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Europe falters, but SSE stands firm

Europe is under heavy weather: it is undermined by populism, legitimately contested by all those who consider it too dependent on the big financial and industrial powers, and defended by all humanists who do not wish to see nationalism take hold again, who do not believe in isolationism but rather imagine a space for exchange, positive cooperation and a culture of the common good. The present challenges, especially those of the preservation of the Planet and even of the humankind, can only be resolved by using our collective intelligence and our combined strength to jointly build the paths towards our future.

RIPESS EU – Solidarity Economy Europe has set itself the task of linking the actors of social transformation for a better future that benefits us all. That is the underlying meaning of the activities in which our members are involved, and continue to implement. This objective implies that alliances should be undertaken with more or less key prospects, all our approaches being above all aimed to converge and join other like-minded energies. This is the spirit with which we participated in the NESI Forum (New Economy and Social Innovation) that was held in Malaga from April 19 to 21. It was mainly constituted by a large number of energy and social transition organizations.

The divergence of views and opinions has helped to have rich debates and exchange of ideas, reaching from social entrepreneurship to solidarity economy, as the Forum brought together many people of good will who actively participate in the renewal of the paradigm of economic thought (and practice).

There were some 700 participants from 43 countries at the Forum. A Charter – RIPESS EU participated in the drafting committee – and “100 actions to change the world” emerged from the numerous workshops that took place. There will undoubtedly be follow ups, in particular on the theme of the Commons.

RIPESS Europe will participate in the International Forum for Social and Solidarity Economy entitled “Engagement, citizenship and development: how to train in SSE”, on May 22-24 in Marrakech (Morocco). The meeting i organized by the Inter-university Network for SSE (sRIUESS), in partnership with our RIPESS Morocco and African counterparts REMESS, and RAESS. At the end of the forum, which will bring together more than 150 Francophone researchers from Europe and Africa, the various networks have scheduled a meeting to discuss possible future cooperation in the field of training.

Finally, our network’s General Assembly will be held at the 4th European Solidarity Economy Congress in Athens – organized by a group of Greek actors in partnership with RIPESS Europe. It is a very good opportunity to return to the Greek capital after our first visit to Solidarity4all in 2014, when the SSE was seeking its identity, without even having developed a real definition. Since then, it has evolved in a country where it represents, more than anywhere else, the oxygen necessary for the survival of citizens asphyxiated by the austerity measures imposed on their country. This event promises to be rich in content, opportunities for debate and joyful festivities. Let us welcome the inventiveness of our Greek friends who called it UNIVERSSE 2017. We hope to see you there, together with many others and hope that the beautiful energy of the inventors of the future will circulate there with serenity.

[Josette Combes]

Editorial: Hungry for change!
December 18, 2016

It is standard practice when writing an end-of-year editorial message to rejoice in the success stories of the year, so I will carry on the tradition by underlining the success of the GSEF in Montreal early last September, and the EFSSE that was held in Brussels at the European Parliament in January.

There is something inconclusive in the air at the end of this year… Have we really engaged as planned with the urgent need to address climate change or social and political issues? Definitely not. Our house is on fire, the fracture between the political and civil society spheres is ever greater and is leaving wide open space for self-declared, anti-systemic populist political movements.

But we will not give in to this, or lower of demands. RIPESS Europe already has a full calendar of events planned for 2017, and we wish to invite you to continue to jointly build a real change of paradigm. We will therefore be participating in Malaga in the NESI Forum in April. It is another important stage on the journey to build convergence between the movements aiming to change society. There will then be the 2nd EFSSE that will take place in Brussels in May, followed by the RIUESS meeting that will allow us to think about how we can build spaces around the Mediterranean. In June we will be holding our Congress in Athens, and we need to jointly develop the agenda for that. The congress will also allow us to renew the energy in our various working groups.

This is a considerable programme, and it should help us to move forward to propose concrete alternatives and place them in the various agendas of civil society. Because to create change, we need to “rethink our action paradigms, as well as those for managing our companies and act within the collective imagination” as Jordi Via, the Commissioner for Social and solidarity economy in Barcelona told us at our recent meeting there.

