Visionary Citizens

With the relentless blare of commercial media, it is sometimes difficult to appreciate that lots of hopeful initiatives for social change are actually underway around the world. The problem is, most of them are too small or obscure for the mainstream media to care. That’s why Other Worlds, an Albuquerque-based social-change group, has produced Who Says You Can’t Change the World? Just Economies and Societies on an Unjust Planet.

The report, by Beverly Bell and her colleagues at Other Worlds, surveys dozens of citizen-led projects in social and economic reconstruction. Among the areas covered: access to health care, struggles to preserve fresh water, alternative education experiments, innovations in the "solidarity economy" and environmental justice, among others. Resources and contact information are included in the report so that interested readers can follow up with their own efforts. The point is to showcase the actual power and generativity of the “non-market economy.”

To give a flavor of the kinds of projects that are profiled in the Other Worlds’ report, here are two of the more interesting citizen-led efforts to protect the commons:

Acupuncture for the working class

In an article, Rohleder wrote, "Imagine what could happen if acupuncture were widely available to everyone in America, regardless of whether they had insurance or not. Imagine the impact of a clinic in every neighborhood: patients getting off expensive pain medication they can’t afford, uninsured asthma patients no longer needing to go to the ER, overwhelmed working parents no longer yelling at their kids or drinking to escape from the stress of their lives -- because they have an alternative." The clinic’s six acupuncturists treat more than 450 people a week in one of the lowest income and most ethnically diverse Portland neighborhoods.

Time Banks

As a ray of hope and inspiration as well as solid research, Who Says You Can’t Change the World? is worth downloading at as pdf or requesting from Other Worlds. To read an excellent interview with Beverly Bell — “Grassroots Power and Non-market Economies,” see the latest issue of the Multinational Monitor.