On 18th October a challenging event was organized in London by the Institute of Solidarity Economics of Oxford (ISE) in partnership with the Stir Magazine with the title “Alternatives to Capitalism: The Solidarity Economy perspective”. ISE, one of the partners of the Global Forum NESI “New Economy and Social Innovation” wanted to bring to the UK the concept and good practices that the Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) is delivering in different countries around the world. With that purpose, participants were able to enjoy the contributions by several international experts.
“an alternative based on strong democracy”
Jason Nardi, board member of RIPESS Europe, - the European Social and Solidarity Economy network that will also participate as a co-organiser of the NESI Forum - explained what are the proposals of the social and solidarity model as an alternative to the current system. Nardi argued that we are living in a “weak solidarity” economic system and SSE is creating an alternative based on “strong solidarity” or “strong democracy”, in terms of the implication that individuals have in the local economy. He emphasised that the goal of SSE is “to satisfy human needs through economic activities that reinforce values of social justice, ecological sufficiency, cooperation, mutuality, community and democracy”. Finally, he also remarked that it is needed more collaboration and networking among the different alternatives to capitalism
“from degeneration to regeneration”
Michael Lewis, from Canada - one of the founders of the Intercontinental Network of RIPESS - started with the idea that we need to move “from degeneration to regeneration” in terms of the social and environmental impact of the economy. He provided data to demonstrate that everyday 35% of the money expended by 80% of the population goes to the 5% of the richest people in the world.
Tony Greenham, from the Royal Society of Arts, summarised the parallel stories of the capitalism system, artificially created, and the solidarity economy initiatives that always existed as a natural and human solution from people for people. Tony highlighted the importance of community based enterprises. They are humans-oriented, as they are created by local people for local people. Moreover, they grow only until the point they do not have to grow more because they are providing their services in the best way. This is the way nature works. What is anti-natural is trying to growth without limit. Greenham argued.
Other panelists brought into the table specific practical good practices of SSE such as community based food networks in Bristol, several energy cooperatives - that are transforming the energy sector - or the innovative concept of “platform cooperativism” built on the idea that digital platforms - based on sharing economy principles - can be owned by users as an alternative to “platform capitalism” experiences such as Uber.
Participants highlighted two main conclusions. Firstly, it is necessary to set a SSE network in the UK as there are many initiatives but they are not connected. Secondly, it is needed to strengthen collaboration between SSE and other alternatives to the capitalist system. Regardless the name we give to the new model, the most important point is to build together on the basis of common principles such as cooperation, sustainability and social justice.
The event finished with an invitation to participate in future events related to the new economy, specially the Global Forum NESI in April 2017.