Growl module: solidarity & cooperative economy



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Building a New Economy


One of the priority objectives of FairCoop is to build a new global economic system based on cooperation, ethics, solidarity and justice in our economic relations.

For this great goal to be possible, it is very important to have a clear strategic path which is well understood and shared by FairCoop’s members. This article explains the strategy we have considered.



Faircoin is the cryptocurrency we have chosen to monetarily support our economic system. In addition to the advantages discussed in other sections, it’s a cryptocurrency with features that make it suitable for saving money at a very low ecological cost, because the energy expenditure needed for mining is not necessary. Faircoin was previously created; 50 million were distributed at first and since then, a small percentage have grown through savings. Faircoin is traded in currency markets just as any other cryptocurrency or State currency. Foreign exchange markets exchanging cryptocurrencies (alone or with State currencies) have been expanding rapidly in the past two years. The evolution of the foreign exchange markets has always had an impact on the purchasing power of citizens of the world, with serious consequences such as impoverishment, cheap labour and the exploitation of natural resources. The reason for this was not only the imbalance of trade but also speculative movements that tend to benefit the rich. Knowing this, our plan here is to restore the greatest level of global economic justice that we can, by using something that has usually played against the global south: market forces (supply – demand). In short, as we say at FairCoop, the point is to hack the foreign exchange market by inserting the cooperation virus as a tool for global economic justice. To this end, in this first phase, we will promote the market’s demand for Faircoin through cooperative actions, and at the same time, we will encourage the reduction of the amount that is for sale. There will be no “buying for the sake of it”, which would not be sustainable or coherent. Instead, we want to promote Faircoin as an option for ethical savings, facilitated by multiple services making it a useful tool for initiatives working toward the economic empowerment of active subjects of social change. In order to understand our plan, an essential concept to learn about is the properties of currency. Currency has different functions, among the best known are:

  • Medium of exchange of goods and services.

  • Value storage
  • Reference value (price system)


Through these functions, currency contributes to meeting important needs in the economy; for instance, the “value storing” function is a key for the use of money as capital. Economists have usually designed economic systems which attempt to get one single currency to fulfil all functions at the same time. In the case of fiat money, the formal banking system is offered as the only mechanism to act as a store of value, through interest, since the value of these currencies is itself devalued over time, due to inflation. And banks are increasingly forcing people to use their networks in order to access the “exchange of goods and services” role of money. In the case of social and complementary currencies, until now existing projects have generally met with varying degrees of success in the function of “medium of exchange”, but with their value being referenced to a fiat currency, they have also been victims of same inflation as the currencies to which they refer (except, at least directly, in cases such as time banks). The case of Bitcoin, because it is a cryptocurrency, must be followed closely as it evolves. So far it has shown great success as a store of value over the long term, despite fluctuations in the short and medium term, and it is growing rapidly as a means of exchange. Still, certain contradictions between both functions have been spotted as its growing acceptance by businesses that turn it directly into fiat currency has put a significant selling pressure on the money market. With FairCoop we plan to build an autonomous economic system over the current system, and for that we picture a set of free economic tools to use in order to generate new social dynamics. We’re building a series of coins and resources that play complementary roles, instead of trying to get a single currency to fit all needs at once. To do this, we are focusing on the following currencies:

  • Faircoin for the value storage role, starting now and with the long term objective of using it as a price reference.


  • Faircredit, a worldwide mutual credit system as a means of exchange of goods and services, supported by Faircoin.

And the following resources:

  • Fairfunds: Faircoin funds for donations to various types of projects. The Global South Fund will be used for local collective empowerment projects at various levels, while the Commons Fund and the Technology Infrastructure Fund will fund global projects, which may also include globally coordinated networks of local projects.

  • Fairsavings as a source of Faircoin savings for those members who aren’t security experts.

  • Fairmarket, FairCoop’s virtual market that will allow members to use Faircredit, and anyone to use Faircoin.

  • Fairbag as a resource to support backup encrypted savings and wallet management for advanced users who want to keep their savings in case of an emergency.

  • Coopfunding as a permanent platform to raise donations in any Faircoin-convertible currency, which feed the Fairfunds.