This is the roadmap that we should adopt and include in our resolutions for 2017!

Wishing you all seasons’ greetings,

Eric Lavillunière
Coordinateur Général RIPESS Europe

Editorial (October 2016)
October 7, 2016

By Josette Combes

In this newsletter of September October, you will find a wide range of articles whose diversity reflects multiple focal lengths the network adopted to advance knowledge and the implementation of the solidarity economy in Europe and in the world. At the global level, RIPESS participated in August at the World Social Forum, then in September at the Global Social Economy Forum. Both events were held in Montreal and it is also in this town that held the annual meeting of the Board of Directors of the RIPESS Intercontinental network. The RIPESS Int. participated actively in the session on SSE at the United Nations in New York and advocated for the urgency to change the economic paradigm

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Solidarity without borders
March 29, 2016

The news in the RIPESS network resonates with current events, which show, in contrast, to what extent it is urgent that humanity find pathways to a better harmonization of the conditions of life on the planet. At the same time as social systems are threatened by an ultra liberalization of the economy, the disorders caused by the conflicts in the Middle East and Africa throw on the roads and in the sea thousands of families who escape from the disasters or who find their vital grounds and chances of survival sinking.

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Social Solidarity Economy (SSE): a non-identified political object
January 7, 2016

As the New Year begins, we renew our challenges and common goals towards a good economy and a real change in society. Let’s make 2016 a year of convergence for systemic change!

The European Forum on Social and Solidarity Economy is scheduled to take place at the European Parliament in Brussels on 28th January 2016. It is held at the initiative of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left Group. RIPESS Europe sees this as an opportunity to present how a transformative vision of SSE can lead to a paradigm change and imagining a new economy to the European Institutions, in accordance with what we defend in our networks (cf. the Strategic document adopted at the Solikon meeting in Berlin in September 2015).

RIPESS Europe is not affiliated to any political party, and is open to building political alliances with all those progressive forces that contribute to concrete answers to the societal issues of the moment. These are currently taking very extreme forms. There are ecological, migratory, financial and social emergencies…and the way in which they are being addressed by governments at all levels is rarely satisfactory and fails to address the suffering of people living in Europe (unemployment, poverty, unhappiness, persecution, pollution…).

SSE is supposed to provide answers to this suffering, but is not perceived as an overall positive response. It is not perceived as a concept that mobilises resistance or as one that provides alternatives. This is normal, given that no clear political message has been developed thus far to do so. Yet historically, the SSE structures have been founded as a movement that brings together:

  • Many different initiatives and practice in a highly diverse constellation organised in networks and multiple forms of inter-cooperation

  • The emancipation of workers, the collective organisation of inhabitants, a more just sharing of wealth, democratic management and more recently, solidarity with the unemployed, respect of the environment or North/South equity. They therefore represent a global project of social transformation.

So what is the current situation? Having spent time trying to gain acceptance (“our companies are companies like any other”), some of the SSE structures have weakened the founding political project to become part of the market economy. It is therefore not surprising to see repeated sematic confusion between SSE, social enterprises, social business occur… this is the reflection of our own erroneous ways, and lack of clarity in how we have positioned ourselves. If social enterprises are merely the vector that allows public authorities to withdraw and privatise the social sector that is funded by tax-deductible donations, this is indeed very far from what we stand for!

We have high hopes that the conference on January 28th will identify the social forces of SSE that are indeed the vectors of change in accordance with the networks and histories of the difference countries and movement. We reaffirm our desire to change the economic paradigm that has grown from the 20th century belief in growth and the logic of capital that has generated ecological, social and incalculable injustice.

SSE has a political project that needs to be put to the forefront and supported by suitable public policies. We want to participate at our own level in the democratic citizens’ renewal that is building concrete alternatives that are credible and provide a real future and social cohesion. This is possible if we mobilise collectively and show open-mindedness and mutual respect for one another.

Because if we want to change the world, we can do it, together!

Eric Lavillunière, General Coordinator, RIPESS Europe

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