Sixteen years ago, when he moved to Kenya, development economist Will Ruddick realized that many poorer communities are not as helpless as they might think. They may not have as much money to meet their needs, but they do have goods and services to offer each other -- cooking, tutoring, bike repair, taxi rides, and so forth. The real problem is the scarcity of a currency to enable exchange; the national currency, the Kenyan shilling, is not so plentiful in many neighborhoods. So, working with small businesses and households, Ruddick and members of the group he founded, Grassroots Economics, set out to create what he calls "community inclusion currencies."
Baltimore has become what many consider to be ground zero in the emerging “solidarity economy” and the formation of worker-owned, cooperatively run businesses. There’s something important going on here, and there’s a lot that we can all learn from our fellow workers who are in the cooperative space—people who are living, breathing proof that there’s another way to run a business, that there's another way to run our economy, and that there are other ways we can treat work and workers. At a recent event hosted by the Baltimore Museum of Industry titled "Work Matters: Building a Worker-Owned Co-op," Max moderated a panel including workers and representatives from Common Ground Bakery Café, Taharka Bros Ice Cream, A Few Cool Hardware Stores, and the Baltimore Roundtable for Economic Democracy (BRED).
Igalia is an open source tech co-op success story. We have been around for 22 years; we have 140 members. We play an essential role in several open web platform projects such as Chromium/Blink, WebKit (WPE & WebKitGTK), Firefox and Servo. We have contributed to GNOME / GTK+ / Maemo, WebKit / WebKitGtk+ / JSC, Blink / V8, Gecko / SpiderMonkey projects, amongst others. The reason we started as a co-op and the reason the focus of our work is Free and Open Source software are one and the same. Both are implementations of our values, in a word: egalitarianism. In this talk you will hear a bit about our history.
Digital solidarity and the sharing economy may seem like natural companions. To be sure, the sharing economy with its melding of community and commerce has the potential to be a key contributor to digital solidarity in developing economies. Both concepts revolve around the idea of collaboration, sharing resources and funds, community-building, the network effect, increasing trust between strangers, and the leveraging of digital technologies for the greater good. In this blog post, we consider how the sharing economy can contribute to digital solidarity in a developing economy; the barriers to the sharing economy doing so; and if unchecked how it can distort an economy.
In the wake of global anti-racism movements and a growing awareness of the problematic dynamics of colonial knowledge-making in international development, governments, academics and NGOs are scrambling to reposition themselves and their work in order to address systemic power imbalances. Yet, feminist economists like those at the International Association of Feminist Economics (IAFFE) have pointed out that many efforts and the scholarship largely informing the policy remain superficial, and do not go far enough in tackling the root causes of economic inequality, social and business exclusion.
On September 22nd, students graduating with either a Graduate Diploma or a Masters in Management: Co-operatives and Credit Unions (MMCCU) were greeted with boisterous whoops and feet stomping from the 12 faculty of the program who joined the Chancellor, Dean, and about another 10 faculty from Saint Mary’s University at Convocation. It was a relatively rare occurrence for the program and the special moment was created through a two day celebration of the program’s 20th anniversary and the first in-person faculty retreat since 2019. The first day of the two-day event, kicked off quite appropriately at the Glitter Bean Café.
Building the future in place envisions bringing together an ecosystem of community-based institutions and public policies that meets human needs and balances our relations within the natural world. It involves weaving together community initiatives and advocacy campaigns that now often operate in separate compartments to create a coherent politics, built around deep-rooted, place-based movements informed by comprehensive visions for transformative change at local and bioregional scales. It starts where markets and the system are failing, prioritizing communities and people who are being failed the most. In the process, it fills the greatest need now existing in our society, for community. In a fractured world where increasing disruptions can be expected, we need to somehow find our way back to human social solidarity, to being good neighbors. It’s not just climate. We face a profound crisis of global ecosystems.
Co-op models have a marginal position in business education, the technology industry, and the popular imagination. In response, co-operators and their allies have created incubators, accelerator programs, and mutual-aid networks to support early-stage tech co-ops. Join us for an online panel facilitated by co-op researcher-practitioner Emi Do that brings together presenters from several such projects: CoTech, Exit to Community Collective, Platform Cooperativism Consortium, SPACE4, Start.coop, UnFound Accelerator, and Union Cooperative Initiative. These projects advance democratic business formation and co-op theory-building, and they offer valuable lessons on the promises and challenges of accelerating worker ownership today.
Sociocracy and cooperativism stem from the premise that humans thrive as social animals. Quite possibly, cooperation acts as our most characteristic trait as living beings. We need each other. No human effort, made by a lone individual, succeeds. Since the dawn of our species, we have engaged in cooperation, and we're still figuring out how to do it best. We could certainly do it better than we are now, and sociocracy sheds a light on the way forward. Sociocracy (also called dynamic governance) means governance by the socios: those who associate together. In other words, if you join, if you participate, you get to have a voice in decision-making.
What if there was a way to trade time and share skills with your neighbors in a way that met a range of needs without involving cash? Since 2017, the Kola Nut Collaborative has operated Chicago’s only open-platform time and skills exchange, otherwise known as a timebank. Part mutual aid and community organizing, members come together to hear each other’s needs and share what they have to offer. Founding coordinator Mike Strode speaks with Laura about the changes he has seen in his community, how people are showing up for others, and what it takes to build a solidarity economy. Tune in for more on timebanking, and how it just might work in your community.
I'm currently the education programs and research manager at the Center for Economic Democracy and we're a movement support organization based in Boston, Massachusetts. Our work focuses mostly on capacity building in the movement, with the goal of democratizing economic power. In terms of what we actually do, what that looks like is organizing and building local coalitions, experimenting and trying to create new models of economic democracy, and also connecting trends locally with national partners to strengthen the broader Solidarity Economy movement. And ultimately, what we're doing at CED is trying to build new collective governance and ownership infrastructure to really shift power to frontline residents, both locally, but also creating models that potentially could be used elsewhere, or scaled in different ways.
The idea that we need to transform the economic system in order to avoid environmental catastrophe is growing in popularity. The degrowth movement is currently the most prominent movement for post-capitalist economics, and it is true that getting past the imperative for economic growth is an important element of the needed economic transformation. But rather than simply going against the current hegemony of economic growth, we must create a holistic new system with which to supersede today’s capitalist system. To do this, we must find replacements for each of the major components of the economic system. A core component of capitalism for which we need a replacement is the development dynamic of capital accumulation for profit.
Professor Jessica Gordon-Nembhard explores the potential of cooperatives and solidarity economics as pathways towards economic democracy and justice. Drawing on historical examples from the civil rights movement and the Knights of Labor in the 1880s, Nembhard demonstrates how cooperative economics can counteract the exploitation inherent in capitalist systems. She underlines the importance of communal ownership and shared decision-making as mechanisms for wealth redistribution, arguing that such models can liberate communities from economic exploitation.
Kristina Banks and Ingrid Haftel from the Participatory Budgeting Project share reflections on the intersections between sociocracy and participatory budgeting (PB)--and how they are experiencing the transformative power of this shared governance systemically, organizationally, and individually.