Growl module: solidarity & cooperative economy

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GROWL MODULE:

SOLIDARITY & COOPERATIVE ECONOMY


Based on the GROWL course realized during 1-6 October 2014, in Thessaloniki, Greece

CONTENTS

  1. Introduction:

    1. Subject of the module

    2. Connection/ relevance to degrowth

    3. Aim of the module

  2. Theoretical Content:

    1. Mainstream approach to the topic and the critique

    2. Degrowth approach to the topic

    3. Alternatives: Proposed methods or alternatives to address the topic within degrowth

  3. Experience of the course:

    1. What was done and how (methodologies/ best practices)

    2. Presentations and case studies

    3. Pictures and videos

  4. Conclusions

  5. Reference list


1. INTRODUCTION
a) Subject of the module
GROWL partner ANTIGONE, in collaboration with ILIOSPOROI Network and the People’s University of Social and Solidarity Economy organized an international Course on Solidarity and Cooperative Economy, during 1-6 October 2014, in Thessaloniki, Greece.
Participants had the opportunity to get trained as trainers on concepts such as degrowth and solidarity- cooperative economy, through theoretical lectures, participatory workshops, interactive showcases, plenary sessions and open space debates.

The course addressed theoretical, practical and political aspects of degrowth and solidarity economics. Speakers included university professors, researchers, activists and practitioners from Greece, France, Germany, Czech Republic, Poland and Portugal, including representatives from some of the most prominent solidarity economy initiatives from Greece.

Topics included: Degrowth theory put into practice; A theoretical framework of solidarity economy; Cooperative economy- legal and institutional frameworks; Cooperative working spaces; Producer- consumer networks and cooperatives; Barter exchange networks, Complementary currencies & Time banks; Ecovillages and self-resilient communities; Growth, austerity and crisis, which way out?
The lectures- workshops were hosted in the collective working space OIKOPOLIS, in Thessaloniki for the first half of the seminar, and at an ArtHouse in Tagarades, Chalkidiki, for the second half. Participants had the chance to undertake field visits in prominent case studies such us the worker self-managed factory VIOME and the collective peri-urban farm PERKA. The complete programme of the Course follows:
GROWL INTERNATIONAL COURSE “SOLIDARITY & COOPERATIVE ECONOMY”

1-6 OCTOBER 2014, THESSALONIKI, GREECE


WEDNESDAY 1 OCTOBER

ARRIVAL OF PARTICIPANTS

17.30 - 19.00: bus tour/ bike/ walk in Thessaloniki (participants should choose in advance)

19.00 – 20.30: Welcoming, personal introductions and Team Building Exercises

20.30: dinner at Hostel.

THURSDAY 2 OCTOBER at Oikopolis

08.45 – 09.30: Breakfast

09.40 – 09.55: Ice breaker

10.00 – 11.00: Presentation of GROWL (by Gualter Baptista, GROWL coordinator).

11.00 – 12.30: Lecture: A theoretical framework of alternative economic and political spaces with Giorgos Gritzas (Ass. Professor AUTh) and Karolos Kavoulakos (Lecturer AUTh) members of People’s UnivSSE.

12.30 – 13.30: Simulation game on commons and solidarity economy, by Varvarousis Aggelos (PhD cand. ICTA UAB).

13.30 – 15.00: Lunch and presentation of Oikopolis social center .

15.00 – 16.30: Discussion: Politics, ecology, local institutions and degrowth with Alekos Georgopoulos (Professor AUTh); Lefteris Ioannidis (Mayor of lignite and energy producing Kozani); Christos Adamidis (representative from Skouries movement against the extraction of gold in Chalkidiki).

16.30 – 18.00: Open debate: Growth, austerity and crisis, which way out? Introduced and moderated by Panos Petridis (Researcher SEC Vienna) and Giorgos Kallis (Professor ICTA UAB).

18.30 – 21.00: Public Event (in Greek with translation), “Degrowth and Solidarity Economy” with Giorgos Kallis, Giorgos Gritzas, Panos Petridis, Alekos Georgopoulos, Kostas Nikolaou, Karolos Kavoulakos. At Aristotelion University of Thessaloniki (10th floor, Pegagogical School, 3 Septemvriou St., room "LOGOU & TECHNIS").

