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UniverSSE2017
Video
Building up Social Solidarity Economy in Central Eastern Europe

By Karolína Silná, Ředitelka| Director Ekumenické akademii

At the RIPESS co-organized European Social Solidarity Economy Congress “UniverSSE”, held in Athens in June 2017, the need for advocating for an economy that meets the needs of all people treating them as citizens and right holders instead of addressing them simply as consumers or stakeholders was emphasized as well as further training of practical Social Solidarity Economy (SSE) skills: not only how to start a social enterprise and other SSE initiative but also how to develop/innovate and how to run activities sustainably in the longer-term perspective. This could be creating an alternative market, an ecosystem of sustainable businesses – in a horizontal way (sustainable supply chain) and vertical way (intersectoral approach). Furthermore skills of community building seem to be essential, advocacy actions as well as campaigning and communicating the values of Social Solidarity Economy.

This was an impulse to develop a project, that would facilitate the spread of SSE activities by providing knowledge, skills and competences, with a special regional focus on Central-Eastern Europe. The joint project of RIPESS Europe and organisations from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Austria is called „Building up Social Solidarity Economy“ and was successfull in the 2018 call of Erasmus + educational programme of the EU. The project will start in October 2018 and the primary goal is to create an informal innovative European training programme of 4 modules on different aspects of Social Solidarity Economy. The educational materials and training tools will be produced in the languages of the involved countries and also in English, to make them available for a broader audience. An important part of the project is also to develop cooperation and networking at the regional and European level during different events.

The project partners are representing various forms of supporting Social Solidarity Economy and entrepreneurship, placed in different context and will bring together very innovative practices and experiences.

The project partners are: RIPESS Europe, Ecumenical Academy (Czech Republic), Dobrze Food Cooperative (Poland), Utopia (Slovakia), Katholische Sozialakademie Österreichs (Austria)

More information to come soon…

 

 

 

A Colombian delegation In Occitania (France)

By Bérénice Dondeyne, Co-President MES Occtianie, member of the RIPESS Europe Coordination Committee

Présenation artisanat Colombie

 

Following the GSEF in Bilbao, the Movement for the Solidarity Economy Occitania welcomed with great pleasure a Colombian delegation from 7 to 12 October 2018! Meetings with elected officials and field workers were organized by Denis Coutens and Bérénice Dondeyne, co-chairs. Colombia enjoys extraordinary ecological diversity and has natural reserves in the Amazon recognized by UNESCO. A lot of exchanges around a local agriculture of quality guaranteeing food self-sufficiency and articulated around a rural citizen community of “farmers”! Engaged in a peace process with FARC, Colombia is entering a new phase in which the Social and Solidarity Economy occupies a central place. Cooperatives are already shaping a new relationship to the “commons”, to land and property and, of course, to the distribution of wealth. Thanks to partners such as Alfredo Cadena, CODEMA y PROVIVIENDA, César Díaz, CIMA (Cumbre de los pueblos del Macizo), Julián Díaz, Asociación Campesinos Putumayo, Mario Anatole Vega, ProComún, Turismo del Común, we have discovered a range of natural and organic products, products of excellence with high nutritional and culinary value (seeds, oils, beans….) or plant handicrafts for which a distribution channel can be considered here in the Occitania region (France). Initial contacts have been made. To be continued….

 

Thank you to La Région Occitanie / Pyrénées-Méditerranée O’Saveurs-Paysannes Ville d’Albi Artisans du Monde Toulouse MIRAMAP Lycée Fonlabour Albi who all put responsible agriculture and food at the heart of their concerns. This trip is part of the dynamic that our Ripess and Ripess Europe networks are driving. The Delegation was accompanied by the Fabrica, a social innovation cooperative in Barcelona (Dorys Ardila/Josep Maria Navarro), Intaini, a Franco-Colombian NGO (Amparo Theret in Toulouse supported the inter-knowledge between Occitan and Colombian actors).

O'Saveurs Paysannes Bienvenida

 

Thessaloniki, Greece: Community Supported Agriculture beyond borders
Urgenci Thessaloniki

We are local small-scale peasant farmers and eaters engaged in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), a direct partnership where the risks, responsibilities and rewards of farming are shared.

CSA is part of our daily experience of creating a genuine alternative to the current economic system, where the decision-making power of food production and distribution is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few financial investors. But we believe even more is at stake.

We believe CSA is a prefiguration of the new social contract between food producers and the communities they are feeding. The European Declaration of CSA, adopted at the last European meeting in September 2016 is a decisive step forward in sharing our proposals. It is a roadmap.

