Announcing the launch of the U.S. Solidarity Economy Network (SEN-US)

July 27, 2007

Announcing the launch of the U.S. Solidarity Economy Network (SEN-US)

We are excited to announce the launch of the U.S. Solidarity Economy Network. The decision to launch was taken at the end of a series of meetings that were held at the U.S. Social Forum. The time is ripe for this initiative, given the explosive growth of the solidarity economy and representative networks virtually everywhere else in the world. In the U.S., not only is there no such network to support existing solidarity economy practices and policies, but the term and framework is practically unknown.

What, then, is the solidarity economy?

· The Solidarity Economy offers an alternative economic framework to that of neoliberal globalization – one that is grounded in solidarity and cooperation, rather than the pursuit of narrow, individual self-interest.

· It promotes social and economic democracy, equity in all dimensions (e.g. race, class, gender…) and sustainability.

· It is pluralist and organic in its approach, allowing for different forms and strategies in different contexts, and is open to continual change driven from the bottom up whether in civil society or the marketplace.

What does a solidarity economy look like? Here are just a few examples:

· cooperatives — worker, producer, consumer, housing, financial
· local exchange systems, complementary currencies
· fair trade & solidarity finance
· social enterprises
·: high road’ locally owned businesses
· reclaim the commons movement
· social investment funds, worker controlled pension funds and credit unions
· land trusts
· co-housing, eco-villages
· consumer supported agriculture
· green technology and ecological production
· open source movement (e.g. Linux, wikipedia, YouTube)
· unpaid care labor & volunteer labor
· participatory budgeting
· collective kitchens in Latin America, tontines — collective health programs in Africa

· community-based services in France, social cooperatives in Italy

Why a solidarity economy network?

There are serious cracks in the dominant neoliberal economic model and there is a historic opening to create and push for a new framework for social and economic development. The solidarity economy builds on the grassroots innovations of people, moved by desperation, practicality, values, or vision, who are building economic alternatives to provide jobs, food, housing, social services, healthier communities and money, as well as advancing economic democracy and more just economic policies. Taken together, they offer stepping stones toward a new way of organizing our economy. Creating a network to foster a common sense of identity and purpose has been powerful in other countries. To take one example, in Canada, the social solidarity economy network has forged a comprehensive national policy framework and has leveraged $132 million in government funding for investment, capacity building, research and training.

What are the aims of the SEN?

We have yet to hammer out a mission statement, but here are some preliminary ideas:

· To develop a structure and vision that can promote a common identity and agenda among the currently isolated elements of the solidarity economy.

· To contribute to new theories of economic development informed by the dynamism and innovative practices within the solidarity economy.

· To raise the visibility, legitimacy and public support for solidarity economy practices,

· To link up with regional and international solidarity economy networks such as NANSE and RIPESS.

· To promote public policies and leverage resources for the support of the solidarity economy.

· To facilitate research on the benefits of the solidarity economy, best practices, opportunities for synergistic cooperation, and the development of training and technical support resources.

· To build the movement for transformative social and economic justice.

Next steps

The SEN Coordinating Committee is in the process of:

1) Mission statement and structure: we are developing a provisional mission statement and structure proposal which will be circulated for wider discussion.

2) Membership: We anticipate putting out an invitation to organizations and individuals to join in approximately a month’s time.

3) Development: We are exploring funding opportunities. The Center for Popular Economics will provide fiscal sponsorship as well as staffing, provisional upon funding in the start-up stage of the network formation.

4) Action plan and timeline: as we build a broad representative coordinating committee and membership we will prioritize our objectives and seek resources to achieve them.

5) Resource development: collect and publish a book of the presentations in the Economic Alternatives & the Social/Solidarity Economy track at the U.S. Social Forum. Develop a SEN-US website.

We hope that you find this initiative as exciting and inspiring as we do. Join us in building the Solidarity Economy Network. Spread the word, and sign on to the SEN listserve to keep up with developments. Send a message to: ssecaucus-subscribe {at} lists.riseup(.)net

On behalf of the SEN Coordinating Committee,

Emily Kawano, Center for Popular Economics
Phone: (413) 545-0743 e-mail: emily {at} populareconomics(.)org

SEN Coordinating Committee
Jessica Gordon-Nembhard, Grassroots Economic Organizing
Melissa Hoover, U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives
Emily Kawano, Center for Popular Economics
Julie Matthaei, Guramylay
Ethan Miller, Grassroots Economic Organizing (GEO)
Michael Menser, Amer. Fed. of Teachers, CUNY
Heather Schoonover, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
Dan Swinney, Center for Labor and Community Research

2 comments

  • Congratulations! This is a very exciting development. As a Spanish-speaker at a Catholic development agency, I have always worried that the concept of “economia solidaria” that animates so many of my colleagues throughout the Americas would not find proper linguistic or theological translation in secular English-speaking communities. Happily, I see I was wrong!

    In Brasil, where the Catholic Caritas agency has been working for more than 20 years on this concept of popular solidarity economy, my colleagues are fond of saying not “Another Economy is Possible,” but “Another Economy is Happening!” Glad to see that the diverse strands of what has been — in all but name — the U.S. solidarity economy movement are making an explicit effort to unite. I hope and trust that progressive Catholic individuals and organizations can draw on the best of the Catholic social tradition to contribute to this movement.

    Adelante!

    Michael

  • I still don’t understand exactly what the solidarity economy is.