Friday, December 18, 2009

Currencies and Solidarity Economics at the US Social Forum

Below is a letter sent from a number of alternative economic organizers and organizations to the USSF National Planning Committee. I pushed for a currency section to be included in the Forum. I am going to be helping to organize the currency section and perhaps one or two other sections, if you would like to participate in organizing or presenting, please contact me at heather (at) Thanks! Heather

Dear Consulta facilitators,

Thanks so much for this open and participatory consultation process. Thanks also for the staggering amount of work that you have already and continue to put into this process. We are well aware that there are so very many perspectives to be heard, so we have tried to provide a coordinated response regarding the track on ‘economic alternatives.’

As representatives of a diverse array of practitioners and activists working to grow and build the solidarity economy, we would like to propose the following two amendments:

1) Include solidarity economy in the heading of track number 2, so that it reads Economic Alternatives: Building a Solidarity Economy.


Including the phrase solidarity economy is a powerful statement that we are for an economy that puts people and planet front and center. It is a signal that we are part of a burgeoning global solidarity economy movement that is very strong in other parts of the world, but is late in coming to the U.S. Given the lack of familiarity with the solidarity economy framework in the U.S., getting the term into popular circulation is an important step. At the same time, we realize that many people in the U.S. have never heard of solidarity economy, so suggest including the more familiar phrase ‘economic alternatives.’ Hopefully anyone working for 'another world' can find themselves within this broad heading.

Solidarity economy is not a single type of economy such as market socialism, parecon, 21st Century Socialism, and so forth. It is a big tent which can hold many different approaches. Solidarity economy is committed to pluralism which means that this is not a one-size-fits-all approach. We believe that different economic frameworks are suitable in different places and times - or in the words of the Zapatista, "a world in which many worlds fit."

We desperately need this big tent where proponents of different models and strategies for achieving a just, democratic and sustainable economy can dialogue, debate and learn from each other without having to fight it out to be the ‘chosen one.’ This fight to be top dog is one of the reasons that the left does not have a unified vision of what we are for, as opposed to what we’re against.

The solidarity economy holds core principles of solidarity, equity (in all dimensions – race, class, gender, etc.), sustainability, participatory democracy, and pluralism, rather than hewing to a particular economic ideology or model. We welcome debate, discussion, and critique - all informed by real world experience and practice. We believe that there is a huge foundation upon which to build the solidarity economy if we only open our eyes to its many existing facets and start to pull together toward a common transformative goal.

Pieces of this foundation include the practices that you list as examples: land trusts, cooperatives and fair trade, along with many others such as social finance, complementary currencies, participatory budgeting, the commons movement, and various progressive policies. The solidarity economy is not just another economic alternative, but rather is a way of pulling together the wonderful, but isolated practices and polices so that we can put forth a vision and build social/economic systems that puts people and planet front and center.

2) To include some other economic models and practices in the bulleted examples:

· 21st Century Socialism, Market Socialism, Participatory Economics, etc.

· Community Land trusts

· Cooperative Economic Solutions

· Participatory Budgeting

· Social Finance & Complementary Currency

· The Commons movement

Thanks for taking the time to listen.



U.S. Solidarity Economy Network

Center for Popular Economics

Guramylay: Growing the Green Economy

Grassroots Economic Organizing

Responsible Endowments Coalition

Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Friends of the Third World

Charter of Human Responsibilities (US)

Individuals (organizational affiliation provided for identification only):

Emily Kawano, Center for Popular Economics

Julie Matthaei, Guramylay: Growing the Green Economy

Thomas Masterson, Levy Economics Institute and Center for Popular Economics

Dan Apfel, Responsible Endowments Coalition

Miguel Yasuyuki Hirota, Online Lab on Complementary Currencies, Japan

Heather Young, Bay Area Community Exchange and JASEcon (Just Alternative Sustainable Economy)

Jim Goetsch, Friends of the Third World

David Kane, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Megan McDonough

Eric Ebel, Detroit DSA (Democratic Socialists of America)

Nina Gregg, Charter of Human Responsibilities

Carl Davidson, Center for Labor & Community Research, USSEN Board

kiran nigam, N. American Students of Cooperation, USSF Program & Culture WG

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