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How to talk about the societies we want in Europe – new guide
Europe we want

We believe there’s an appetite for change, and that finding new narratives is an important piece of the puzzle

We are happy to share with you a new guide to ways to talk about the sustainable, equitable, inclusive, democratic societies we want in Europe.

This guide has been put together by a collection of civil society and trade union groups committed to building better societies in Europe.

It summarises the findings of a 6–month collaboration including focus groups in five countries aiming to find new hopeful narratives, and makes these core recommendations:  

  • Create conversations.
  • Bring Europe closer to people and their communities.
  • Balance urgency with hope.
  • Lead with strong empathy and equality values.
  • Encourage participation and stress the power people have to change things but where possible emphasise the empathic motivation behind mobilisation.
  • Be cautious when talking about the need for ‘greater participation’, it can quickly lead to negative associations with democratic failures and the rise of the far right.
  • Use the imagery of construction to help talk about community, co-operation and support.
  • Beware the difficulty of reframing—for example when we talk about ‘open borders’ people still hear ‘borders’.
  • Use specific, hopeful examples that signify more caring and equal European societies.

Read the full findings and recommendations at: www.foeeurope.org/how-to-talk-about-the-societies-we-want-in-Europe

Our recommendations are intended for campaigners, communicators, activists and all those who want to create opportunities for citizens to have conversations about the kind of Europe they want to live in. We hope you will make use of them and pass them on.

We would be happy to get your feedback, and to hear about other efforts to inspire more hopeful conversations about the societies we want. You can contact us at new.narratives@protonmail.com

With hope

Francesca Gater, Friends of the Earth Europe

On behalf of CONCORD—European NGO confederation for Relief and Development, Fair Trade Advocacy Office, European Trade Union Confederation, European Women’s Lobby, European Youth Forum, RIPESS EU—Solidarity Economy Europe, WeMove.eu and Public Interest Research Centre.

Citizen currencies strengthen agricultural supply chains

by Antonin Calderon & Jean Rossiaud (Leman Currency / APRES-GE in collaboration with Gaëlle Bigler (FRACP / URGENCI)

This is the third issue of the series we started in October, on the theme of “local currencies”, after a general presentation of the advantages and challenges of local currencies through the example of the Leman currency (October 2018) and the avenues for collaboration and synergies between local currencies and sustainable food (December 2018), we propose today to reflect in terms of production/supply chains, for different types of agricultural products, and starting once again from the Geneva experience: from seed to production, from production to processing, from processing to distribution, from distribution to consumption. The five key agricultural sectors on which Leman and the Chamber of the Social and Solidarity Economy (APRES-GE) are currently working are the following:

  • Beer: from hops to pints
  • Vegetables: from pitchfork to fork
  • Bread: from seed to bread
  • Wood: from tree to stere
  • Wine: from vine shoot to glass

Each production/supply chain presents its own particularities, and each actor – each link in the chain – its own reality and challenges. This is why it is particularly interesting to bring the different actors in a production/supply chain together around the same table, in order to reflect together on current and potential value flows – and the resulting cash flows. Many economic actors generally do not have the time to take this step back. The local currency offers producers a great opportunity to strengthen the links between them, and between them and consumers, and thus to strengthen the local economy in the face of competition from globalized markets. The service provided by the local currency is “economic facilitation”: it is a form of brokerage that allows producers to better choose their local suppliers, and in case of overproduction to sell stocks in the payment community.

The beer production/supply chain: from hops to pints

Let us take the example of the beer sector to illustrate what we are saying. The development of artisanal breweries is currently in full expansion and their operation is easily modelable. The main links in this chain are: farmers, malthouse, breweries, distributors, as well as bars, restaurants or grocery stores. The diagram below illustrates this.

If you still don’t know it, you should know that 90% of beer is made up of water, which is used as the basis for adding malt, hops and then yeast. To this can be added additional ingredients, such as coffee, fruit, spices or other condiments or herbs.

Farmers (1) grow the cereals, which will then be processed into malt by the Malting plant (2). At the same time, hops (2”), a climbing plant, must be cultivated and its flowers harvested and dried; yeast (2”) must be produced, usually in a laboratory.