These, together with other projects presently in discussion which will be announced and launched in the near future, will serve to build the fundamentals of the FairCoop economic system. This system is meant to be fractal, i.e., from the experience in the root platform it can be moved and replicated to different regional and local scales around the globe, with interoperability at different levels for the entire FairCoop ecosystem. Next, we will explain the plan’s three phases as we envision them.

1st phase: Increase Faircoin price and prioritize savings, in order to increase capital of FairFunds

The key concept for understanding the project’s potential to generate economic resources is the market cap, or market capitalization, which equals the amount of existing coins times the value of one unit. Some of the activists promoting this project bought large quantities of Faircoin at a very reduced price with the intention of redistributing to FairFunds projects and revalue by generating real value in a cooperative way through FairCoop. As explained on the Funds page, a primary goal of this phase is for Global South collectives and important pro-commons projects to receive Faircoin capital which could be useful to their development, together with the free knowledge resources and other types of support they will find in the social network (link). That is, to generate exactly the opposite dynamic as with that of the global financial power, which devalues people’s goods in order to keep their resources. Initiatives to prioritize at this stage will be: – FairSaving. FairCoop’s multi-signature digital wallet, which forces a minimum saving period of 6 months. – FairCoop wallet. Linked p2p multi-sig wallet. – FairBag. FairCoop wallet service that will allow a trustworthy encrypted backup which can be recovered in an emergency situation. – FairFunds. At the starting phase, it is important to spread the word and get projects to begin joining and feeding the various funds. In this sense we already have Coopfunding (link) for crowdfunding campaigns for FairFunds, exchangeable for Faircoins. Coopfunding will soon have a mixed option: 50% grant + 50% Fairsavings.

2ns phase: Economic activity: moving products and services all around (December 2014 – December 2015)


In this second phase, when the market cap reaches an amount that makes Faircoin generate commercial interest, and while the growth curve of this market cap becomes more moderate, it will grow in importance, creating economic activity both among FairCoop members and worldwide. Its important to understand that the community’s ability to purchase products and services depends on the total market cap of the currency it holds, and therefore trade expansion depends largely on the success of the cryptocurrency vehicle used as a store of value. The projects to be prioritized in this phase will be: – FairFunds: This will be the time to start distributing funds in the form of already-available Faircoin capital, to support participation of projects in the coop’s economic activity during the first year, and to be used freely from the second year on. – FairCredit: Global mutual loan system, supported by Faircoin, the currency to promote its use for production and consumption in the FairCoop ecosystem. – FairMarket: Virtual market that will accept Faircoin and FairCredit, allowing FairCoop members to open their shops with the technological support of the entire platform. – Other projects underway related to generating an autonomous banking system, and facilitating exchange processing tools and the ability to exchange other currencies to Faircoin and FairCredit.

3rd phase: A fair economic system consolidated worldwide (January 2016 – ……..)

This third phase, of course still further ahead, will be characterized by the consolidation of the ecosystem and its expansion to as many levels as possible. It is important to note that for this to happen, the value of Faircoin should consolidate so it can serve as a reference value, allowing us to stop depending on the prices drawn by fiat currencies. This may be the most difficult priority to achieve. In order to generate the reference value, it will be necessary to create very broad collaboration dynamics among many different people who can build large cooperative networks to defend the value of Faircoin as a benchmark of our ecosystem. Regarding other FairCoop objectives, we will try to increasingly multiply the cooperation and solidarity dynamics in every sense, leveraging the shared knowledge and the projects implemented at FairCoop, as well as the collectives that were part of it.

It will be, at the end of the day, about spreading the seeds for cooperation, common good and fair economy so they can expand to as many corners of planet Earth as possible.

OPEN COOPERATIVISM FOR THE P2P AGE4

by Michel Bauwens


The cooperative movement and cooperative enterprises are in the midst of a revival, even as some of their long-standing entities are failing. This revival is part of an ebb and flow of cooperativism, that is strongly linked to the ebb and flow of the mainstream capitalist economy. After systemic crisis such as the one in 2008, many people look at alternatives.

Yet, we can’t simply look at the older models and revive them, we have to take into account the new possibilities and requirements of our epoch, and especially of the affordances that digital networks are bringing to us.

Here are a few ideas from the ‘peer to peer’ perspective, as we develop them in the context of the Peer to Peer Foundation.

