Before the start of the UNIVERSSE2017 4th Solidarity economy congress in Athens (9-11 June 2017), The 6th General Assembly Meeting of the RIPESS Europe (Solidarity Economy Europe network) took place. Commons.fi has for one year been a member of the network. During the meeting 5 new members joined the network from Bulgaria (Ideas Factory), Czech Republic (Ecumenic Academy of Prague), Greece (DOCK – Solidarity Economy Zone and Biocamp) and Portugal (RedPES).
As mentioned in RIPESS Activity Report 2016, Commons.fi has been involved in RIPESS’ strategy point of ”Convergences”, with regards to solidarity economy and commons strands. This refers in practice to the fact that Commons.fi members participated in the Solidarity economy and Commons policy co-writing as part of the European Commons Assembly process. The relation between Solidarity economy and the Commons was also up for Debate in Athens (See below). To empower a movement of convergences is also one of the two main objectives of the RIPESS Action Plan 2016-2018 : ” the determination is to bring together the forces of change represented by the constellation of alter-economic movements. In spite of their very active work at local or sectorial level, their energies and strengths are currently diluted because they are still scattered.”
The strategy session following RIPESS General Assembly on the issue of convergence and alliance building (with for instance Commons movements, Transition, Degrowth and other similar initiatives) probably well reflected the different stances around the issue of convergences. For some it is a problematic discussion. Noted was that different concepts are also answers to different contexts and problems. Someone proposed the word cooperation to be simply a better word. Others noted it is perhaps better to focus on common goals. This then resonating with the opinion that it is better to say what we want to do, then what we are. We can have different worldviews, but our practices can still be the same.
The two other strategic sessions focussed on inter-cooperation and networking (including education, training, and mapping) and public policies (from the municipalist movement to the co-construction of European policies, such as the Social Rights Pillar).
The 4th European Congress of Social Solidarity Economy, UNIVERSSE 2017, saw 54 events attended by an estimated 1000 participants making up for a rich program at the agricultural university of Athens.
During the opening of the Congress former Guardian journalist Eliza Anyangwe of The Rules talked about the group’s work around changing the narrative on issues of poverty, climate change and Inequality. The group engages in network analysis, and tries to have input into debate connecting the dots. Content is taken from different progressive movements.
The European Commons Assembly process had a (small) assembly in Athens, during which in particular different questions surfaced regarding the process that people joining might possibly want to answer to: https://hackpad.com/ECA-Athens-UNIVERSSE-2017-zRSNzZKVzbE
A well participated Greek Commons assembly took also place during the conference, and the teams of the CommonsFest and the Festival for Soldarity and Social Economy in Athens will be having a joint festival in October in Athens. This convergence is happening outside institutitions, outside of state and market. As could be heard about during the congress, many people can not be a part of the shrinking economy and its unclear zone of employment with people not being able to live from thieir work. With the State keeping its distance, citizens need to organise their lives beyond official public support systems.
A dynamic session ”Another Economy is Possible! Timebanking – P2P currencies” was led by Jem Bendel (Insitute of Leadership and Sustainability, University of Cumbria, UK) and Matthew Slater (co-founder Community Forge, developer of LETS & Timebanking software systems). Participants included Timebank of Athens, set up during the protests in 2011 at Syntagma Square) , Mesopotamia Timebank, Timebank of Holargos, Solidarity 4 all, Integral cooperative Athens, ’towards a society of the commons’), Fair coin , 20 local nodes also in global south, wanting to promote cooperation in alternative currency movement via Bank of the Commons process, https://bankofthecommons.coop), as well as Helsinki Timebank.
Several of the timebank initiatives had extended their basic timebank workings to working teams including a food store house in response to the needs of members like in the case of Solidarity4all. Mesopotamia timebank has a Solidarity school which offers different tuition.
Besides dynamic sharing on the different experiences, the session addressed also the rapid developments around cryptocurrencies, but not around complementary currencies. Matthew addressed some of the problems faced by complementary currencies : poor governance, burn outs, lack of critical mass, not understanding of the workings of the currency,and the problem of a lot of energy going into technology. There is a need for more cooperation as part of a global movement. So Community forge together with The Community Exchange Services (CES,on which also Helsinki Timebank runs) has been developing ideas around credit commons (http://creditcommons.net/), as also the Bank of the Commons process .
It was good to see the interaction between these processes in Athens. As people like Matthew and others have commented, it is good and important when complementary currencies inform themselves on cryptocurrency developments and that the two movements converse with each other, with the former being able ot point to the importance of the political project of any currency.
During the RIPESS workshop on the ”Panorama of SSE in Europe” interesting discussion took place on mapping, in many ways resonating the experiences/thought processes of Commons.fi
Alba Hierro told of Pam-a-Pam in Catalunia, a solidarity economy netowork of some 400 actors, with local nodes. Interviews are conducted with the actors, and 15 Q’s are evaluated, with each 5 indicators (http://pamapam.org/ca/punts-economia). Pam-a-Pam does different activites like open talks about Solidarity economy, SE tours, and debates as around the relation to the commons.
Ruby van der Wekken