As a fitting part of New Economy Week and Co-op week, today 400 participants from 35 countries gathered in the Philippines to share strategies for growing the Social Solidarity Economy as an alternative economic model around the world. This is the fifth global meeting organized by RIPESS, the Intercontinental Network for the Promotion of the Social Solidarity Economy, which CCEDNet has been involved in for nearly a decade.
Several Canadians are playing a prominent role here: Founding CCEDNet Member Mike Lewis, of the Canadian Centre for Community Renewal, gave the opening keynote this morning and Nancy Neamtan of the Chantier de l’économie sociale was one of the respondents. The Chair of CCEDNet’s International Committee, Yvon Poirier, longtime International Committee member Ethel Côté and I will be giving a number of presentations at workshops over the course of the 4-day conference.
Some of the participants from CCEDNet and the Chantier de l'économie sociale (L-R): Yvon Poirier,
Pierre Luc Vezina-Labelle, Ethel Côté, Mike Toye, Nancy Neamtan, Mike Lewis, Eric Lefebvre
Delegates were welcomed by Jun Simon, Vice-Chair of the Asian Solidarity Economy Council of the Philippines, who told a story about the Banaue rice terraces, called the eighth wonder of the world. The terraces were built over a 200-year period nearly two millennia ago. A legend says, when the project began, it was asked, “Who would benefit?” The answer was that it would not be those who built it, but their great grandchildren. Despite the urgency of change, the scope of our vision for the social solidarity economy implies a multi-generational project upon which our great grandchildren’s well-being depends.
After the welcome, Mike Lewis spoke to the global audience, drawing on the ideas from his recent book The Resilience Imperative. He outlined how strategic sectors of food, energy and shelter can be leveraged by reclaiming finance, revaluing the commons and democratizing and localizing ownership
Respondents Paul Singer, Brazilian Secretary of the Solidarity Economy, Peter Uttering from the United Nations Research Institute on Social Development and Nancy Neamtan from the Chantier de l’économie sociale, all identified strategic areas of progress as well as risks as the social solidarity economy (SSE) continues to grow and become increasingly mainstream. These include:
- the contribution of SSE to political empowerment and its capacity to provide for the needs of disadvantaged groups.
- the need for a clear global vision; one that is inclusive and that gets to the heart of changing the economic system to one that is more democratic.
- the need to build strong alliances with other movements who share common concerns but approach these issues from a different perspective.
- the challenge of growing the SSE in the major economic sectors that are fundamental to our daily lives: food, housing, energy.
- the crucial role of governments to support but not direct the SSE agenda, and the vital involvement of civil society in the co-construction of public policies.
- the urgency of scaling up communications and finding ways to better communicate amongst ourselves and with the general public.
- the need to influence international debates with an effective international structure that is grounded in communities, in all continents, and aligned around a common vision that will allow us to speak in international fora in ways that reflect local, national and continental realities.
Already, I have met some fascinating people from Sri Lanka, the United States, Morocco, the Philippines, Malaysia, India, Japan, France, China and Italy who I am eager to connect to CCEDNet members doing similar work.
Over the four days of the conference, delegates will work to establish a better understanding of our different realities and build a common vision that resonates with participants coming from very different realities around the world.
Many thanks to the CDÉC de Québec, l’Alliance des caisses populaires de l’Ontario, la Caisse populaire Rideau-Vision d’Ottawa, and les Filles de la sagesse du Canada for their support of CCEDNet’s participation in the conference.