First, let’s start with a critique of the older cooperative models:

Yes coops are more democratic than their capitalist counterparts based on wage-dependency and internal hierarchy. But cooperatives that work in the capitalist marketplace tend to gradually take over competitive mentalities, and even if they would not, they work for their own members, not the common good.

Second, coops are generally not creating, protecting or producing commons. Like their for-profit counterparts, they most often work with patents and copyrights, doing their part in the enclosures of the commons.

Third, coops may tend to self-enclose around their local or national membership. Doing this, they leave the global arena open to the domination by for-profit multinationals.

These characteristics have to be changed, and can be changed today.


Here are our proposals:

1. Unlike for-profits, the new cooperatives must work for the common good, a requirement that must be included in their own statutes and governance documents. This means that coops can’t be for-profit, they have to work for social goods, and this must be inscribed in their statutes. Solidarity cooperatives, already active in social care in regions like Northern Italy and Quebec, are a important step in the right direction. In the current capitalist market model, social and environmental externalities are ignored, and left to the external state to regulate. In the new cooperative market model, externalities are statutorily integrated and a legal obligation.


2. Unlike co-ops that draw their membership from a single class of stakeholders, cooperatives must include all stakeholders in their management. Coops need to be multi-stakeholder governed. This means that the concept of membership must be extended to these other types of memberships, or that alternatives to the membership model must be sought, such as the newly proposed FairShares model.

3. The crucial innovation for our times is this though: Cooperatives must (co-)produce commons, and these commons must be of two types.

a. The first type is immaterial commons, i.e. using open and shareable licenses to that the global human community can build on cooperative innovations and in turn enrich them. At the P2P Foundation, we have introduced the concept of Commons-Based Reciprocity Licenses. These licenses are designed to create coalitions of ethical and cooperative enterprise around the commons they are co-producing. The key rules of such licenses are: 1) the commons are open to non-commercial usage 2) the commons are open to common good institutions 3) the commons are open to for-profit enterprises who contribute to the commons. The exception introduced here is that for-profit companies that do not contribute to the commons have to pay for the use of the license. This is not primarily to generate income, but to introduce the notion of reciprocity in the market economy. In other words, the aim is to create an ethical economy, a non-capitalist market dynamic.

b. The second type is the creation of material commons. We are thinking here of the creation of commons funding for the manufacturing equipment for example. Following proposals by Dmytri Kleiner, cooperatives could float Bonds, to which all cooperative members (of all other coops in the system) could contribute, creating a commons fund for manufacturing. The coop seeking funds would obtain the machinery without conditions, but the owners would be all the cooperators, which would gradually build up a basic income from the income generated by the fund.


4. Finally we must address the issue of global social and political power. Following the lead of the transnational Sociedad Cooperativa de las Indias Electrónicas, we propose the creation of global phyles. A phyle is a global business-ecosystem that sustains commons and their community of contributors. Here is how this would work. Imagine the existence of a global open design community for the design of open agricultural machines (or any other product or service you can imagine). These machines are effectively manufactured and produced in a system of open and distributed microfactories, close to the of need. But, all these micro-coops would not exist in a isolated fashion, merely connected through the global and ‘immaterially-focused’ global open design community. Instead, they would also be interconnected through a global cooperative uniting the microfactories. The combination of such global phyles would be the seed for a new form of global and social political power, representing the global ethical economy. Ethical entrepreneurial coalitions and phyles can engage in post-market and post-market coordination of physical production, by moving towards open accounting and open supply chain practices.

In summary, though traditional cooperatives have played an important and progressive role in human history, their format needs to be updated to the networked era by introducing p2p and commons producing aspects.

Our recommendations for the new era of open cooperativism are:

1. That coops need to be statutorily (internally) oriented towards the common good

2. That coops need to have governance models including all stakeholders

3. That coops need to actively co-produce the creation of immaterial and material commons

4. That coops need to be organized socially and politically on a global basis, even as they produce locally.

CASE STUDY: ANOTHER WORLD EXISTS: THOUSANDS OF WATER COOPERATIVES ON THE PLANET5
The “silent revolution” of the water cooperatives

Water cooperatives are not an isolated localized phenomenon. On the contrary, they thrive in countries with variable environmental and social-political-economic conditions, indicating their adaptability. Thousands examples of urban or rural water cooperatives exist in the USA, Canada, Latin America (Chile, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and Bolivia) and Europe (Finland, Denmark, Austria etc)[1]. Moreover, water cooperatives have won high marks for customer satisfaction and operational performance worldwide[2].