The European CSA movement has come a long way, but much work still remains to be done. Where do we stand when we look at our initial promises? Saving farms, fostering local economies and jobs that cannot be relocated, healing social and environmental wounds, repairing the broken links between different communities, rebuilding social cohesion: what are our achievements? What are our remaining and new key challenges?

The meeting is scheduled to take place 9-11 November 2018 in Thessaloniki.

More information at : https://thessaloniki.urgenci.net/about/

Russia: in Saint Petersburg, building solidarities with local initiatives
Saint Petersburg

[By Laura Aufrere, member of RIPESS Europe coordination committee]

During the last RIPESS Europe General Assembly in Zagreb, we had the chance to meet Olga Polyakova, representing TRAVA, a vibrant Russian collective organising peer to peer trainings and meetings, food collecting and cooking happening, tours in Saint Petersbourg, a responsible consumption guide, etc. Thanks to Olga, at the end of September, I had the chance to be welcomed in the warm apartment on Kanonersky island, shared with Gleb and Olga.

Considered as the 16th Republic of the (ex) USSR for its geographic independence, this beautiful island stands out from the rest of the city, patching together a major harbor, its industries and warehouses, apartment blocks, children playgrounds, and promenades. This diversity in the landscape is bound together in a common sound-panorama composed by the wind and the harbor rumors. With the help of many of Olga’s friends in Saint Petersbourg, including TRAVA members, we spent together a whole week of encounter with local initiatives, and there are many. Olga toured me in this beautiful city, explaining the history of the buildings and street names. We passed by the Pushkinskaya 10 Arts Center to pay tribute to Russia’s “biggest Beatles fan”, Kolya Vasin, who became a prominent figure of the underground scene in the 1960s. We visited a charity chop, and many collective initiatives to discuss solidarity economy issues to be shared in future common projects. We were told stories of collective adventures of self-managed cafés, restaurants, etc.

I was invited to present RIPESS Europe perspective on the future of work regarding the digital transformation during the Fall Meeting, organized by the German-Russian Exchange, on the topic “How Is European Labour Changing: organization of work, working spaces and times, new professions and adaptation of education, solidarity economy “. With the other speakers Anja Abendroth (University of Bielefeld, Germany) and Margarita Kuleva, Higher School of Economics, (St. Petersburg, Russia), we had the opportunity to discuss contemporary issues that are shared at a European level by many independent initiatives, with our Russian peers. The French Institute also gave me the opportunity to give a lecture on the “New organisational models in the artistic and cultural field: how to organise the creation processes in common and for the common”, as part of the program of research on urban renewal in Saint Petersburg. This week spent in Saint Petersbourg opened so many warm and welcoming relations, and connectionfor future projects.

E-leman: a local blockchain currency in Switzerland and beyond
October 15, 2018
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[By Jean Rossiaud, Chambre de l’ESS de Géneve]

The Leman is the local currency of the economic life basin that develops around the Geneva Lake (called Lac léman in French), the largest lake in Europe, crossed from end to end by a border. Geneva is at the end of the lake, and the canton of Geneva shares 90% of its border with France (Haute-Savoie and Ain) and 10% with Switzerland (Canton de Vaud).

The Leman currency is complementary to both the euro and the Swiss franc, on which it is based. The currency was launched in Geneva in September 2015, after 4 years of reflection within a group of about 50 people, composed of Swiss and French residents. A little over 3 years after its launch, 560 companies and businesses and several thousand consumers used the Leman. With the switch to electronic money almost a year ago, the leman is giving itself the opportunity to significantly increase its “payments community”.

The Leman stands out in several ways from other local citizen currencies. First of all, its local and cross-border nature makes it practically a rarity on the planet. Secondly, the fact that it combines paper and electronic cryptocurrency (under blockchain technology) also makes it unique. The new Leman banknotes are all loaded on the blockchain, they all carry a QR-code that allows users to check the validity and cash value of the banknote by scanning it. The π-léman (value 3.14 Leman) and the 1 Leman note, easily split into two 50 cts denominations of Leman, are also innovations.