21.00: dinner and Welcoming Party at Steki Metanaston (migrant social center).

FRIDAY 3 OCTOBER

08.45 – 09.30: Breakfast

09.30: Departure for PERKA urban farm (in abandoned military camp of Karatasios)

10.00 – 11.30: presentation of PERKA group (on urban farming).

11.30 – 13.00: bus to VIOME

13.00 – 14.30: Presentation and discussion about VIOME (self-managed factory www.viome.org) and light lunch.

14.30 – 15.30: Bus to Tagarades

17.00 - 19.00: Lecture and Discussion: Degrowth fundamentals (lite module) – with Filika Sekulova (Research and Degrowth).

19.00 – 20.00: GROWL Partner meeting

20.00: Dinner / screening of documentary “In transition 2.0” (Transition Network, 2012, 67')

SATURDAY 4 OCTOBER at Tagarades

08.30 – 09.30: Breakfast

09.40 – 09.55: stretching exercises

10.00 – 11.00: Lecture: Dialectical approach and delimitations of the social solidarity economy. Case: the political economy of the water cooperative management, by Kostas Nikolaou (Adj. Professor HOU and member of People's UnivSSE).

11.00 – 12.00: Discussion or Simulation Exercise with Kostas Nikolaou (Adj. Professor HOU and member of People's UnivSSE).

12.00 – 12.15: Break

12.15 – 13.30: Showcase: Producer- consumer networks and cooperatives with Lazaros Aggelou (President of Bios Coop and member of People’s UnivSSE), and Thomas Anemos Papamichos (Agronaftes CSA initiative) and presentation of selected case studies- best practices from participants' countries.

13.30 – 15.00: Lunch

15.00 – 16.30: Workshop: Cooperative economy- from theory to practice - how to set up a cooperative with Dimitris Kitsikopoulos (KAPA network on social economy)

16.30 – 17.20: Lecture: Social solidarity economy: Politics of prefiguration and social transformation, by Alexandros Kioupkiolis (Lecturer AUTh and member of People's UnivSS ).

17.20 – 17.30: Break

17.30 – 18.30: Simulation Exercise by Alexandros Kioupkiolis (Lecturer AUTh and member of People's UnivSSE).

18.30 – 20.00: Showcase: Cooperative working spaces (with representatives from “European Village“ - Akadimia Platona cooperative cafe and “Allos Tropos” social cooperative) and presentation of selected case studies- best practices from participants' countries.

20.30: Dinner / GROWL partner meeting

21.30: Screening of documentary “Another World” (iliosporoi network, 90', 2013)

SUNDAY 5 OCTOBER at Tagarades

08.30 – 09.30: Breakfast

09.40 – 09.55: Stretching exercises

10.00 – 11.45: Showcase: Barter exchange networks, Complementary currencies & Time banks (with representatives from Koino exchange of goods and services network, ARSIS Time Bank and ΤΕΜ Magnisias and presentation of selected case studies- best practices from participants' countries.

11.45 – 12.00: Break

12.00 – 13.30: Showcase: Eco-communities and self-resilient initiatives (with representatives from Free and Real, Spithari, Nea Gouinea ) and presentation of selected case studies- best practices from participants' countries.

13.30 – 15.00: Lunch

15.00 – 17.00: Visioning workshop – what kind of degrowth do we want? Facilitated by iliosporoi network

17.00 – 18.30: TTT module: Training the degrowth trainers (TTT theory, methods and tools (30 minutes presentation of material collected so far in GROWL) and presentation of GROWL future trainer exercises (1 hour).

18.30 – 18.40: Break

18.40 – 20.30: TTT module: Training the degrowth trainers (simulation exercise for all participants – preparing the assignments – Francois Gillet)

20.30: Dinner / screening of documentary “A new we” (Stefan Wolf, 2010, 116').