The international financial capital promotes the private or the public-private management of water, loyal to the neoliberal fundamentalism, although its own researches show other things. It is very characteristic the outcome of a World Bank research: “Consumer cooperatives can offer an alternative institutional model for delivery of urban water supply and sanitation services. The cooperative model has a number of potential advantages over private and public utility models. All utility cooperatives are characterized by the facts that owners and customers are the same and that cooperatives do not have a profit objective. All utility cooperatives have two boards (Administration and Oversight), and the one member–one vote election system. The ownership model and governance structure can result in a clear objective for the utility: provide sustainable service at affordable cost. The fact that any cost reductions are translated into lower tariffs constitutes a strong incentive to pursue efficiency. Other advantages are the flexibility associated with the absence of cumbersome procedures, and a strong customer orientation derived from the alignment of objectives”[3].

Despite the significant number of successful water cooperatives globally, international policy discussions have largely by-passed them. Furthermore, water cooperatives have been largely ignored both in research and policy. The discussion has focused on private and public water and sanitation systems ignoring community based options[4].

Why?

Because the water cooperatives constitute an alternative model for the water management aside from the public (governmental or municipal) and private model, they are created and operated “from below” on a non-profit basis, they are independent of economic and political interests, they ensure the most possible democratic citizen participation and they do not leave a distinct position for bosses of private and public sector. These are not good reasons to conceal them?


The text below is a synoptic and indicative overview of the water cooperatives in the continents of Europe and America (north and south).

Austria: More than 5.000 water coops

Austria is one of the European countries where the cooperative water management plays the most important role. More than 5.000 water cooperatives in the country serve citizens in rural areas. An example is the Wassergenossenschaft Gramastetten (Water Cooperative of Gramastetten) founded in 1947 and provides drinking water to about 2.000 people. Membership is connected to the ownership of real estate and apartments. All relevant information is available to everyone and important decisions are taken by the general assembly of all members. The administrative and most of the technical work is done on a voluntary basis. The regional association of water cooperatives provides expertise, quality control, and training for the volunteers. The water quality is good and tariffs are far below average. The principle of strict non-profit management, the use of local water sources and the low administrative costs due to voluntary work by the members are the main reasons for the low prices.

The Wassergenossenschaft Gramastetten, with its 569 members, it is one of the biggest water cooperatives in Austria and an example of an autonomous, self-managed and decentralised water provision with democratic water management and strong elements of participation (making nearly every household a member). The principles of non-profit and solidarity cooperation are crucial to its functioning[5].

Denmark: More than 2.500 water coops

Denmark has a long tradition of water cooperatives. No single Ministry in the government of Denmark is responsible for water supply and sanitation, which is considered foremost a local government responsibility. The Danish water supply is highly decentralized, with large and small waterworks situated all over the country. In 2001 there were 2.740 “common utilities”, of which municipalities owned 165 and 2.575 were owned by consumers’ cooperatives[6].


Finland: Around 1.400 water coops

Finland has also a long tradition of organizing water services through cooperatives, especially in rural areas but also in bigger townships. Currently there are some 1.400 water cooperatives in the country providing water supply and increasingly also sewerage services. A research team of Tampere University of Technology using their substantial experience with water cooperatives and the data collected in a variety of projects in Finland discuss the general characteristics, diversity and main stakeholders of water cooperatives and finally, argue that water cooperatives have great potential[4].



Spain: Water coop in the middle of the Civil War

There was cooperative water management in Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War. The company Agbar, which took over the operation after the defeat of the democrats, featured incredible reforms achieved by the water cooperative[7].


USA: Close to 3.300 water coops

Close to 3.300 water cooperatives in the U.S. are consumer-owned utilities formed to provide safe, reliable and sustainable water service at a reasonable cost. They provide drinking, fire protection and landscaping irrigation water. In addition, many of them provide wastewater services. Water cooperatives are most often found in suburban and rural areas that are located too far from municipal water companies to receive service.

Most water cooperatives are small (serving 501 – 3.300 consumers) or very small (serving fewer than 500 consumers). 89% of the population that is served by public water systems is served by either a publicly owned, municipal water system or a cooperative utility. The remaining 11% of Americans are served by privately owned water systems. Non profit cooperatives are the most common organizational form in small communities[8].