In addition, the Leman is one of the very few complementary currencies to value the combination of pledge (for the BtoC) and mutual credit (for the BtoB), by stimulating the payment of a portion of salaries in Lemans. Finally, it is part of the trans-localist movement, which advocates the ecological and social transition (it is based on an ethical charter for the continuous improvement of business practices) from the local to the global level, by systematically building international networks in a collaborative spirit (peer-to-peer). Read more

Alternatiba 2018: we are the last generation that can save the Planet

By Jason Nardi

Under the pouring rain, the city of Bayonne (in the French Basque country) is nonetheless beautiful and full of life: on Sunday 7th of October the “Alternatives Village” was all over the old town, with hundreds of people in the streets and squares dedicated to many of the existing “alternative” practices – most of them if not all we can say Social Solidarity Economy – that today are not only possible but being done and used by more and more people. Collective Renewable energy solutions, shared mobility (the symbol of Alternatiba is a tandem bicycle – and the bicycle tour that involved thousands of people throughout France, Switzerland and Belgium a success, arriving in Bayonne on the 6th), food agroecological production and collaborative distribution, the Eusko social currency (with both its paper and electronic version) and ethical banking, but also community and cooperative housing, a strong eco-feminist presence (in streets and debates) and a special attention to the migration crisis, brought to us by the current dominant “growth” economy and the climate change that it engenders.

The latter was the main underlying theme of this Festival, started 5 years ago in Bayonne by the citizens group Bizi, full of “normal” and young people, families, and of course activists – who debated together with a rich program (https://alternatiba.eu/2018/10/programme-du-weekend-d-arrivee-du-tour-alternatiba/) as well as cultural and artistic events. While the urgency of a radical, systemic change was clearly perceived by all participants, the convivial and festive atmosphere gave much hope and renewed energy. Saving the Planet is no longer an option – now is the time to engage: “change the system, not the climate”.

Extract from the article Climate: 15,000 people in Bayonne for the release of the IPCC 1.5°C report

More than 15,000 people joined Bayonne this weekend for a major climate campaign. The two days marked by the arrival of the Tour Alternatiba, a gigantic village of alternatives, conferences and an atmosphere of popular emulation ended with a manifesto to initiate the immediate metamorphosis of the territories. Among them, nearly 200 personalities, scientists, political and associative leaders, artists, former ministers. In a duplex from South Korea, Valérie Masson-Delmotte, a member of the IPCC scientific committee, gave the public gathered in Bayonne the first opportunity to adopt the 1.5°C ratio and encouraged the continuation of citizen actions such as the Tour Alternatiba.

On the eve of the release of the IPCC 1.5°C report, Bayonne delivered a strong message. The final manifesto, read by Gaby, a young high school student from Poitiers and Moriba, a young Guinean saved from drowning by a maritime rescue boat while crossing the Mediterranean, both sixteen years old, launched a vibrant appeal for the immediate metamorphosis of our territories.

With nearly 50 conferences (attended by 6263 people) on such fundamental issues as the current government’s climate and energy transition assessment, obstacles to transition, economic relocation, transition financing, transport, renewable energies, solidarity and climate justice, this weekend also contributed to the ongoing discussions. Concrete alternatives such as the 100% renewable electricity supplier Enercoop or the eusko, already Europe’s leading local currency in terms of volume of currency in circulation, which passed the 1 million euskos mark that same weekend, have demonstrated the possibility that alternatives have to change scale.

This civic effervescence in Bayonne reflects what was observed during the 4 months of the Alternatiba Tour, where a total of more than 77,000 people showed their determination to take action to make a real difference. Under the guise of a great popular celebration, Alternatiba 2018 has once again confirmed that the crucial challenge of the fight against climate change is not only a vital challenge that tens of thousands of citizens are ready to take up, but also the foundation for more sustainable and desirable societies.

Text of the Manifesto  (in French) here.

Videos and photos here.

Bilbao: RIPESS at the Global Social Economy Forum GSEF 2018

The Global Social Economy Forum was held in Bilbao (1-3 October 2018). This is the fourth edition after Seoul 2 times and Montreal 2016. It brought together more than 1700 people from 84 countries. It should be noted that a significant number of representatives of local authorities had made the trip to testify to their involvement in the SSE. It is one of the strong points of the GSEF, to link the evolution of the development of cities to the Social Economy. It should be noted in passing that the title “social economy” has largely predominated in the discourse, the term solidarity being considered superfluous in some cultures because it is included. Nevertheless, the term SSE has also been used in several instances, either in plenary or in workshops. This point can and has given rise to some controversy. We know that for RIPESS, the term solidarity is central because it refers to a philosophy of radical contestation of the ultra-liberal model in force in the globalized economy. The title of the Forum, “Values and competitiveness for inclusive and sustainable local development”, strongly advocated by the Bilbao government, was also discussed.

Mondragon, a partner of the event, is an emblematic example of cooperativism, and of the social economy conceived as a systemic complex aiming at autonomy in a context of resistance, at the time of its creation, to Francoism. Mr. Iñigo Ucin, President of the Mondragon County Council, presented his global experience (production, finance, training, distribution) and invited people to field visits.