22.00: Farewell Party

MONDAY 6 OCTOBER

10.00 – 12.00: GROWL partner meeting

DEPARTURE OF PARTICIPANTS

The structure of the GROWL Module on Solidarity and Cooperative economy will reflect the structure of the GROWL Course in Thessaloniki. In the pages that follow the reader will have the chance to get to know some basic theoretical concepts behind solidarity economy and degrowth, as seen in key literature. This module includes also abstracts and presentations realised during the Course, case studies and methodological elements on how to set up similar initiatives and realize innovative workshops on solidarity economy and degrowth.


b) Connection/ relevance to degrowth
Consumption, morality and sustainability of the planet. We can broadly summarize in these three issues the challenge that the world society is facing. The economic crisis that started to hit the global economy since 2008 had shown in a very clear way a new break in the Capitalism construction. Not necessary an “head shot” but something that in the next decades will for sure change our lifestyle.
Zygmund Bauman, in his famous book Liquid Modernity1, makes a very sharp description of today's society, characterized by a greater uncertainty due to the fact that the protagonists are no longer producers , but consumers . And then, the rampant consumerism , globalization and the neoliberism, would be related to the industry of fear, the bustle , the dismantling of the safety and the liquefaction of solid certainties that characterized the generation previous year.
This perspective, according to Bauman, is now facing a new problem, namely the scarcity of resources. In this sense, the consumer can no longer be considered a virtuous drive of our way of life, because you will soon come to a point where the main resources are depleted or nearing depletion.

In this context of a global crisis, Greece has been one of the most impacted countries, and the place of major social and political shifts. Among these shifts, the loss of accountability of both the Greek State and the European Union, an acuter awareness of systemic inequalities, and the break-down of the social contract in favour of the Memorandum politics, constitute as many recurrent patterns of discontent, and contribute to the elaboration of what Theodossopoulos (2014) analyzes as an ‘indignation discourse”. This “indignation discourse” has a transformative, empowering dimension : while producing a wide repertory of resistance actions, it becomes a subversive political weapon, leading towards change in political and social life. Besides, this indignation discourse has become an element of a transnational resistance discourse, where the critic of the national mismanagement of the crisis creates a far wider debate on capitalism and an on the growth neoliberal narrative.

Following the Psychotherapist Oliver James, the three main characteristics of selfish capitalism are :


  • businesses are evaluated by their quotations on Wall Street rather than their contributions to society and economy.

  • a strong pressure to privatize goods and services belonging to the collectivity

  • government policies strongly favouring company owners and their opportunities to make profits, making it easy for them to exploit workers, employing them at disadvantaged conditions. (oliver James, article).

Social and solidarity economy goes against this paradigm, and attempts to empty economy from its capitalist roots and to promote solidarity and social profitability as key words for its program. The solidarity (or social) economy combines two terms that are often contradictory:



  • “economy” refers to the concrete production of goods or of services by business or enterprise that contributes to a net increase in collective wealth.

  • “Social” refers to social profitability, as opposed to purely economic profit.2

Social profitability is evaluated in terms of contribution to democratic development, of encouragement of an active and empowered citizenship and of projects which promote both individual and collective initiative.


Social profitability contributes to the improvement of the quality of life, and of the well-being of the population, particularly through the increase of available services. Like the public sector, as well as the traditional private sector, social profitability can also help job creation.3
Following this different approaches, what we call social and solidarity economy embraces a wide range of initiatives and movements, from occupied factories to cooperatives or urban gardening.

These initiatives could be subsumed under the appellation of non-market capitals.Non-market capitals is land, finance, workspace or housing, equipment, knowledge, seeds, whose usage is an attempt to avoid the stringent top-down state control and offer the possibility to be democratically controlled by the local people on a non-profit basis. Ideally, this control should be exercised by the local community (Johanisova, Crabtree and Franková, 2013).