Canada: Approximately 200 water coops

In Canada the cooperative model is most widely used in rural areas. There are approximately 200 water supply cooperatives in Canada, mainly in Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec[9].



Latin America: the world’s largest water coops in urban areas

There is a longstanding history of water supply and sanitation cooperatives in Latin America. A research team from Cochabamba-Bolivia (University Mayor San Simón and Food and Water Watch) and Canada (University of Ottawa) documented 26 successful alternatives in the water sector in Latin America. They documented 9 cases of single public providers (municipal water utilities), 12 non-profit non-state providers (including community-run systems and cooperatives), 3 non-profit/non-profit partnerships, and 2 public/non-profit partnerships. They argue that the cooperative model potentially presents an alternative form of collective ownership that defies the capitalist logic of private property. Compared to private businesses or state-owned utilities, which are controlled by shareholders or elected officials, cooperatives that provide basic services have certain organisational advantages that make them potentially more democratic[10].

In Brazil, cooperative model was introduced successfully for rural water supply and sanitation during the 1990s[2].

In Mexico, in the officially Free and Sovereign State of Chiapas (one of the 31 federal states), which is divided into 118 municipalities, cooperatives are the economic pillar of the Zapatistas. All is cooperative with policy based on direct democracy, education on solidarity economy and collective ownership, active participation of many in the life of the community[11].

In Argentina, some 10% of the population is served by cooperatives. In Buenos Aires after the departure of the company Enron, the consumer and workers cooperative successfully manages the water supply[7]. Among these cooperatives is also a case in the municipality of Moreno in the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Area[2].

The experience of a worker-controlled water utility in the province of Buenos Aires, Aguas Bonaerenses Sociedad Anónima (ABSA), has been heralded by the UN as a model water company. The province of Buenos Aires has 10 million inhabitants distributed over 74 cities with 48 municipalities, which are served by ABSA. Azurix, a subsidiary of ENRON, was granted a concession in 1999, but it only lasted for three years, during which time the company failed to invest in the maintenance and expansion of services, leaving behind a severely debilitated company. In the wake of the financial crisis of 2001–2002 and the bankruptcy of ENRON, the union proposed to take over the company as its technical operator (replacing Azurix), forming a cooperative which is run by the workers called the 5 de Septiembre. The provincial government agreed with the idea and bought Azurix’s shares, leaving the union with the 10% of shares that they already had.

The research team from Bolivia and Canada conclude that ABSA is a successful public water company under the administration of the workers’ cooperative controlled by SOSBA (the water workers union of Buenos Aires) having achieved 70% of water coverage and 45% sewerage coverage over a vast and dispersedly populated geographical area [10].

In Bolivia, major urban water utilities are managed as cooperatives under customer ownership, such as Saguapac Cooperative in the central part of the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra. This is the world’s largest water utility run as cooperative (183.000 members). The cooperative was created in 1979 and today, provides water services to around 871.000 inhabitants (although the total urban population of Santa Cruz is around 1.5 million). According to a study done by Corporación Andina de Fomento, Santa Cruz de la Sierra scores 99.3 out of 100 in water quality, one of the purest in Latin America. The Saguapac’s mission states that it will develop its activities while preserving the environment, and is working to preserve the quality of the groundwater aquifer[12].

A study by researchers at the University of Birmingham conducted in the late 1990s found that Saguapac is one of the best-run water companies in Latin America measured by criteria of efficiency, equity and effectiveness.

While the Saguapac cooperative has been heralded outside of Bolivia as a model, Bolivian water activists underline the fact that the utility’s concession area is a restricted geographical area within the centre of the city. The peri-urban areas are served by nine small cooperatives. Testifying to the fact that Saguapac is not the sole service provider in Santa Cruz de la Sierra is the existence of the Water Cooperative of Plan 3000 (La Cooperativa de Aguas del Plan Tres Mil, COOPLAN) in the poor suburb of Plan 3000. As Uruguay activist and political analyst Raúl Zibechi describes it, “In the middle of a racist city of white elites, the nucleus of the agro-export oligarchy, Plan 3000 is an immense and poor suburb of almost 300.000 inhabitants, a microcosm composed of 36 Bolivian ethnic groups. It is a city that – in the name of the struggle against inequality – the residents of Plan 3000 resist the machista, oppressive, and violent culture of the local elite”. COOPLAN was established in 1986 by the residents of Plan 3000 in order to address the problems created by reluctance of Saguapac to expand services to peripheral neighbourhoods. Today it provides about 80% of households within its service area with potable water (121 000 of 151 000).

