A very meaty issue of the British magazine STIR looks at a wide variety of projects based on Solidarity Economics. Produced in collaboration with the Institute for Solidarity Economics at Oxford, England, the Winter 2017 issue explores everything from municipal energy in London to cooperatively owned digital platforms, and from childcare coops to the robust solidarity economies being built in Catalan and Rojava. What’s striking about many of the articles is the fresh experimentation in new cooperative forms now underway.
Consider the Dutch organization BroodFondsMakers, based in Utrecht, an insurance-like system for self-employed individuals. When a public insurance program was abolished by the government in 2004, a small group of self-employed individuals got together to create their own insurance pool. More than a commercial scheme, members of the groups meet a few times a year, and even have outings and parties, in order to develop a certain intimacy and social cohesion.
When someone in a group gets sick for more than a month, they receive donations from the group, which usually have between 20 and 50 members. The mutual support is more than a cash payment, it is a form of emotional and social support as well. BroodFonds now has more than 200 groups and about 10,000 members participating in its system.
Another STIR article describes a new prototype for childcare in England that aims to overcome the well-known problems of high cost, low quality and poor availability of childcare. The new cooperative model, Kidoop, is meant to be co-produced by parents and playworkers, and not just a market transaction. The model, still being implemented, aims to provide greater flexibility, better quality care and working conditions, lower costs, and a system that parents actually want.
Elsewhere in STIR, Mike Lewis provides a great overview of the Solidarity Economy in his article, and Jessica Gordon Nembhard, author of Collective Courage, gives an interview that highlights the role of coops in helping African-Americans create a measure of economic independence and mutual support for themselves – lessons could be fruitfully applied today.
Barcelona is a hotbed of experimentation of participatory self-organization these days, a trend accelerated by the commons-friendly Barcelona City Council and mayor. A searchable online map shows hundreds of Solidarity Economy organizations. In Rojava, a federation of cooperatives represents one of the largest, most daring experiments in building a “social economy” that moves beyond the inequality, precarity and ecological destruction of capitalism. Drawing upon the philosophy of Murray Bookchin, the Kurds have developed hundreds of coops and community councils that emphasize household use value over market exchange value.
Read this special issue of STIR, and then check out the special podcast on the Solidarity Economy.