This should be managed by institutions such as local communities, municipalities, social enterprise umbrella groups and ethical banks, which take them out of the market and place them under local/member/democratic control, in this way decelerating and weakening the growth process and by-passing the mainstream economic credit model of a usual bank and instead are based on a group of people pooling together their resources with each having the possibility to borrow from this pool.
The nonmarket capital approach can be understood as a modern incarnation and continuation of the commons (Johanisova, 2004) bringing in mind the English Middle Ages “commoners” who use to manage them collectively and extract natural resources for their subsistence. In that way, a regeneration/restoration of a healthy conception of “commons” is attempted juxtaposed to the today’s agencies of “death economies” (ie those producing pollution, wasting resources, employ toxic materials etc) which produce externalities (costs and impacts) and dispose them in their contemporary “commons” which is actually the whole of Biosphere, in that way parasitizing on older subsistence production activities taking place in both the sustainability (air, oceans, forests etc) and civil (public libraries, concert halls, public schools, pension plans, health benefit plans, water facilities etc) commons (Burch, 2012: 6).

c) Aim of the module
As a part of the GROWL project, this module aims to create a space for exchanging practices and experiences, at a time where transnational solidarity constitutes a key factor of the success of creative resistance initiatives to the neoliberal discourse and politics.

It also aims to create a space for self training, following the idea that far from being a fixed material, knowledge is constructed by practice and experience, where exchanges and mutual training play a crucial role.

Finally, the setting of the workshop in Greece as focus of the crisis constitutes an important element of the course, as an occasion for the participants to learn more about the Greek movements, as well as, an opportunity for Greek initiatives to gain more visibility and support.
2. CONTENT
a) Mainstream approach to the topic and the critique
Extract below taken from: Solidarity Economy: Key Concepts and Issues, by Ethan Miller (Published in Kawano, Emily and Tom Masterson and Jonathan Teller-Ellsberg (eds). Solidarity Economy I: Building Alternatives for People and Planet. Amherst, MA: Center for Popular Economics. 2010.) http://base.socioeco.org/docs/miller_solidarity_economy_key_issues_2010-1.pdf
People across the […] world are experiencing the devastating effects of an economy that places the profit of a few above the well being of everyone else. The political and business leaders who benefit from this arrangement consistently proclaim that there are no real alternatives, yet citizens and grassroots organizations around the world are boldly demonstrating otherwise. A compelling array of grassroots economic initiatives already exist, often hidden or marginalized, in the “nooks and crannies” of the dominant economy: worker, consumer and producer cooperatives; fair trade initiatives; intentional communities; alternative currencies; community-run social centers and resource libraries; community development credit unions; community gardens; open source free software initiatives; community supported agriculture (CSA) programs; community land trusts and more.

While incredibly diverse, these initiatives share a broad set of values that stand in bold contrast to those of the dominant economy. Instead of enforcing a culture of cutthroat competition, they build cultures and communities of cooperation. Rather than isolating us from one another, they foster relationships of mutual support and solidarity. In place of centralized structures of control, they move us towards shared responsibility and directly democratic decision-making. Instead of imposing a single global monoculture, they strengthen the diversity of local cultures and environments. Instead of prioritizing profit over all else, they encourage commitment to broader work for social, economic, and environmental justice.

These are the already-planted seeds of what many organizers and activists around the world are calling a "solidarity economy." Our task is not to invent a new economic blueprint from scratch and then convince the world to adopt it, but rather to participate together in ongoing work to strengthen, connect and build upon the many economic practices of cooperation and solidarity that already exist. We do not need to wait for a revolution or for "capitalism to hit the fan." We can begin here and now, in our communities and regions, connected with others around the world, to construct and strengthen institutions and relationships of economic solidarity.
Solidarity economy is an open process, an invitation. The concept does not arise from a single political tradition or body of ideas. Its very nature and definition are in continual development, discussed and debated among its advocates. Seeking to "make the road by walking" rather than to push a closed or finalized ideology, solidarity economy is a "movement of movements" continually seeking connections and possibilities while holding on to the transformative commitment of shared values. [….]
A Brief History of the Concept

"Solidarity economy" was used as an economic organizing concept as early as 1937, when Felipe Alaiz advocated for the construction of an economía solidaria between worker collectives in urban and rural areas during the Spanish Civil War.