These three ingredients are used by artisanal breweries (3), with water, for the production of beer. Other goods are also needed to produce beer, including bottles, capsules, labels, glue, and of course water. These products are considered as secondary in the beer production chain, although they are obviously necessary. More and more often, breweries collect their bottles, through a deposit system, and reuse them.

Then, the distributors (4) are responsible for transporting the drinks produced in bars, restaurants and grocery stores (5), where they are sold for consumption, and in particular to employees (6) of the various companies in the beer industry. Indeed, some of the beer consumers work in the sector.

A new activity should also be integrated into this beer sector: mushroom houses (4′). They work with breweries, recovering the used malt (spent grains) and using it as a substrate on which mushrooms (especially shiitake and oyster mushrooms) will grow. The recovery of the substrate is currently being studied for use as protective packaging, for its lightweight and shock absorbing properties.

All these actors also have costs for premises, energy, production and transport machinery, IT, printing and administration. This is what we call the secondary network of suppliers.

The following diagram summarizes the primary network of the beer sector, by modelling the flows of goods/services, as well as the cash flows that allow these exchanges.

The economic relationship

The local currency is above all a tool for establishing economic links between the actors of a sector. While stakeholders are convinced of the value of creating a strong local economy, they do not always have the time, energy or even the knowledge to analyse all current and potential flows in their own economic production/supply chain Pressed by short-term economic constraints and lack of liquidity, they usually go as fast and cheap as possible, whereas their real economic interest in the medium or long term would be to favour a concerted and solidarity-based approach, for example in a pooled credit system.

Working in their own local currency encourages economic actors to be aware of the specificities and various constraints within the chain and puts everyone in commercial contact with their potential suppliers and customers: the farmer with malting, malting with breweries, distributors with breweries, and bars, restaurants and grocery stores with distributors.

The stakes are not only economic and ecological. Admittedly, it makes it possible to increase the volumes of activity of each individual and the wealth produced on the territory; and the development of this territory, in short circuits, reinforces economic resilience and ecological sustainability (reduction of CO2 emissions). On the social and political level, the economic network thus created breaks the isolation of each actor and it is the social fabric that is strengthened. Together, it will be easier to defend your collective interests and become stakeholders in public policies to promote local agriculture.

Monetary liquidity for the sectors

The pooled credit system offered by a complementary local currency such as the Leman in the Lake Geneva region provides significant liquidity to the production/supply chains. Indeed, each actor is granted an operating credit line (currently between LEM 1,000.- and LEM 20,000.-, depending on its size) that can be used without interest rates and without limit as long as it remains below the established threshold. The potential for economic exchange for the entire economic chain concerned is therefore increased by the sum of the credit limits of all its players.

This ancestral system of credit pooling, which has practically disappeared today, swallowed up by the contemporary banking system, is nevertheless a very simple and very stable system. The network as a whole is by definition always totally balanced “at zero”: the sum of the positive amounts is always equal to the sum of the negative amounts, and there is no monetary creation. The more money turns, the more wealth is produced. The lack of liquidity is a barrier to activity. Shared credit therefore replaces bank credit very advantageously.

Conventional bank credit is expensive – when it is granted, because banks often refuse risk. It raises the price of products, because it is necessary to include the cost of money (interest) in the selling price, and weakens the seller in a competitive market occupied by large groups that lower prices.

By working in local currency, we recreate a parallel economy, and we avoid pressure from large groups and foreign products. Getting started with the complementary currency, particularly for agricultural sectors, must be seen as a survival and development strategy. But we must play the game together, companies, employees and consumers, so that the currency can continue to supply the local economy continuously, without stagnating in bottlenecks.

Towards healthy irrigation of the production/supply chains

The main challenge is therefore to avoid the formation of pockets of local currency retention, which indicate an economic blockage. Such a blockage is beneficial if it allows the actor in question to question himself about his partners who do not accept the local currency. It may be time to change it, and to opt for suppliers who also fit into the logic of relocation and social and environmental responsibility.

This is where the services of local currency “facilitators” come into play: they work with companies to integrate suppliers into the payment community, if they meet the conditions of the charter and, if not, to find new partners.

