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June 29, 2005

Solidarity economics and design

During the years Doors of Perception has been staging encounters in India, I don’t think anyone uttered the words ‘solidarity economics’. We’ve had many conversations about bottom-up globalisation, about complementary currencies, and about how design can enable resource-sharing services to emerge. But we have not been immersed in the lessons of Latin America where so many alternative economic practices emerged during the 1980’s and 1990’s. These were survival-based responses as the effects of corporate globalization began to hit people hard. (The term “solidarity economy” is the English translation of economia solidária (Portuguese), economía solidaria (Spanish), and economie solidaire (French)). Noting that few materials on solidarity economy are available in English,the American writer and activist Ethan Miller last year posted an excellent solidarity economics primer.“How do we start to imagine—and create—other ways of meeting each other’s economic needs?” he asks. “Solidarity economics is an organizing tool that can be used to re-value and make connections between the practices of cooperation, mutual aid, reciprocity, and generosity that already exist in our midst”. Miller repeats a lesson we have tried to stress in South Asia too: alternative economic models are already being implemented if we only choose to look for them. Creative and skilled people have designed, and are testing, everything from shared meals and Community Supported Agriculture, to Carpooling and Seed Exchange. Before you jump on my head yes, I know, a lot has been written in English, too. But the word green does not resonate for me like the the word solidarity. I raise all this because I could use some help preparing for these two events.

Posted by John Thackara at June 29, 2005 07:32 AM


Request for assistance, referral and cooperation:
1.1. Ecosolidarity Andes is conducting socio-economic studies of Bolivia, Venezuela, Peru and Nepal. Our current focus concerns the Energy and Transport Sectors. Assistance is solicited in all aspects of these studies with Spanish and Portuguese translations an important unmet need.
We are looking for information about your experiences or the methods used for NATURAL AND HUMAN RESOURCE ANALYSIS. Information on the Transport Sector – particularly about truck numbers, hauling tonnage, commercial transport costs and ownership concentration is also important.
The program of Ecosolidarity is based on import substitution and the localization of economic production and decision-making (Planning with Participatory Budgeting) ( 1.)
The Mundos de Escuelas (MER) have developed a partial political program for the transition of countries toward citizen design and local organization (Link: mer130.tripod.com). MER compliments the Ecosolidarity economic design when combined with the indicators (criteria) of self reliance; jobs/equity; and ecological protections. The MER program decentralizes the national government, giving real power to departments or sub-units. The duties and responsibilities of the national and then regional governments are transferred to more local units (2.) This only makes sense – or is possible – under an Ecosolidarity Program. We believe that this is best done when the structure of the economy – the long term goals – are codified (set) into national and regional constitutions. In time the higher levels of government would simply observe, make recommendations and collect border taxes for the smaller (local) government assemblies. ( 3.) Government from above withers away.
An idea for a new kind of politics is to have national, regional and local voting – where people go and express their priorities for production and government (popular services), rather than elect unknown representatives to cut deals in secret rooms (as most "democracy" is now done). This serious national poll would be used by sub-regions as they planned their budgets. Everyone would have a feel for how the nation and each region is thinking and valuing changes, problems and opportunities.
In preparation for establishing a national (and regional) constitution, a country (and the sub-units) performs resource studies. (4.) These studies are used to identify human and natural resources that fit into a localization and import substitution economics program (Ecosolidarity). Originally, Ecosolidarity Andes prioritized the agricultural sector for most countries and we still do! Agriculture (fisheries, and grazing) and making sustainable use of your natural resources (minerals, forests, water) is always the first step in sustainable development design. (5.)
However, the fact that many poor countries in Latin America have energy resources and face daunting transport sector choices, has directed our research at these problems as they apply to sustainability and equitable development. The energy and transport sectors must be decided upon before a complete national program of Ecosolidarity can be developed and put into law. Part Four of this study examines the transport sectors of Bolivia and the choices to be made. Comparisons with Nepal and Peru give insights to what other societies face in their paths to sustainability in crisis times. (6.)
Our objective is to develop practical guidelines and methods to help policymakers (local/national) develop diagnostics to assess agricultural, transport and infrastructure needs and to ensure that strategies to address them are as cost effective as possible within the Ecosolidarity criteria for balanced development. Special emphasis is placed on data collection and explanations of some of the quantitative methodologies that can serve as inputs to the studies needed to ensure that the interests of the poor and other marginalized groups are accounted for. The methods for accurate planning must be made easily understandable. (7.)
1.2. Solidarity Economics 2006: An Outline:
II. See: http://newswire.indymedia.org/en/2006/02/832879.shtml
a. Costs; b. Pollution; c. Capitalism; d. Alternatives
a.) Other models: Cuba; Market Socialism; Ecological Economics; Social Economy
LINKS: Part I: http://www.tagworld.com/solidarity/PostDetail.aspx?id=451e6395-dc49-471b-bcd0-97f0562a03a8

Posted by: at February 10, 2006 02:26 AM

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