Solidarity Economy

Building an Economy for People and Planet

A paper by Emily Kawano for The Next System

We stand at the brink of disaster. The fragilities of the 2008 global economic meltdown remain, prompting warnings of another financial collapse from the likes of billionaire financier George Soros and the International Monetary Fund. Inequality in wealth and income are at historic highs, with all of the attendant dangers of concentrated wealth and power, along with the burdens that fall disproportionately on communities of color and low-income communities. Our ecosystem is in crisis. A growing number of scientists believe that humans are fueling our headlong rush toward what is being called the Sixth Extinction—the Fifth Extinction wiped out the dinosaurs.

This is a grim picture of a long simmering crisis that is systemic in nature and created by our own hands. And yet, crisis is opportunity. The last two major economic crises, the Great Depression and the stagflation of the late 1970s, resulted in profound shifts in the dominant capitalist economic model. The Great Recession has shaken the faith in neoliberal capitalism and created an openness to thinking about new models. It will take a fundamental transformation of our system to draw us back from the brink. The solidarity economy offers pathways toward a transformation of our economy into one that serves people and planet, not blind growth and private profits.

The solidarity economy is a global movement to build a just and sustainable economy. It is not a blueprint theorized by academics in ivory towers. Rather, it is an ecosystem of practices that already exist—some old, some new, some still emergent—that are aligned with solidarity economy values. There is already a huge foundation upon which to build. The solidarity economy seeks to make visible and connect these siloed practices in order to build an alternative economic system, broadly defined, for people and the planet.

Defining the solidarity economy can be challenging. Definitions vary across place, time, politics, and happenstance, though there is increasingly a broad common understanding. This paper draws heavily on two perspectives. The first is the Intercontinental Network for the Promotion of the Social Solidarity Economy (RIPESS), which was formed in 1997 and connects national and regional solidarity economy networks that exist on every continent. The author is a member of the RIPESS Board and coordinated RIPESS’s global consultation to develop a stronger common understanding of the concepts, definitions, and framework of the solidarity economy. Through this process, RIPESS produced its Global Vision for a Social Solidarity Economy (2015) document. The other perspective that informs this paper is the U.S. Solidarity Economy Network (SEN), which was formed in 2007 at the US Social Forum in Atlanta. The author has served as SEN’s coordinator since its founding.

Read more at The Next System.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]There is an historic opening to create and push for a new framework for social and economic development – one that puts people and planet before private profits and power.

In the midst of growing inequality and corporate power, government cutbacks, privatization and de-regulation, there is a quiet hum of people getting on with building economic alternatives grounded in principles of social solidarity, cooperation, egalitarianism, sustainability and economic democracy.

We need not build the solidarity economy from scratch. Many features of existing economies are likely ‘keepers,’ for example, social security, environmental protections, minimum wage and labor regulations. Other elements of the solidarity economy could be characterized as ‘economic alternatives’ such as cooperatives, land trusts, local currencies, community supported agriculture, social investment funds, participatory budgeting, eco-industrialization, and the commons movement. Taken together, they offer stepping stones toward a new way of organizing our economy that is being called the solidarity economy.

While some elements of the solidarity economy have existed for hundreds of years, the framework is very young and is still in the process of evolving and being defined. There’s a growing global movement to advance it as an alternative to the failed model of neoliberal corporate-dominated globalization.

While the U.S. has many solidarity economy practices and institutions, the unifying framework of the solidarity economy is almost unknown.  SEN works to connect the elements of the solidarity economy conceptually as well as practically.

What is the Solidarity Economy?

An alternative framework for economic development grounded in practice and the following principles:

  • Solidarity and cooperation
  • Equity in all dimensions (race, ethnicity, gender, class, etc.)
  • Social and economic democracy
  • Sustainability
  • Pluralism (not a one-size-fits-all approach)
  • Puts people and planet first

Solidarity economy is about systemic transformation. We understand the economy as being embedded in the global natural and social eco-system, shaped by the rules and institutions of governance and including all sectors of the economy. The solidarity economy already exists in practice. Examples are shown in the interactive Prezi  below:

Prezi SE


Translate »