The workshops on a wide range of themes offered a wide range of experiences, which is always a time to stimulate optimism and an opportunity for meetings that can be extended over time through fruitful collaborations. RIPESS was present with several members from all continents. The opportunity to get in direct contact with representatives of local authorities and the European Commission was well taken.

During a dedicated session, a Declaration on Transformative SSE which aims at real systemic change was read. During the ceremony, people from several cultures and continents read the text in 4 languages.

During the same session, Jason Nardi for RIPESS, Julia Grannel for XES and Carlos Askunze, coordinator of REAS Euskadi, announced the preparation of the World Social Forum on Transformative Economies. A first preparatory phase will take place in April 2019 in Barcelona and the final edition of this Global Forum is scheduled for 2020. The session ended with a “picoteo” (a kind of aperitif dinner) invited by REAS to Hika Ateneo, an alternative place in Bilbao.

In the closing session Margeritte Mendell (Concordia University, Montreal) used an oxymoron to signify that political and also academic research staff should relax the frameworks and rules that stifle the field initiative. She recommended the “institutionalization of flexibility”.

Jason Nardi was one of three people mandated to read the final declaration of the GSEF after participating in its drafting. A statement from the youth who participated in the forum was also presented.

The next edition of the GSEF is expected to take place in Mexico City in 2020.

Vocational Training: a new Erasmus project working on Trainers

Following the first European Erasmus+ project, which ended with an international meeting in Porto (Portugal) organised in July by APDES (Agencia Piaget Para O Desenvolvimento), a new project was submitted to Europe and approved. It will officially begin with a working meeting in mid-November in Timisoara (Romania) dedicated to the planning of the different phases of the project.

“The project aims to contribute to the development and improvement of skills and competences in Vocational Education and Training (VET), a need identified during the evaluation process of the previous project (SSEE: affirming a new paradigm through innovation of VET programmes), by providing programmes and strengthening the skills of VET trainers, in order to make VET a socio-cultural, interdisciplinary innovation and a basis for experiences and jobs, starting with vocational training, in the context of local development. This project will advocate for the integration of transversal knowledge and using the importance of general knowledge and key competences in addition to professional competences in this education and training of trainers subsystem. The adaptation and development of VET and SSE skills and competences are richer and better adapted to the needs of the labour market, enable young people and adults to be better qualified and contribute to permeability and mobility between different education and training subsystems. The ability of VET systems to anticipate future skills needs and skill gaps requires the inclusion of new frameworks of ideas, new paradigms and alternative models. This is why the project aims to include social issues and solidarity in the education of new generations of learners. This new socio-economic model will serve as a relevant tool for them to address labour market challenges (…) SSE as an alternative socio-economic model in the EU and other parts of the world is rooted in inclusive values and practices, which are much needed in a “transition era”. SSE practitioners develop alternatives in all economic sectors within and beyond current economic models by focusing on sustainability, social needs, reciprocity and solidarity. (…) SSE offers new skills and competences as well as methodologies and practices for creating new or alternative business models, enterprises and cooperatives. With regard to new skills, in the era of automation, the development of non-technical skills such as communication, creative thinking, work ethics, teamwork, networking, decision-making, flexibility, critical thinking and conflict resolution is considered more than essential. (…)

Based on the objectives of the project, a threefold scope can be presented:

  • First, to make SSE a visible and familiar concept on the labour market with regard to the potential and specific constraints that this alternative socio-economic model includes.
  • Secondly, to empower trainers and trainees such as unemployed and untrained young people to acquire new skills and competences from SSE as part of their attempt to enter the labour market.
  • Third, to provide VET trainers, especially at higher levels, with innovative pedagogical methods and tools by implementing an alternative pedagogical experience (SSE in training). To this end, the project proposes the development of innovative methodologies and specific pedagogical tools including training courses, an online platform to support learning and training activities and guides to good practice. (extracts from the project presentation)

Project partners: CRIES (Romania), Technet (Germany), DOCK Synergatikos Koinonikis Koros kai allileggyas oikonomias (Greece), Solidarius (Italy), APDES (Portugal), MES (France) and RIPESS Europe

The debt shackles are off: watch Greek social enterprises go!
kalo SSE in Greece

[by Antonis Vorloou | former Secretary of SSE of the Greek government]

This article which appeared in the Thomson Reuters Foundations News (Tuesday, 18 September 2018) is published with the Author’s consent.

Debt laden Greek consumers have been forced to choose cheap but with the economy improving, will they ‘buy social’?