On the other hand, pockets of local currency are problematic if companies cannot put as much currency back into the circulation as they accept: the currency then loses its primary function, which is to facilitate trade. The risk of devaluation of the currency (it will be exchanged below its official value, for example 120 units will be requested for a good/service worth 100 in state currency) is therefore significant.

Two types of actors can find themselves structurally in this “bottleneck” position. First, the company that would occupy a central place in the supply chain, and would have no or too few substitutes. In the “beer” sector, it is the malting industry, with which all local breweries have an interest in working in local currency. Secondly, the company at the “end of the chain”. In our example, it is the farmer who grows the cereals that will then be processed into malt. The following diagram shows this problem of pocket retention of local currency at the end of the supply chain.

For these two cases, there is a simple theoretical answer, but it is not so easy to put into practice, because it already requires a dense economic network: the payment of part of the salaries in local currency. However, the money supply redistributed monthly is a powerful lever for boosting the local and sustainable economy through consumption. This is explained in the diagram below.

We have therefore seen that producers in the agricultural sectors have a clear interest in using the local currency to resist competition from large groups and foreign producers. However, this success is based on the balance of flows. Strengthening the local economy therefore requires organization and patience, as it involves bringing all its stakeholders into the payment community into a virtuous circle.

It is up to the local currency to carry out this work of economic facilitation and credit pooling, and it must be given the means to do so. Once this work is done, in the same way that an irrigation system would be installed in a crop, money can then flow in a virtuous way by creating value in the local and sustainable economy, and by strengthening economic resilience, in the face of systemic financial crises. 2008 should be a lesson to us!

In a future newsletter, we will take the example of one or more particular companies and how they use local currency on a daily basis to make sense of their work: an economic sense, of course, but also the feeling of participating fully in improving the common good.

Poland’s democratic spring: the fightback starts here
February 15, 2019
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Article from The Guardian, by Christian Davies, January 30, 2019

Back when Anna Gryta and Elżbieta Wąs started a local campaign to preserve a town square in south-east Poland, they had no idea it would turn them into potent symbols of democratic revival. But almost 10 years since their success in Lubartów, the sisters have become figureheads for thousands of Poles determined to secure the clean, democratic governance promised to them in the wake of the collapse of communism 30 years ago.

It’s a surprising revelation. Poland has become a byword for nationalist populism in recent years as the ruling Law and Justice party defies European democratic norms with its assault on the media and the courts. But away from the limelight, there is a flourishing grassroots movement against the flaws in the country’s democratic culture on which the populists feed. Tight groups of civic activists are notching up success after success across the country on a vast range of different issues – from sex education to air quality and the rule of law, from cycle lanes and public spaces to transparency and participation in local decision-making processes.

Read the article here.

Solidarity economy shows its heart
February 14, 2019
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La economia solidaria enseña el corazón 2018

(REAS Red de Redes, Spain)

Social Solidarity Economy (SSE) entities in Spain have submitted for the fourth consecutive year to the Social Balance, a participatory process that allows them to carry out a diagnosis of their functioning, as an indispensable tool for defining strategies for improvement in the social and environmental spheres, and to be able to be more coherent each year with the founding principles of the SSE.

With this Social Balance process that the SSE entities have been carrying out for years, the aim is to generate a collective process of evaluation and awareness of the principles defined in the Charter of Principles of the Solidarity Economy and which mark the identity of all the entities that form part of the SSE and which are therefore the object of evaluation in this report. The instruments and variables considered in the tool used have a double objective: to promote the internal improvement of the organizations, and to generate annual aggregated reports with which to make visible the importance and sustainability promoted by the SSE enterprises.

Since 2014, in REAS RdR, a representative SSE network that brings together nearly 700 entities from all over Spain and promotes this tool, has been implemented all over Spain a process of harmonization of indicators of Social Balance and Audit systems, developed starting from the different territories, thanks to the joint work developed through the Social Audit Working Group of REAS RdR.
For this process of confluence, the technological platform that XES (Xarxa de Economía Solidaria de Catalunya) had developed within the framework of its project “Enseña el corazón” was adopted in 2018. This computer tool for evaluating the impact and accountability of the entities associated with the XES, initiated in 2008, allows the entities associated or linked to this network to self-evaluate their performance on the basis of variables grouped into different blocks: economic performance, professional quality, democracy, equality, quality of work, the environment and social commitment.