Another also successful case of water cooperatives in Bolivia is Cosmol, a local service provider in Montero[10].


Towards water cooperatives of social solidarity economy and direct democracy

Approaching and recognizing the water as a commons and not as a commodity or as a means for taxing citizens is a prerequisite for the cooperative water management[13][14]. Prerequisites are also, the water cooperatives creation and operation “from below” on a non-profit basis, their independence of economic and political interests, to ensure the most possible democratic citizen participation[14].

The worldwide experience shows that each called cooperative does not belong obligatory in the social solidarity economy and direct democracy, if not based on the principles and procedures of the social solidarity economy and direct democracy. Moreover, these principles and procedures are not only a cooperative statute issue. Their realization needs the real participation of citizens in taking decisions via general assemblies, which cannot be done without a social movement to support it and composed by citizens educated for that[14][15][16].

Kostas Nikolaou
Member of Initiative K136

Bibliography

[1] Douvitsa I., Kassavetis D., “Cooperatives: an alternative to water privatization in Greece”, Social Enterprise Journal, 10(2): 135-154, 2014


[2] Castro J.E. and Heller L. (Eds), “Water and sanitation services. Public policy and management”, Routledge, London, 2012

[3] Ruiz-Mier F., van Ginneken M., “Consumer cooperatives: an alternative institutional model for delivery of urban water supply and sanitation services?”, Water Supply and Sanitation Working Notes, The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development / The World Bank, 2006

[4] Takala A.J., Arvonen V., Katko T.S., Pietilä P.E., Åkerman M.W., “The evolving role of water co-operatives in Finland”, International Journal of Co-operative Management, 5(2): 11-19, 2011
[5] Hachfeld D., Terhorst P., Hoedeman O., “Progressive Public Water Management in Europe. In search of exemplary cases”, Transnational Institute and Corporate Europe Observatory, 2009
[6] DANVA – Danish Water and Waste Water Association, “Water in Figures. DANVA’s Benchmarking and Water Statistics 2010”, http://www.danva.dk
[7] Kallis G., “Water is everyone’s business – There are alternatives to privatization”, Greeklish, 24.1.2014 (in Greek)
[8] University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives, “Research on the Economic Impacts of Cooperatives”, Report, 2009, http://reic.uwcc.wisc.edu/water/
[9] Bakker K. (Ed.), “Eau Canada: The future of Canada’s water”, UBC Press, 2007
[10] Spronk S., Crespo C., Olivera M., “Struggles for water justice in Latin America. Public and ‘social-public’ alternatives”, In: ‘Alternatives to Privatization: Public Options for Essential Services in the Global South’, D. A. McDonald and G. Ruiters (Eds), Routledge, 2012
[11] Rodríguez S., “Las cooperativas son el pilar económico del zapatismo”, La coperacha, 11.6.2014
[12] Ranicki C., “Clean water, cooperative principles”, ICA – International Co-operative Alliance, http://ica.coop/en/media/co-operative-stories/clean-water-cooperative-principles

[13] Nikolaou K., “The water in the world: Social good or commodity?” For Environmental Education, 3 (48), 2013 Also in Dialektika, 22.3.2012 (in Greek)

[14] Nikolaou K., “Critique of political economy of water and the collaborative alternative“, European Water Movement, 2014
[15] Initiative K136
[16] Nikolaou K., “The referendum on the water of Thessaloniki”, European Water Movement, 2014

3. EXPERIENCE OF THE COURSE
a) What was done and how (methodologies/ best practices)
theory-practice-politics

presentations, workshops, showcases, simulation exercises, public event, study visits

academians- researchers, activists, practitioners, policy makers, collectives and initiatives

ice breakers, building trust exercises, future search visioning workshop, experiential learning exercise, training the trainers



b) Presentations and case studies

THEORETICAL PRESENTATIONS

A theoretical framework of alternative economic and political spaces

Giorgos Gritzas (Ass. Professor AUTh) and Karolos Kavoulakos (Lecturer AUTh), members of People’s UnivSSE .

