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UniverSSE2017
Video
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.

Greece : New “Fruits of Solidarity” campaign is about to set up
December 11, 2017
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‘Fruits of Solidarity” is an exports campaign project of Greek coop products (mostly olive oil & oils), supported by Dock – Social Solidarity Economy Zone* aiming at the creation of a new node in the existing network of production, distribution, exportation and consumption of coop products, based on the principles and values of social solidarity economy.

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UniverSSE 2017: an inter-galactic program!
June 5, 2017
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Solidarity Economy is live and thriving, if what you can see through the telescope of the 4th European Congress on SSE is just a small part of what is moving in Europe and around the world.  Here is the program of the Congress, with a multitude of meetings, networking events, workshops and round tables that show the richness of the initiatives and organisations behind it. And since the technologies are there, the UNIVERSSE also has an Application for telephones and tablets:

Workers buyouts and self-management: strengths and weakness of a social mouvement
December 23, 2016
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EuroWorkers' Economy 2016

The first international meeting “Worker’s economy” was held in 2007 in Argentina and brought together workers from workers’ takeover enterprises, political and social activists, trade unionists and academics.

Since then, the meetings are held every two years and are spaces for coming together, discussing and reflecting on the challenges faced by workers in their efforts to defend their livelihood through self-management, against the assaults of globalized capitalism.

The second Euro-Mediterranean meeting held in Thessaloniki, Greece, from Friday 28th to Sunday 30th October, 2016 gathered over 200 participants from many countries in Europe, Latin America, Turkey and even Syria, thanks to an online testimony of the struggle of the Kurdish community of the Syrian Rojava.

See the programme here.

The meeting focused on the struggles of workers to recover their enterprises, an act of resistance to capitalism that eliminates production units that are no longer profitable, i.e. do not yield satisfactory profits for expected investment returns.

The takeover is therefore firstly the way to preserve jobs, as well in the long term an instrument of social transformation and the creation of a new economy liberated from exploitation and turned to the satisfaction of social needs. It is a question of changing paradigms and replacing a predatory economy, based on the exploitation of workers by a basic needs and social justice oriented economy .

Many testimonies focused on the struggles and forms of organization adopted to reconvert businesses into self-managed cooperatives. The meeting took place in the VIOME plant that has been struggling since 2011, following the abandonment of the factory by employers, leaving workers without wages in a crisis context where unemployment reaches 30% of the population.  VIOME is still threatened with expulsion, the state having put the factory at auction. The resistance of workers is emblematic, supported by people of the region and far beyond. Moreover, it was the mobilisation of those sympathizers that allowed the meeting to be held in good conditions.

Testimonies were also members of Fralib (Marseille region, France), which after 1336 days of fighting the multinational Unilever (for the brand Elephant Teas) succeeded in creating the ScopTI cooperative, and to sell organic teas and infuses (the 1336 brand is now found in in bio-coops and other outlets of the solidarity economy).  Also factory worgers from Rima flow (the suburb of Milan) brought their experiences, as well as Kazova in Turkey or Campichuelo graphics and design cooperative in Argentina, Dita in Bosnia and Herzegovina and many others …

Besides these testimonies, participants were able to examine the values at stake. Thus, an Italian doctoral student expressed her findings under the prism of gender in the self-managed enterprises (where one sees no surprise that women also struggle to take their place in spite of the declarations of equality) and the control of emotions in groups not regulated by authority.  A group of refugee women who organize themselves to produce knittings and securing supplies in the camp where they are kept, testified to the harassing complications that the government introduced to limit their autonomy.

Self-Management was central of course, but also the processes of takeover of the common assets: re-municipalization of cleaning services in Madrid, rescue of beaches in Greece with the example of the Voula camping that was rendered to the inhabitants while the beach was threatened with privatization (everything is sold out in Greece).

Josette Combs, representing MES in Ripess Europe, intervened in the round table on “legal, social and political assistance structures that could help in the takeover of self-managed factories. What role can trade unions, international networks, legal consultants and solidarity movements play in the connection of struggles for self-management with their social and political context“, dedicated to the role of networks in support of takeover initiatives, where the debate also focused on the involvement of local communities with citizens in a spirit of support for the local economy.

The recurring discourse engages in the struggle needed to advance the self-managerial economy, continuously threatened by attacks from the imposed authorities or by the internal risk of departing from the initial spirit of horizontal and joint governance, still under the battering of the market which tries to helm the road to these atypical undertakings, which challenge the capitalist model of accumulation and exploitation of both producers and consumers.

Lots of energy and lots of fragility intermingled and a genuine warm brotherhood during these three days of exchanges that included local music and sales stands for the products of the cooperatives.

Josette Combes, MES

The new Greek law on SSE: progressing in the right direction
Greek Parliament Athens

At the end of October 2016 the Greek parliament voted for the new law 4430/2016 on the “Social and Solidarity Economy and the development of its actors”.

In our point of view, this law constitutes an essential progress for the development of SSE in Greece since it sets a framework of specific values and principles that define the actors, as SSE actors. More specifically, it disconnects the legal entity and the legal status as a precondition to be a SSE actor.