A total of 446 entities from all over Spain participated in the Social Audit 2018 process (whose data correspond to the fiscal year 2017) (81% of them are members of REAS), which have reached a global turnover of close to 457 million euros and have a staff of close to 12,000 workers, 20,000 volunteers and more than 150,000 members. The following results can be highlighted from the aggregate report of this self-evaluation process:
Equity: there are 58% of women in positions of responsibility, the salary difference is 2.7 and 63% of entities promote an inclusive language.
Work: 74% improve legal work-life balance permits, 50% have an internal labour relations management regulation and 62% create spaces for emotional attention and care for workers.
Environmental sustainability: 91% apply responsible consumption criteria in the purchase of products, 32% are entities with environmental management and 49% have renewable energy.
Cooperation and commitment with the local : 65% operate with ethical finances, 13% of their purchases are made within the framework of the Social Market and 15% in non-profit entities.
Non-profit: 58% of income comes from invoicing compared to 30% from subsidies. Regarding the distribution of profits, 75% goes to reserves, compensation of losses or own investments, 13% to initiatives for the construction of common goods and 4% to investments of financial entities of the SSE.

Based on these and other data derived from the Social Balance 2018, the aim is to give visibility to the importance of SSE companies in Spain, but above all, to convey to citizens the extent to which this type of organisation represents a more responsible business model. Although this report does not offer a comparison of the data offered with those that would be reached in businesses in general, its simple reading points to the responsibility of the SSE entities, at least clearly in many of the aspects analysed, such as participation, equality and concern for the worker within the organisations, or their levels of cooperation and social concern.
The proposed tools and indicators must continue to be developed in order to provide the organisations that participate in it with a useful tool for self-diagnosis and the identification of important areas for improvement. REAS RdR trusts that the information obtained will contribute to transferring to the citizens the proposals behind the social and alternative economic model, and the need to continue betting on it.


MECISE: European energy cooperatives join forces!
February 14, 2019
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Enercoop article of 29 January 2019

For nearly 4 years, Enercoop and its partners in the European REScoop MECISE project have been working together to develop and strengthen citizen renewable energy projects in France, Belgium, Spain and the United Kingdom.

More specifically, the project aims to directly support the development of new citizen renewable energy production projects and to explore new innovative solutions for financing these projects at European level.

The REScoop MECISE (Renewable Energy Sources COOPeratives Mobilizing European Citizens to Invest in Sustainable Energy) project has been funded under the Horizon 2020 programme of the European Agency for Small and Medium Enterprises since early 2015. It will end on 28 February 2019 and the public conclusions of this project were presented on 22 January at a conference at the Musée des Sciences naturelles in Brussels (Belgium).

This conference was also an opportunity for Enercoop and its partners Courant d’Air (Belgium), Ecopower (Belgium), Energy4All (United Kingdom) and Som Energia (Spain) to officially announce the creation of the European cooperative REScoop MECISE, or Mutual for Energy Communities Investing in a Sustainable Europe. This European cooperative, a concrete and sustainable outcome of the European project, has as its social objective to promote the European energy transition to energy democracy.

To this end, the European cooperative will provide financial facilitation services, mainly in the form of equity financing for renewable energy production projects and should raise funds at European level to support renewable energy cooperatives in Europe

Going beyond simple financial cooperation, REScoop MECISE is clearly in line with the logic of the social and solidarity economy by putting financial tools directly at the service of citizen energy. For Enercoop, the event on 22 January marks both the culmination of several years of work on the design of this new tool and the beginning of a great adventure of solidarity between European partners.

Towards a European Republic
February 14, 2019
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Deviant art by nederbirdhttps://www.deviantart.com/nederbird/art/European-Federation-98402973

Alain Caillé is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense. He co-founded the MAUSS (Mouvement Anti-utilitariste dans les sciences sociales) in 1981, and has been editor of the MAUSS Journal since its foundation. In June 2013, Alain Caillé and Marc Humbert created the Convivialiste Manifesto, a text signed by some sixty personalities from all over the world. He is the leader of the Convivialistes’ Movement (www.les convivialistes.org) and the Club des convivialistes.