Decades of crony capitalism and regulatory capture have left Greek productivity crippled, eroded trust between the state and the citizens and – most disturbingly – everyone has placed “self-interest” above all else. The 2009 debt crisis revealed in the most shocking way the deficiencies of the “system” with unemployment sky rocketing to unprecedented levels (28% by 2013) and purchasing power reduced by over 25%. A social economy has been successfully proposed in many countries as an alternative to the market economy, yet in Greece it was first introduced during the early years of the crisis and was mostly regarded as a policy tool to restrain growing unemployment.

Some also had the controversial expectation that it could be a way to shrink the public sector by outsourcing to social enterprises. The economic outlook was especially distressing during the period of the euro zone’s debt relief measures for Greece, due to the shrinking demand triggered by dwindling purchasing power. In such an environment the competitive advantage lays with the enterprise which can cut costs and prices and not with the one which integrate a social premium into their products.

For this new way of doing business to be successful, two ingredients are essential – an enabling environment and a culture of contributing to the society. In a growing economy, aided by policy measures, a social economy can thrive and be regarded as an employer of choice, given the reward of doing something good and worthwhile for the society. Fast forward to today. Post bailout, unemployment has dropped below 20%, the minimum wage is on the rise and an air of normalcy is returning to the economy. The ability of workers to choose their employer is increasing and the purchasing power of consumers is on the rise giving them the opportunity to choose not just the cheapest product, but also one that has social added value.

The Greek government, which views a Social and Solidarity Economy as the new paradigm for aligning the interests of the market to those of the society, has introduced a new legal framework for social enterprises in 2016. This expanded the previous definition of Social and Solidarity Economy entities beyond Social Cooperative Enterprises, which were first introduced in 2011 and includes Workers Cooperatives – a new legal form – as well as all other types of entities which have a social purpose, democratic governance and limited distribution of profits. This has given a boost to the sector which includes more than eleven hundred organisations, half of them created during the last 18 months, with a combined turnover of over 10 million euros and employing over a thousand workers as well as mobilizing numerous volunteers.

To strengthen this dynamism, an ambitious plan to provide a supporting environment for the development of new and existing Social and Solidarity Economy actors is also implemented. The plan, which has a budget of over 170 million euros for the next five years, includes business development services, financial support through grants and state backed loans and a multitude of dissemination actions.

Creating a culture of giving and building trust, on the other hand, needs a more subtle and systematic approach.  Efforts to that end are being made in order to mobilize dormant societal forces so that this type of mentality becomes visible and eventually mainstream. These include the promotion of social impact measurement as well as cooperation with international organisations of the sector – such as RIPESS – in order to identify and implement new and innovative actions.

A Social and Solidarity Economy in Greece is still young but with the boost it will be given from governmental policies, together with the improving economic outlook post bailout, it has the potential to create a new way of doing business which is aligned with the interests of the many.

Antonis Vorloou is the former Special Secretary for the Social and Solidarity Economy law, which recognises different kinds of social enterprises in Greece.

Rethinking Economics: changing how Economy is taught
Rethinking economics

Last August the Rethinking Economics International Summer Gathering  took place,  bringing together 75 students and academics from all over the world at La Bergerie de Villarceaux, in France. Representatives of progressive fundations such as the Charles Leopold Mayer Foundation, Partners for a New Economy, or the Edge Funders Alliance also attended the meeting to discuss the role of philanthropy in overcoming the current extractivist economic system. Rethinking Economics is an international network of students, academics and professionals that lobbies to overcome neo-liberal economic thinking in society and in the academic curriculum. 

10 years after the beginning of the Global Financial Crisis there seems to be a wide consensus among many different initiatives on the need for the so-called “transformative economies” to converge into a common global agenda. Some of these initiatives that also attended the gathering were the Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WeAll), Promoting Economic Pluralism (PEP), Reclaim Our Economy or Finance Watch. Villarceaux was a perfect context to exchange some ideas on how to work togehter effectively and how the World Social Forum of Transformative Economies of Barcelona could be a platform to work on this convergence.  The presentation took place on August 16th and many of the students who were present, showed interest in collaborating with the Forum from the different local organisations they represented.

Through the World Social Forum of Transformative Economies, RIPESS, REAS and XES have committed themselves to organising a two year path that will cross through events all around the world that include two meetings in Barcelona, in 2019 and 2020. The official presentation at the Rethinking Economics International Summer Gathering of Villarceaux paves the way of a process that will follow in the next 2 years.

[by Xavi Artigas, XES – Catalan solidarity economy network]

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