational institute (TNI) and Geneviève Brichet of Mouvement Utopia as guest speakers.

The Transformative Cities Initiative, explains Melissa Koutouzis seeks to learn from cities and collectives working on solutions to ensure access to water, food, energy and housing. These basic human rights are threatened by the ongoing climate crisis and our increasingly dysfunctional political and economic structures, and the states, international institutions and transnational corporations that support them. “Strengthening local initiatives can induce a radical change at the global level” says Melissa. That is why TNI in partnership with several other networks, including RIPESS, is promoting the Transformative Cities Award and the Atlas of Utopias, which showcases inspiring stories of communities challenging entrenched power and boldly developing alternatives. These range from grassroots movements in Zimbabwe and Palestine to international cities like Paris or Barcelona that have defeated transnational corporations and hostile national governments to deliver democratic, people-powered solutions for access to basic human rights.

By putting in place a space of dialogue in between elected authorities and citizens, citizens participation is reinforced to induce endogenous change at the level of the society. This is the essence of the Citizens’ Transition Pact (Pacte pour la Transition Cityoenne), as Geneviève Brichet explains, a tool to promote and organize citizen participation to enable change in all municipalities, by encouraging dialogue between citizens and elected officials in the context of the campaigns for the 2020 Municipal Elections in France. The Citizens’ Transition Pact is at the same time: a list of 3 principles and 32 concrete and applicable measures in favour of the ecological, solidarity and democratic transition; the support by the transition network, through 50 partner organisations (Emmaus, Greenpeace, Enercoop, France Nature Environnement, etc.); a digital platform to connect, train and support participants.

Finally, the last session on “Convergence between initiatives to transform the economy and to free humanity” facilitated by Drazen Simlesa, RIPESS Europe Coordinator, had in its panel Elisabeth Voss from NETZ für Selbstverwaltung und Selbstorganisation (Germany), Iris Avinoa from the organising committee of the World Social Forum on Transformative Economies in Barcelona, Jean Roussiaud of APRES-GE and Geneviève Ancel, Coordinator of the Dialogues en Humanité.

Despite the plurality of SSE movements in Germany, a difficulty exists in federating these actors with the need to set up a concert space for common action. Therefore, “by supporting grassroot initiatives and Solidarity Economy, NETZ helps put in place a network of different actors to engage collectively”, says Elisabeth Voss. Regarding this, issues like climate change, and the future of work need to be approached in a sustainable way considering future generations.

The World Social Forum on Transformative Economies to be held in Barcelona in 2020, is another means of convergence between initiatives to transform the economy. Actors from all around the world will have the opportunity to meet and share their experience of major practices transforming the economy as wells as diverse approaches. Iris Avinoa made an overview of the preparation of this forum and the process behind it.

Jean Rossiaud presented the Jai Jagat initiative led by Rajagopal (which some are calling the new Gandhi) of the Ekta Parishad Movement in India. Starting on the 2nd of October 2019, it is a 10 000 km march from Gandhi’s resting place in New Delhi, crossing through 15 countries (Pakistan, Iran, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Northern Macedonia, Kosovo, Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia Herzegovina, Croatia and Italy and the Switzerland) and will promote the nonviolent economy movement’s perspective.

Geneviève Ancel concluded with a presentation of the Dialogues en Humanité, an international event where people from different origins, cultures, convictions all around the world meet to discuss about the practice of community building. The theme this year was let’s talked about tomorrow around 3 major themes: “All responsible for the rights of every one”, “Tomorrow, all nomads, tomorrow, all migrants” and “Inventing tomorrow by questioning the stories that shape our lives”, which and took place also in Lyon from the 5th to the 7th of July 2019.

Welcome to the 4 new members of the RIPESS Europe Network !
September 6, 2019
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The RIPESS Europe General Assembly took place in Lyon, France from the 4th to 6th of July 2019. It was an opportunity for the members to meet and plan out the strategy of the network, exchanging on the network’s priority issues as well as ongoing and future projects. 

For almost 10 years, RIPESS Europe has been expanding with many territorial and sectoral organisations joining every year. This year, 4 new organisations applied for membership and were voted in by the General Assembly, adding 3 new countries to the network: Western Ireland, Austria and Russia.

The new members are:

AAE (www.aae.ie)– An Ait Eile Cooperative of Ireland

Represented here by Eamon Molonay and Kevin Flanagan, it is a cooperative social enterprise based in Galway in the west of Ireland. An Áit Eile is Gaelic language which translated into English means ‘The Other Place‘. An Áit Eile (AAE) started in 2015 as a cultural association of artists, musicians, and performers collaborating with communities on events and projects that address social and ecological issues as well as mental health. Today as a cooperative its membership is made up of both individuals and community organisations.

Cultural workers and workers in the social sector often experience precarity and challenges of self-employment. Small community organisations also face challenges in providing sustainable regular employment and increasing bureaucratic requirements. Responding to these collective problems, AAE seeks to provide cooperative solutions. AAE became a cooperative in 2019 and is one of Ireland’s first cooperatives to adopt a multi-stakeholder model. This means that the cooperative has different member types: worker members, user members, investor members and founder members. All classes of members have representation on the AAE Board. The approach is based on the FairShares model.

KSOE (www.ksoe.at) – Katholische Sozialakademie Österreichs of Austria

It is an academy of education and advice. Socio-ethical thinking and action are its guiding principle. The objective of its services is to support individuals and organisations that are actively involved in social change. “As KSOE – Catholic Social Academy of Austria we are glad to have had the opportunity to become the first member of Ripess Europe in Austria. We hope that other networks and organizations will follow”, declares Markus Blümel, representing KSOE and coordinator of a course on solidarity economy there. “Solidarity economy has grown in Austria the last decade. KSOE supports individuals and groups in starting new solidarity economy organizations and to transform into such. […] Being part of the Ripess network now we are sure to be able to strengthen solidarity economy in Austria and throughout Europe.”

NETZ (www.netz-bund.de) – NETZ für Selbstverwaltung und Selbstorganisation e.V.

NETZ is a German association for the Promotion and Support of Selforganisation and Solidarity Economy.  Represented at the GA by Elisabeth Voss, it was founded in 1986 as an umbrella organisation of local networks supporting self-help, networks of workers controled enterprises and other sectoral federations like social cultural centers and training organisations in North Rhine-Westphalia. In 1989 NETZ decided to go national and further regional and sectorial organisations joined Netz.  To strengthen the capacity of NETZ to deliver services to its members and to do joint purchasing, also small enterprises in the broader ecological and social sense as well as freelancers could join as members. Today NETZ still offers its experiences to promote and support grassroots’ initiatives and solidarity economy also trough networking between further actors in the field. Independent regional associations exist and Berlin-Brandenburg and North Rhine-Westphalia.

TPABA (www.trava.education) – Trava Education of Russia

TRAVA is an organization based in the city of St Petersburg. Share experiences of citizen-led change and self-organization as well as peer education. TRAVA (grassroots) started in the summer of 2014 with 33 conferences and workshops on small projects, the city and self-development in parks, squares and embankments. Since then, they have been organizing year-round educational events on politics and culture in friendly venues.

Food saves the world‘ is one of the projects of TRAVA and it includes catering from saved food, waste cooking workshops, regular informal conference about food activism, public actions and articles about food waste problem. Another project, ‘Map for People‘ is a map for responsible consumers that provides information about local places where tourists can eat, drink, buy souvenirs and clothes and, by doing this, support local projects that follow social, environmental and ethical responsibility principles. It is a research and educational project based on peer-to-peer model.

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