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Europes Social & Solidarity Economy

Why should citizenship stop at the doors of the economy?  asks Henri Rouillˇ DOrfeuil, a leader in Europes social and solidarity economy.

The profit-motored system is re-cycled by four activities: production at work; purchasing consumables afterwards; saving earnings; and investing surpluses. The system offers default options for these daily routines.  To unconsciously choose them is to reproduce the system. This makes complaints about its aggravating class divisions or its pitting of national workforces against each other ring false.  But DOrfeuil insists there is a democratic alternative for each of these routines by which growing numbers are expressing their citizenship in their economic acts.

Equivalent to what in the US is called the alternative economy, but bigger and more diverse, Europes social and solidarity economy sets the tone in the vast domain of enterprises between the commercial marketers and government services.  This embraces associations, societies, non-profits, non-governmental organizations, producer co-ops, consumer co-ops, foundations, ethical banks, and includes tenant organizations, social currencies, even ethical tourism. It embraces 8% of enterprises and 10% of employment in Europe, showing one can start an enterprise without being moved solely by the logic of profit.

Solidarity investments, says DOrfeuil, president of Frances Finansol with 30,000 savers, foster democratic workplaces, local development and employment, environmental responsibility, and employment of the disabled.

Promoters of the social and solidarity economy, in, but not limited to, Europe (many websites have English options) include:

´ Agency for Promoting the Social and Solidarity Economy (APRESS) is a Paris-based media co-op that communicates news about the social and solidarity economy to the world. www. mediasol.org

´ Crˇdit Coopˇratif.  Most owners of this bank in the North of France are associations or cooperatives.  It provides Third World development loans to solidarity enterprises to fight hunger and gives savers a solidarity choice to fund local democratic enterprises.

´ Banca Etica. Perhaps Europes largest, started with savings from Italys co-ops for loans to social cooperatives, becoming itself a co-op in 1994. Member-savers may direct personal savings to co-ops, third world development, fair trade, or organic agriculture.  www.bancaetica.com

´ Mouvement dEconomie Solidaire.  A solidarity economy network including advocates for unemployed persons, savers and investors for self-management, solidarity development, and federations of neighborhood associations. m-e-s@wanadoo.fr

´ Lilliput Network. Milan-based non-violent group re-directing economic choices to democratic, environmental options„including ethical tourism„by boycotts, pickets, and information.  Like little Lilliputians who bound the giant Gulliver, each with a single hair, so they try to stop the economic tyrant driven by profit.   www.retelilliput.org

´ Workshop on Socioeconomy of Solidarity www.socioeco.org. Part of Alliance for a Responsible, Plural & United World (www.alliance21.org, a global network disseminating collectively generated free multi-lingual booklets on co-ops, social money, etc). Groups in over 115 nations have signed its 1993 charter.

´ Radically Democratise Democracy Network www.budget-participatif.org Over 300 members in 18 countries promote understanding of Porto Alegres participative budget policy.

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