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 Latin American and Iberian Institute was pleased to host this virtual panel, The Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) Movement: Perspectives from the U.S., Spain and Latin America. Topics covered include: The Barcelona Experience with Local Economic Democracy by Dr. Santiago Eizaguirre Anglada; Latin American Solidarity Economic Circuits and SSE Networks by Euclides Mance and the Social and Solidarity Economy in the United States: Progress and Challenges by Yvonne Yen Liu.
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.
In a region of 5 million people, there are 4000 co-operative businesses, that employ 250,000 people – just under a quarter of the entire workforce. The co-op movement in ER goes back to the mid 19th century, with roots in the workers’ mutual aid societies, and many of the early ones are still strong today. It wasn’t a reaction to capitalism. The co-op movement developed alongside capitalism. There’s an entrepreneurial spirit, but also a propensity to do things together – creating associations, unions, co-ops, credit unions etc. There’s joint purchasing and lobbying, collective bargaining etc. There’s a sense that ‘we have to solve problems together’ rather than as individuals.
We are living in a time of multiple crises. The climate emergency seriously threatens the continued survival of humanity, exacerbating injustice, exploitation, poverty and vulnerability. And the global cost of living crisis is driving more and more people into precarity. Although these crises are often portrayed as novel and contemporary rather than cumulative consequences of centuries-old destructive systems, those that have been at the frontlines of marginalization caused by the current world order, rooted in colonization and capitalism, have always known, to quote the Zapatistas, that this house has been on fire for many centuries. Coming up with solutions and alternatives to this destructive system has therefore been a necessity for communities across the globe.
I was born in Nalerigu village in northeastern Ghana. For most of my life, I watched as my mother, Mariama, worked as a trader and used Susu to meet her financial needs. My mother used money from susu to pay my school fees and to carry out her trade business. Ghana’s Susu system is widely used by the people. Susu means “small small” in the Twi language (Amankwah et al. 2019:2). I only knew about Susu as a banking tradition in Ghana. I did not know that I would come to learn of its activity in a ‘developed’ country when I moved to Toronto, Canada to carry out my doctoral studies in anthropology. In the Spring 2022 I was hired as a research assistant to work on a project to understand rotating savings and credit associations – known as ROSCAs.
The Community Purchasing Alliance is advancing the solidarity economy with the power of cooperative purchasing, shifting $17.9M to minority business enterprise (MBE) since 2017. Our 11 person team is distributed across the US and is powered by sociocratic circles. In this showcase, we will share how CPA Co-op’s circle structure has grown and evolved since 2020, facilitating 47% year over year growth in revenue in 2021 while creating a more dynamic and equitable workplace for our entire team. Amy Abbott and Boris Sigal are the Co-Executive Directors of CPA Co-op. Lauren Greenspan leads CPA’s People and Culture Circle and is currently enrolled in SoFA’s Sociocracy Academy. She introduced CPA Co-op to Sociocracy in 2020 after reading Many Voices, One Song.
Who can use the term “gone viral” now without shuddering a little? Who can look at anything any more — a door handle, a cardboard carton, a bag of vegetables — without imagining it swarming with those unseeable, undead, unliving blobs dotted with suction pads waiting to fasten themselves on to our lungs? Who can think of kissing a stranger, jumping on to a bus or sending their child to school without feeling real fear? Who can think of ordinary pleasure and not assess its risk? Who among us is not a quack epidemiologist, virologist, statistician and prophet? Which scientist or doctor is not secretly praying for a miracle? Which priest is not — secretly, at least — submitting to science? And even while the virus proliferates, who could not be thrilled by the swell of birdsong in cities, peacocks dancing at traffic crossings and the silence in the skies?
There is a rising awareness that capitalism is at the root of many of the crises that we face, from the economy to the environment and climate change to the absence of democracy. We need to end capitalism to solve these crises. We speak with Emily Kawano, coordinator of the United States Solidarity Economy Network, about how we are changing the economy right now, what the end of capitalism (as a dominant part of the economy) would look like and how to answer those who worry that it can't or shouldn't be done. Plus, we cover current news.