Abstract

The lecture will try to reveal some critical points of the current debate about diverse economies and alternative economic and political spaces. Specifically the first point concerns the concept of diverse economies, coined by Gibson-Graham  (1996, 2006). This concept is a poststructuralist view of the economy that denies the existence of only one way for the economy to function, i.e via the capitalist enterprise, the wage labor, the private property, the market transactions and the market finance tools. Unearthing the several alternative ways through which the economy functions is the first step for a reframing procedure of the way the economy is considered. This leads to realizing the importance of alternative economies such as community economies. At the core of the diverse economies approach lies the concept of ‘performativity’ i.e. the acceptance that “discourse participates in constituting the reality it purports to represent” (Healy, 2009: 338). As a result the ethical values that citizens decide to follow participate in constituting alternative community economies. The lecture will also try to reveal the role of the academy in the planning and construction of community economies. Finally we will try to give an example of reframing process. Especially we will re-evaluate and examine the way that our working lives could contribute to a more comprehensive well-being and the solutions that exist in changing our lives towards this direction



Bibliography


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  • Gibson-Graham JK (1996 / 2006) The end of capitalism (as we knew it) a feminist critique of political economy. Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press.

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  • Gibson-Graham JK (2008) Diverse economies: performative practices for `other worlds’. Progress in Human Geography, 32(5), 613–632.

  • Gibson-Graham JK (2008) Poststructural Interventions. In: Sheppard E and Barnes TJ (eds), A Companion to Economic Geography, Oxford, Blackwell Publishing Ltd, pp. 95–110.

  • Gibson-Graham JK, Cameron J. and Healy, S. (2013) ‘Take Back the Economy: An Ethical Guide for Transforming our Communities’. University Minesota Press
  • Gritzas G and Kavoulakos K-I (FORTHCOMING) Diverse economies and alternative spaces. An overview of approaches and practices. European Urban and Regional Studies, 00.


  • Healy S (2009) Economies, alternative. Thrift NJ and Kitchin R (eds), International Encyclopedia of Human Geography, Oxford, Elsevier.

  • Jonas AEG (2010) Alternative’this,‘alternative’that…: interrogating alterity and diversity. In: Fuller D, Jonas AEG, and Lee R (eds), Interrogating Alterity: Alternative Economic and Political Spaces, Farnham, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., pp. 3–27.

  • Jonas AEG (2013a) Interrogating Alternative Local and Regional Economies: The British Credit Union Movement and Post-Binary Thinking. In: Zademach H-M and Hillebrand S (eds), Alternative economies and spaces: new perspectives for a sustainable economy, Bielefeld: Transcript-Verl., pp. 23–42.

  • Jonas AEG (2013b) Place and region III Alternative regionalisms. Progress in Human Geography, 00, 1–7.

  • Lee R, Leyshon A, Aldridge T, et al. (2004) Making geographies and histories? Constructing local circuits of value. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 22(4), 595 – 617.

  • Lee R (2006) The ordinary economy: tangled up in values and geography. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 31(4), 413–432.

  • Lee R (2010) Spiders, bees or architects? Imagination and the radical immanence of alternatives/diversity for political economic geographies. Alternative Economic and Political Spaces: Interrogating Alterity, 273–287
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Dialectical approach and delimitations of the social solidarity economy.

Case: the political economy of the water cooperative management
Kostas Nikolaou

Adj. Professor of the Hellenic Open University,

Member of the People’s University of Social Solidarity Economy

The worldwide experience shows that each called cooperative does not belong obligatory in the social solidarity economy and direct democracy, if not based on the principles and procedures of the social solidarity economy and direct democracy. Moreover, these principles and procedures are not only a cooperative statute issue. Their realization needs the real participation of citizens in taking decisions via general assemblies, which cannot be done without a social movement to support it and composed by citizens educated for that.