Contemporary uses of the term appear to have emerged in both France and South America--specifically Colombia and Chile--in the early 1980s. European concepts of économie solidaire emerged from a long tradition of "social economy" activism and policy oriented toward addressing social and economic exclusion through "third sector" alternatives to conventional market and state-centered institutions. While the social economy often sought to supplement or compliment the existing social order , solidarity economy advocated a more transformative approach to economic activism. In Colombia, economia solidária emerged out of the country's cooperative movement and understood as a concept that could place cooperativismo (cooperativism) into a broader, and more political, context of a vision for building a different economy.

In Chile, the concept was developed more broadly and theoretically by economist Luis Razeto as a cross-cutting "sector" of the economy consisting of diverse enterprises that share a common "economic rationality" of cooperation and solidarity. The task of those seeking economic transformation, said Razeto, should be to connect and strengthen these already-existing alternatives.
Building off of these conceptualizations, economia solidária developed by the mid 1990s into a growing social movement with a sharedresearch agenda and a powerful network of economic activity throughout Latin America, Europe and Canada. In Brasil, work on solidarity economy was particularly strong and included the development of university research programs, support "incubators" for cooperatives and other solidarity-based enterprises, and the growth of extensive local, regional and national networks linking solidarity economy initiatives and practitioners. Similar efforts developed in France, Spain, Peru, Argentina, Mexico and Quebec, and in the late 1990s many of these networks began to make connections.
The International Solidarity Economy Group (Grupo Internacional de Economía Solidaria, or GES) convened a meeting in Lima, Peru in 1997 that brought together, for the first time, representatives from solidarity economy efforts around the world. It was the birth of a truly international movement and the beginning of what later became the Intercontinental Network for the Promotion of the Social Solidarity Economy (Red Intercontinental de Promoción de la Economía Social Solidaria, or RIPESS).

Growth continued on local, national and international levels and by the late 2000s--thanks in large part to RIPESS and to the amplifying role of the World Social Forums--the solidarity economy movement was gathering strength in new regions. The third international conference was held in Dakar, Senegal in 2005. The first Asian Forum on the Solidarity Economy, held in 2007 in Manila, marked the birth of the Asian Alliance for Solidarity Economy. The U.S. Solidarity Economy Network was initiated that same year at the first U.S. Social Forum in Atlanta, Georgia. With a fourth international meeting held by RIPESS in Luxembourg in 2009 and a fifth planned for 2013 in Asia, this much is clear: in the face of a dominant international economy centered on the growth of profits for a small elite, an emerging global network of initiatives around the world is asserting that another economy--an economy for people and planet--is not only possible, but is already being born. "We are building," writes Paul Singer from Brasil, "in the midst of contradictions, in the cracks of capitalism, a new type of society and economy."

Solidarity Economy as a Process

One of the great strengths and innovations of the solidarity economy movement is its ability to move beyond the factionalism that has so often weakened historical efforts to imagine and build other economies. Indeed, when faced with the question of economic alternatives, many activists have often been tempted to build or to seek a blueprint, a Big Plan, for how "the economy" should operate. While such "blueprints" for alternative economic structures can be very useful as tools for clarifying and motivating our work, they can be problematic as core social change strategies for at least two reasons.


First, blueprints often miss the richness of what might emerge from a collective process of imagination and creation; no one person or group is capable of figuring out an economic structure for millions of others to live in. Second, they can lead to a very unfortunate choice of political paths: blueprint in hand, we either convince everyone that we're right (unlikely) or take over the government and impose our plan on everyone (unethical). Either way, we've failed to build a substantially different kind of economy and society, and we've failed to live our values.

A solidarity economy approach takes a very different path. Beginning from a core belief that people are deeply creative and capable of developing their own solutions to economic problems, and that these solutions will look different in different places and contexts, a solidarity economy approach seeks to make existing and emerging alternatives visible and to link them in mutually-supportive ways. The core idea is simple: alternatives are everywhere and our task is to identify them and connect them in ways that build a coherent and powerful social movement for another economy. In this way, solidarity economy is not so much a model of economic organization as it is a process of economic organizing; it is not a vision, but an active process of collective visioning.



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