The European project has not made us dream for a long time. It included two promises. By transcending the borders of nation states, it had to guarantee a perpetual peace. By creating a large market, unified by a common currency, it had to ensure economic prosperity. The first promise may seem to have been kept, but for how long? Europe is in fact divided into six or seven blocs of countries, each with its own unstable contours and deeply divergent interests. The unanimity rule prohibits any consistent political project and therefore any significant concrete progress in any field whatsoever. This is not without explaining why the second promise has hardly been kept or is no longer kept. In the absence of common economic, financial, social, technical, energy, scientific, diplomatic and military policies (except in fragments), Europe is losing ground to Markets and tax havens, to the United States, Russia and emerging powers, particularly China, whose hegemonic aims are no longer a secret. Europe does not speak to the world and no longer even speaks to itself.

Three emergencies

Of course, one could say that, on the one hand, there is only a fair catching-up of a temporary historical imbalance, and, on the other hand, that Europe has always progressed slowly, and that it must be given time to complete the many forms of cooperation that already exist in many areas. The problem is that we have absolutely no time left, for at least three reasons. First of all, if people remain attached to the euro, anger is growing everywhere in Europe against the deterioration of material and moral living conditions. And also, perhaps first of all, against the meaninglessness, the absence of a mobilizing project. Secondly, it is now time to promote an energy transition that can no longer wait. If Europe does not provide itself with the institutional, technical, economic and financial foundations, it will lose all geopolitical autonomy, an autonomy that can only be based on good economic health. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, as we can see, everywhere in the world, and even within Europe in which they were born, adherence to democratic values – respect for pluralism, human dignity and freedom of thought – is in constant decline. If Europe is no longer able to carry and embody these values, who will do it ? Since the democratic ideal is not strong enough in itself, Europe, which claims to be strong, must assume to become strong again in order to champion an ideal of (re)civilization in the face of rising barbaric behaviours. 

Contours of a European Republic

Europe believed that it could go beyond the form of the nation-state. However, all over the world, there are nations that are asserting themselves and confronting each other. And this is true again within Europe itself. The reason for this is that the national framework is the only one to date, where, in modern societies, citizens feel solidarity with each other, and are protected and reassured by this solidarity. This presumption of solidarity is irreplaceable. However, it would be dangerous, and impractical, to want to return to the traditional forms of the nation based on the imaginary tendentious identity between a people, a territory, a language, a culture and a religion. How can these two requirements, that of solidarity and that of diversity, be reconciled within the framework of a Europe that would break with the denial of nation and force, both of which are in reality necessary for the achievement of the democratic ideal? The only solution seems to be to build a meta-nation, a nation of nations, in the form of a European Republic. This Republic would be of a confederal type in order to leave as much scope as possible to the principle of subsidiarity. With a sovereign Assembly and a Senate representing both the regions and civil society organisations (trade unions, NGOs, associations, etc.), this Republic would be governed by a small government, drawn from national governments, responsible for implementing the principles of common economic, financial, social, technical, energy, scientific, diplomatic and military policy adopted by Parliament. This institutional set-up could be complemented by an Assembly of citizens drawn by lot (a kind of permanent consensus conference). Its role would be consultative, but this assembly would have the power to submit to a referendum those proposals that have not been taken into account.

Six priority projects

Such a European Republic would have six projects and six reasons to be priorities:

– The European project was first embodied in a coal and steel community (the ECSC). The European Republic’s first objective would be to provide itself with the means to meet the objectives set at the Paris Conference and to achieve an efficient and virtuous energy transition.

– For this to happen, it must represent a sufficiently important economic area and show sufficient political coherence to be able to effectively combat tax havens and tax optimisation when their sole function is to enrich the richest to the detriment of the most vulnerable.

– Similarly, this Republic must be strong enough to be able to enforce its own accounting and legal standards (and not have them imposed on it by private firms), and to ensure control over all “data” concerning it. The importance of the battle of Artificial Intelligence does not allow us to wait.

