Making Solidarity Economy Visible

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By Jason Nardi

Worldwide communication and visibility of solidarity economy by RIPESS was the focus of one of the thematic workshops in Manila, in parallel with others such as Networking. It is of course a crucial issue, with many levels and implications, especially since at the international level the differences of approaches and languages is vast, and the resources are always scarse.

So we started from the basics, but without forgetting that there has been some work done in the last four years since Lux’09, especially in the domain of finding common means of mapping and identifying solidarity economy initiatives, products and services and creating a set of basic standards to allow exchange of information. We began by discussing common priorities, like sharing the solidarity economy experiences so they could get to know and learn from each other; making the SE initiatives visible to society, public opinion, other movements, potential allies; MAP the organization of SE (its networks, where they are, which are the actors and how they connect to each other). But also, more in general, there is a need to share a global vision of SE with a clear, strong narrative.

There are many obstacles we need to deal with: we don’t have a common vocabulary and some terms (like “solidarity”) may have negative connotations in some countries and cultures; we are weak on networking and sharing beyond our communities; there are language barriers and barriers too; the access to new technologies, mainly to the Internet.

Many proposals were made, and a few working groups were formed so hopefully there will be some advancement in the next months, as other people get involved. Here are some of the more concrete suggestions that emerged: continue to work on the “mapping” initiative, sharing methodologies, results, working together (ESSGLOBAL group) and adding the State of the Art reporting; focus more on internal communication to strengthen the networking and the experience sharing; involve youth in mobilizing communication and engagement in SE.

As we work on building a global vision, we already have a common landscape; we need to be inspirational and concrete in the message, but also “subliminal”: use storytelling and examples of positive solutions, alternatives, good practices showing that another world is happening, look for yourself! In other words, not one unifying narrative, but many that we need to document and share, especially with videos. On the website there already is a “Solidarity Economy TV” section, but we could encourage and engage youth especially in the production of short videos to share virally: Ripess could launch, with some of its members (the Canadian Ced Network is ready to sponsor) an international contest. There is also an artistic and creative dimension of communication that should be encouraged much more.

Finally, as we discussed strategical alliances, we agreed that there is need to have closer and stronger links with Community Media (radio, tv, newspapers) associations and with the Free software community. We could also start building a Solidarity Economy University (or Pluriversity), locally based as well as through the internet (webinars, e-learning, etc.), involving universities, schools, and popular education initiatives.

So ideas are not missing. We just need to start or continue working on them. Of course the RIPESS members are the first who need to be actively involved. Who wants to join, can write to:

RIPESS is a worldwide network of continental networks promoting the Social Solidarity Economy, in order to transform our economy by putting people and the planet at the center of our activities.