Basic points for cooperatives of the social solidarity economy:


  1. Cooperatives creation and operation “from below” on a non-profit basis

  2. Cooperative independence of economic and political interests

  3. Ensure the most possible democratic citizen participation

  4. Collective ownership of the cooperatives

  5. In cooperatives it is valid the principle: one person - one vote regardless of the number of cooperative shares, which everyone is holding

  6. The cooperatives are operating in the context of social and solidarity economy. Benefit all citizens-members (social economy) and simultaneously supported financially weak citizens (solidarity economy)

  7. The cooperatives are operating in the context of direct democracy. The decisions are taken by the assemblies of cooperatives and not by the Governing Council of cooperatives

  8. Representatives of cooperatives transfer decisions of citizens' assemblies in the assembly of the Union of Cooperatives and perform, they do not decide

  9. Management with aware to protect the environment and avoid the risk of climate change

  10. Non-alienation of the worker from the product of his work.

The approach and recognition of the water (and in general, water supply and sanitation) as a commons, a social good and a fundamental human right or vice versa, as a commodity and / or as a means for taxing citizens determines the policy management: private, public, social, based or not on democratic participation of citizens and workers.

The results of the private management of water, which is applied worldwide, are now known: degradation of water quality, increased water loss, deterioration of infrastructure and increasing prices. The results of the public or social or public-community, based on cooperation between public and local and regional bodies, cooperatives, trade unions and other collectives of a community are also known: accomplished citizen involvement, strengthened quality water services and lower prices.

The main water management policies (and in general, water supply and sanitation) are four: 1) Private 2) State, 3) Local government (municipal or regional) and 4) Collaborative - Cooperative. There are and combinations of them, but do not change the basic categorization.
Through a critique of political economy models of current water management, the collaborative management appears as an alternative in the context of social and solidarity economy and direct democracy, which is mainly based on democratic participation of citizens and at the same time can ensure the participation of workers and local government.
Water cooperatives are not an isolated localized phenomenon. On the contrary, they thrive in countries with variable environmental and social-political-economic conditions, indicating their adaptability. Thousands examples of urban or rural water cooperatives exist in the USA, Canada, Latin America (Chile, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and Bolivia) and Europe (Finland, Denmark, Austria etc). Moreover, water cooperatives have won high marks for customer satisfaction and operational performance worldwide.
The international financial capital promotes the private or the public-private management of water, loyal to the neoliberal fundamentalism, although its own researches show other things.
Despite the significant number of successful water cooperatives globally, international policy discussions have largely by-passed them. Furthermore, water cooperatives have been largely ignored both in research and policy. The discussion has focused on private and public water and sanitation systems ignoring community based options.

Why? Because the water cooperatives constitute an alternative model for the water management aside from the public (governmental or municipal) and private model, they are created and operated “from below” on a non-profit basis, they are independent of economic and political interests, they ensure the most possible democratic citizen participation and they do not leave a distinct position for bosses of private and public sector. These are not good reasons to conceal them?


Bibliography
University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives, “Research on the Economic Impacts of Cooperatives”, Report, 2009, http://reic.uwcc.wisc.edu/water
Douvitsa I., Kassavetis D., “Cooperatives: an alternative to water privatization in Greece”, Social Enterprise Journal, 10(2): 135-154, 2014, http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/SEJ-10-2013-0039
Nikolaou K., "Critique of political economy of water and the collaborative alternative", European Water Movement, http://europeanwater.org, 2014, http://europeanwater.org/european-water-resources/reports-publications/474-critique-of-political-economy-of-water-and-the-collaborative-alternative
Nikolaou K., "Another world exists: Thousands of water cooperatives on the planet", FAME - Forum Alternatif Mondial de l'Eau, http://www.fame2012.org, 2014, http://www.fame2012.org/en/2014/09/17/water-cooperatives-on-the-planet
Nikolaou K., “The referendum on the water of Thessaloniki”, European Water Movement, http://europeanwater.org, 2014, http://europeanwater.org/actions/country-city-focus/456-the-referendum-on-the-water-of-thessaloniki
Nikolaou K., "The water in the world: Social good or commodity?" For Environmental Education, 3 (48), 2013. Also in: Dialektika, 22.3.2012, www.dialektika.gr (in Greek), http://www.dialektika.gr/2012/03/blog-post.html
"PROSKALO" - Cooperation Initiative for the Social and Solidarity Economy, www.proskalo.net

People’s University of Social Solidarity Economy, www.univsse.gr

Initiative K136, www.136.gr
Social Consumer Cooperative of Thessaloniki "Bios Coop", www.bioscoop.gr
Initiative for the social management of waste, http://diapor.blogspot.gr




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