Building a Solidarity Economy Movement: A Guide for Grassroots Activism

Cooperative and Policy Alternative Center (COPAC)

Year: 2014

COPAC has been engaged in building cooperatives and promoting alternative models of local development for over ten years. This guide is a result of these years of grassroots practice and learning. The experiences gained from working in the Eco-village in Midrand, sustainable local manufacturing hives of worker cooperatives, alternative approaches to people’s housing processes and alternative financing models for community development have all shaped the content of this guide. The failures, successes and ongoing learning from the practices of these experiences have been crucial in developing the guide.

This guide is also informed by learning from the failings in the South African context with regard to approaches to the development of cooperatives and other social forms utilised by social groups and communities to meet their needs. South Africa has failed to develop a solidarity economy process and movement approach to building cooperatives and progressive social forms to meet people’s needs and prevent environmental destruction. Instead local economic development approaches, cooperative interventions and Small and Medium Enterprise development are all treated as instruments of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE). This has undermined the solidarity basis of transformation in South Africa and has encouraged individualised solutions to what are collective challenges. BEE reduces every social and economic form to a typical capitalist business in which individual greed and interest is the driving force. Even Broad Based BEE treats cooperatives as an extension of the state or a stepping stone for market-based development. This guide rejects the state-centric and market-led versions of BEE (narrow or broad) and proposes an alternative approach to transformation: the Solidarity Economy Movement (SEM) and process.

A third factor forming a basis for this guide is three years of international research done by COPAC on ‘Cooperative Alternatives to Capitalist Globalisation’. This research project has enabled COPAC to study some of the best examples of solidarity economy movement building. This research will be published as a book and will be another resource for advancing the solidarity economy alternative. This guide draws on this research so as to provide a set of practical tools for grassroots organising and for the building of a solidarity economy movement in South Africa. In short, this guide is integrally linked to COPAC’s international research work.

The main objectives of the guide are the following:

  • Provide tools for transforming society
  • Capacitate a new kind of transformative activist, a solidarity economy activist
  • Contribute to a new way of building a cooperative movement in South Africa

Download the Guidebook


Module 1 – Using the Guide

1.1 Introduction
1.2 Purpose of the Solidarity Economy Movement Organising Guide
1.3 Key Principles for Solidarity Economy Movement and Process Facilitation
1.4 Being a Facilitator
1.5 Workshop Guidelines

Module 2 – Understanding the Solidarity Economy Alternative

2.1 Where do we Start?
2.2 Historical Background
2.3 The Solidarity Economy is Not…
2.4 A Working Definition of the Solidarity Economy Movement and Process
2.5 Toward a Vision
2.6 Main Values and Principles
2.7 Solidarity Economy Movement Actors
2.8 Solidarity Economy Enterprises

2.8.1 Cooperatives and the Solidarity Economy Movement

Module 3 – Solidarity Economy Movement (SEM) Activist

3.1 Building a Solidarity Economy Movement through Transformative Struggles
3.2 The Solidarity Economy Site as the Main Terrain of Transformation
3.3 Solidarity Economy Movement Activists are the Main Drivers

3.3.1 Self transformation
3.3.2 A transformative understanding of power
3.3.3 Innovating through practice

Module 4 – Worker Cooperatives in the Solidarity Economy

4.1 The Importance of Worker Cooperatives
4.2 Worker Cooperative Theory
4.3 Contexts for Worker Cooperative Development
4.4 The South African Experience of Worker Cooperatives
4.5 Understanding Success Factors in Worker Cooperatives
4.6 Steps for Setting Up a Worker Cooperative

4.6.1 Step 1: Organising in Context
4.6.2 Step 2: Developing a Concept Document
4.6.3 Step 3: Feasibility Assessment
4.6.4 Step 4: Financing Options
4.6.5 Step 5: Education and Training Options
4.6.6 Step 6: Designing a Self Management Model
4.6.7 Step 7: Worker Cooperative Business Planning
4.6.8 Step 8: Legal Framework Options
4.6.9 Step 9: Start-up

Module 5 – Financing Mechanisms in the Solidarity Economy

5.1 The Importance of Solidarity Economy Financing Mechanisms
5.2 Theory on Solidarity Economy Financing Mechanisms
5.3 Context
5.4 Two Types of Solidarity Economy Financing Mechanisms

5.4.1 Option 1: Solidarity Economy Fund Cooperative
5.4.2 Option 2: Solidarity Economy Development Finance Cooperative

5.5 Steps for Setting Up a Solidarity Economy Financing Mechanism

5.5.1 Step 1: Organise in Context
5.5.2 Step 2: Developing a Concept
5.5.3 Step 3: Organising Members
5.5.4 Step 4: Designing Policies
5.5.5 Step 5: Feasibility Assessment
5.5.6 Step 6: Develop a Business Plan
5.5.7 Step 7: Legal Framework
5.5.8 Step 8: Start-Up

Module 6 – Solidarity Economy Education and Communication Cooperatives Network

6.1 The Importance of the Solidarity Economy Education and Communication Cooperatives (SEECC)
6.2 The Role of COPAC and the Network
6.3 Values and Principles
6.4 Vision
6.5 Objectives
6.6 Core Activity Program
6.7 Membership Rights and Obligations
6.8 Location
6.9 Steps for Setting Up A Solidarity Economy Education and Communication Cooperative

6.9.1 Step 1: Invite COPAC to facilitate and Assist
6.9.2 Step 2: Organise in Contextt
6.9.3 Step 3: Convene a Solidarity Economy Forums
6.9.4 Step 4: Debate the Feasibility of the Conceptual Method
6.9.5 Step 5: Organise Members
6.9.6 Step 6: Develop a Program
6.9.7 Step 7: Develop a Business Plan
6.9.8 Step 8: Legal Framework
6.9.9 Step 9: Start-Up

Module 7 – Organising the Solidarity Economy Movement from Below

7.1 Introduction
7.2 Steps for Organising the Solidarity Economy Movement

7.2.1 Step 1: Organising a Solidarity Economy Catalyst in a Site
7.2.2 Developing a Profile of Solidarity Economy Actors in a Site
7.2.3 Organise a Solidarity Economy Education and Communication Cooperative
7.2.4 Convene a Solidarity Economy Forum through the SE Education and Communication Cooperative
7.2.5 Mapping the Solidarity Economy Site
7.2.6 Initiating Solidarity Economy Interventions
7.2.7 Transformative Struggles and the Solidarity Economy Process