– To ensure that the European Republic is indeed a space of solidarity, and therefore functions as a meta-nation, it must respect the rule that only the most advanced social protection can be generalised.

– Only a European Republic will be able to respond both effectively and humanely to the enormous influx of migrants that neoliberal globalisation is causing. Similarly, only a European Republic will be able to meet the challenges of radical Islamic terrorism.

– Finally, while the sustainability of the American shield is problematic, it is essential to have a real European defence. A defence that will be all the more effective if it is clear that its sole objective is to ensure world peace.

Who will or could create the European Republic?

The project, the broad outlines of which have just been described, while remaining at the level of generality desirable at this stage, is not for the time being supported by any of the existing political forces in Europe. It is easy to understand why: These political forces only exist, act and influence at the national level, not at all at the level of the meta-nation to be brought about. This project may therefore seem totally utopian and unfeasible. Need we remind you, however, that it was one of Europe’s founding fathers? A totally forgotten project, yet more urgent than ever. Because the peoples of Europe no longer have a choice. To unite, once and for all, or to perish. To leave history and exist only in the renunciation of everything they believed in. Europe is now at the mercy of a challenge. To reconnect with what she has invented, and to update it, or to disappear. Contribute to the invention of universalizable standards, become exemplary, or vanish into the chaos that lies ahead. The crucial test before us is this: will the peoples of Europe be able to move beyond their nationalism and chauvinism to a higher-ranking nation, or will they prefer regression? At the very least, the question must be asked to them by accessing media visibility. It will not be possible for it to be asked either by business representatives, who are subservient to “markets” (even if those are often their main enemy), or, so it seems, by the current political parties, confined to national spaces. It is therefore up to European civic society, this informal nebula, so lively and protean, of associations, cooperatives in the social and solidarity economy and NGOs to take over. It is now that we must create a debate that can give hope to the peoples of Europe. Do they not have in common a past, too often murderous but also full of artistic, technical, scientific and political splendours (the emergence of modern democracy…)? They still have to invent their future.

Who would be a stakeholder and constituent part of the European Republic? All States, regions or peoples of Europe who so wish. But it is clear that this could not be achieved and reach a critical size without, at a minimum, the participation of France and Germany, plus Italy and/or Spain. It is also clear that such a project can only be truly meaningful if it is sufficiently exemplary on at least two levels: on the one hand, on the preservation of ecological balances, and on the other, on the reinvention and revitalization of a democratic ideal.  The European Republic, which must now be built, will have the project of strengthening a peaceful and equitable multilateral world order. It will be built around common public policies for collective well-being, developed and evaluated in a participatory manner, with deliberate and shared objectives (ecology, energy, the fight against inequality and poverty, etc.), and no longer as a correlate of the single market. 

Preparing the World Social Forum of Transformative Economies
FSMET meeting

Barcelona, 5, 6 and 7 April 2019. The organising committee is working full steam for the preparatory meeting event – one year ahead of the Forum, that will take place in 2020 – in which each transformative economy movement will develop dynamics aimed at specifying the objectives and priorities to be worked on and broadening the scope of the entities involved. The expected outcome is to have a consensus on the main “transformative actions” and convergence tracks, the governance model will be validated and the next steps to be followed will be marked out.

Participants to the meeting are invited organisations linked to the different movements, representatives of networks and social movements , both locally and internationally, between all those initiatives, movements and ways of understanding the economy that have as a common objective: the construction of a real alternative of transformation of the current capitalist economic and financial system.

We want to make this Forum a meeting place. We do not want to limit ourselves to the celebration of a showcase event where only experts speak, but to discuss together what kind of economy we want. Nor do we just want to discuss and dream that “other possible world”, because we know that it already exists. through thousands of initiatives that build alternatives. We want to find common strategies to make ourselves visible, articulate and to multiply.

We work for sustainability, so that it has continuity beyond of the 2020 Forum, both locally and internationally. To do this, it remains to be ensured that this process is built from the territories and generates spaces for face-to-face and virtual articulation at the local level.

We want to make the transformative economies known and reach out to all. To achieve this, we believe that it is necessary for the Forum to have a network of independent, like-minded media that can disseminate the process, and ensure a multiplier effect.

More information will be available soon at http://transformadora.org

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