While staring at the eternal clash between the state and the private sector, many overlook the third kind of business relationship, which is generally called Solidarity Economy. As a rule, these are initiatives by the people, to the people, for the people, and are a search for an alternative to the values of the dominant economy. “Instead of centralized control structures (which are found in the public sector and in corporations - redactor’s note), these initiatives lead us towards shared responsibility and direct democratic decision-making. Instead of imposing a unified global culture, they strengthen the diversity of local cultures. Instead of privatizing profits, they encourage participation in a wide range of social, economic and environmental justice activities, “writes Ethan Miller, an American university lecturer. Some of the initiatives are: worker, consumer and producer cooperatives, fair trade initiatives (which give farmers fair compensation for their products), alternative currencies, solidarity-based community social centres, libraries with resources, community credit unions, community city gardens, open source free software initiatives, etc.
talks about the philosophy of managing these community initiatives: "The
Solidarity Economy is an open process. It is an invitation. It does not owe its
existence to a single political tradition or a complex of ideas. Its nature and
definition are rooted in the constant development, the discussions and debates
among the people who support it. It is a "movement of the movements"
aiming at the constant formation of new connections and opportunities,
preserving the commitment to the shared values, capable of transforming the
society and the environment. "
in the economic activity has always existed in one form or another,
but in the modern sense, the concept of Solidarity Economy was first used in
the late 1930s during the Spanish Civil War. In the early 1980s, the term
became popular in France, Colombia and Chile to denote the activity of social
activists aimed at overcoming the social exclusion of parts of the population
through alternatives to the standard market and state actions. In South
America, the concept is related to the upsurge of cooperatives, or to the
emergence of initiatives that share the economic logic of cooperation and
solidarity. Similar activities are gaining momentum in France, Spain, Mexico,
Canada (Quebec). More recently, Brazil has become a one-of-a-kind centre of
such solidarity-based experiments. This is a reason why the World Social Forum,
an international community of civil society organizations opposed to hegemonic
globalization, is based in the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre. For decades,
this city has been experimenting, allowing civilian participation in
determining its budget - a democratic innovation that also has the marks of a
solidarity initiative. Latin America is also associated with the first meeting
of the International Group on Solidarity Economy, held in Lima, Peru in 1997.
In 2007, the Asian Alliance for Solidarity Economy was founded in Manila, and
in the USA, the U.S. Solidarity Economy Network was established as part of the
first American Social Forum held in Atlanta, Georgia. "We are building a
new kind of society and economy in the midst of the controversies and the flaws
of capitalism, "says Paul Singer, one of the leaders of the "movement
of movements" in Brazil.
In the EU, Barcelona is among the largest centres of such initiatives. According to the report "Social and Solidarity Economy in Barcelona” (2016), quoted by the P2P Foundation, 4,718 socio-economic ventures are being implemented only in the city. Of these, 861 are cooperatives, 1,197 are businesses owned by workers, 2,400 are social organizations from the non-governmental sector, and 260 are community economic initiatives. 53,000 people work in the social enterprises, and another 100,000 are volunteers. Over 500,000 are members of consumer cooperatives. The sectors, in which these initiatives operate, start from energy production, go through culture and reach the food industry. Cooperatives in Barcelona are only 20% of the total number of cooperatives in Catalonia. From 1993 until last year, solidarity initiatives built more than 2,000 homes. 19 cooperatives are active in education, with thousands of members and more than 750 employees. There are also 13 free schools and other shared educational initiatives for children between 0 and 3 years of age. In Barcelona, there are also the so-called Ethical Financial Institutions, including ethical insurance - financial initiatives that have as part of their moral system and the relevant license the respect towards the environmental protection, the sustainable community development, and the support towards solidarity initiatives.
Mondragon Social Corporation
the most famous social initiative of Spain, which has become a solidarity
corporation, is based in the Basque regions of Mondragon. With interests on 5
continents in spheres of activity such as industry, hypermarkets, petrol
stations, finance, research, etc., the corporation has an annual turnover of
EUR 12 billion and more than 70,000 employees. The company's portfolio includes
102 cooperatives, 140 subsidiaries, a university, 8 foundations and other legal
company defines its values as: collaboration between owners and staff,
employee involvement in decision-making, fair distribution of wealth, and
constant renewal. The General Assembly of the corporation is the supreme body that
expresses the social will of its members. The Governing Council is a
representative and management body elected by the General Assembly. The Social
Council is a consultative body that represents the members. The Monitoring
Committee is another consultative body that decides whether the accounting and
other principles of the organization are respected. The Management Board is
responsible for the management of the giant cooperative.
addition to these bodies, there is also a Cooperative Congress. Its function is
to set the strategic criteria under which Mondragon is managed through planning
and coordination of different business units. A Standing Committee controls the
implementation of the policies and decisions that are adopted by the Congress. The
General Council develops and approves corporate strategies and goals. The
Industrial Council coordinates the individual industrial units.
The Solidarity Economy contributes to the turning of the Basque regions into one of the richest regions of Spain, just as it raises the standard of wealthy Catalans. It is not characteristic only for areas of the third world where social experiments are running. Rather, its use drives changes in thinking and in public relations that lead to development.
"Solidarity Economy is a way of thinking about
economy that opens up spaces of hope and of a fairer, more sustainable and
democratic society. It is both modest and ambitious. Modest because Solidarity Economy
movements do not claim to have all the answers and admit that the power of
people is in combining their creativity and courage for experimenting and
learning. Its ambition lies in the crave to create connections between
different sectors of society and the economy, to build coordinated social
movements in which the opposition to injustice is combined with practical and
inspiring alternatives, and the ultimate goal is the transformation of the
social and economic order, “wrote
Miller. He dreams, together with tens of thousands of participants in
solidarity initiatives in different countries and continents, that the courage
and joint efforts of people will lead to social transformation and a better