Read more

Greece: a bill on the SSE will soon be presented to Parliament
October 16, 2016
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Gréce, Greece

The Greek Government will soon present a Bill to the Parliament on the “Social and Solidarity Economy and the development of its agencies”, in order to expand to other forms of enterprises the scope of the 2011 Law on cooperatives, which no longer meets current needs.

This law will therefore focus on cooperatives, collaborative work as well as on mutual societies, associations and foundations.  According to  CECOP,, most of the provisions are actually to define and regulate social cooperatives and associated work.

 

The Greek Minister of Employment, Rania Antonopoulou, has set among the objectives of the law the development of  “all small businesses”, including those addressing needs of education, health, employment, environment and support to migrants.

Parmi les objectifs de la Ministre adjointe de l’Emploi, Rania Antonopoulou, qui porte cette loi, figure le développement des “toutes petites entreprises”, dont celles répondant à des besoins d’éducation, de santé, d’emploi, d’environnement et de soutien des migrants.

[Source: RTES]

A cooperative Call Center from Refugees to Refugees (R2R)
October 7, 2016
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R2R Afisa call center Greece

The phone line of the cooperative call service ‘Refugees to Refugees (R2R) Solidarity Call Center’ began to operate on Thursday 8th September 2016 in Greece. For three months now, 4 refugees (from Syria, Egypt, Morocco and Gambia) and people from the solidarity movement have been working cooperatively together, through open and democratic processes, in order to create a cooperative initiative that will provide information about transit, stay, or settlement in Greece, from refugees to refugees. This action will be an important milestone, because it is being developed by refugees themselves who speak the same language and have been through the same difficult experiences in transit.

Read more

Solidarity exports with Greece
October 7, 2016
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soli-oli campaign

During this summer (from July until September) the campaign of solidarity exports travelled to Berlin, after Belgium and Luxembourg through the cooperation of social organisations and SSE initiatives in Germany and in Greece. The “heart” of the campaign is how an alternative – fair and solidarity trade , without mediators with full access to all information about quality, origin, working conditions, environmental impact of the products is possible.

Read more

Refugees: community and grassroot solidarity initiatives are multiplying
April 2, 2016
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As the European “refugee crisis” is getting worse every day and governments react with emergency and short term strategies, mainly to contain the number of people entering the EU or keeping them in specific areas (with agreements that ignore human rights, such as the one between the EU and Turkey), more and more people are organising and welcoming those fleeing from war zones such as Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq.  Some cities as well have started to mobilise, such as Barcelona, which has created a system to inform, assist and involve refugees in a more open and democratic way. In Germany and Italy, many communities are moving and involving social solidarity economy initiatives to help refugees out of the emergency.

In Greece, Solidarity for all is working with many solidarity initiatives that are now concentrated on the issue.  There is also a Refugees’ Fund crowdfunding campaign, promoted by Fair CoopThis fund will focus on helping autonomous and self-managed projects involving refugees and solving their need to retain full control over the decisions made in their lives.
For example new settlements, and the creation of productive and holistic initiatives with which they can fulfill their material and immaterial needs on a daily basis, while offering something useful to the society in which they find themselves.
For contributions and more info click on this link: https://coopfunding.net/en/campaigns/refugees-fund-faircoop/

From GR-EXIT to GR-ENTRANCE: a solidarity campaign between Greece and Belgium
January 5, 2016
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by Georgia Bekridaki (Solidarity for All)

We are very pleased to announce that the exports solidarity campaign organized between Solidarity for All (Greece) and the organization Climaxi (Belgium) was successfully completed! The aim of the campaign was on the one hand to spread the word to the Belgian people and collectives for the socio – political situation in Greece and the consequences of austerity policies, on the other hand to get practical support from Belgian associations, trade unions, environmental groups, solidarity collectives to the Greek worker cooperatives and small producers

So we created a “Solidarity food box”, a “solidarity package” that includes traditional products from cooperatives and the natural soaps made by the workers of the recuperated factory of VIO.ME. The campaign was mostly addressed to unions like ABVV General Confederation of Workers, associations, environmental groups, political organizations, social centers where they ordered a total of 2.2 tons of products.

The difficult conditions prevailing in Belgium – because of the climate of fear and widespread militarism of their daily lives – the three weeks the campaign lasted from 08-27 / 11 brought us even closer. The collectives who participated felt that the actions of solidarity among peoples is the answer to the non-support of EU leaders against Greece on the one hand and against the causes that generate wars and xenophobia on the other.

The Greek products arrived on the 17.12 at Herzele and we met all the solidarity people who participated in the campaign. The next day we travelled in Leuven, where a very warm event took place. We discussed about the struggles and the solidarity movement which developed in Greece the last 5 years of memorandum, while at the same time our Belgian friends expressed their interest not only because they got to know about the experiments imposed in Greece, but because they could see the impact also in their own country.

It is worth mentioned that the 20% surplus of the campaign will be donated to solidarity initiatives (food distribution collectives) in Greece and for the creation of a counseling infrastructure for the support of solidarity economy initiatives.

Download the presentation: Greece solidarity_campaign_english.pdf

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