Wednesday, March 13, 2013

How to Map the New Economy in Your City

By Mira Luna 
Groups all over the world are resisting the status quo of profit maximization by putting society's happiness, health and the Earth first. This work, though, is often overshadowed by big business with its bloated advertising budgets and economic monopolization, which makes alternatives seem insubstantial if not nonexistent.

New economy projects are mostly unconnected, so each one struggles alone rather than supporting each other. One result of this is that awareness remains low.  The US Solidarity Economy Network (USSEN) and its international counterpart, RIPESS, are working to change this by implementing a mapping and economic integration tool to connect groups with one another to build a cooperative, just and sustainable economy.

Mapping your community helps demonstrate that “Another World” is not only possible, it already exists. Mapping also can become a community organizing tool - uncovering a reservoir of social assets even in the poorest neighborhoods, which may seed mutual aid and cooperative business ideas - as it did for the Jersey Shore Neighborhood Cooperative. USSEN has a list of communities that have done independent mapping projects, each using its own methodology, criteria, platform and map name.

When developing a map, a challenging question comes up,“who's in?” Some generally agreed upon principles for solidarity economy (SE) are: solidarity, mutualism, cooperation, equity (race, ethnicity, nationality, class, gender, LGBTQ, ability), social and environmental prioritization, democracy, pluralism, and grassroots driven. Most groups will not meet all these criteria. The line can become fuzzy if you don't have lots of local entities to choose from to populate the map. These principles leave something to aspire and work towards. You may want to do the mapping with local organizations to get a broader perspective and to encourage participation.

Functions of mapping
  • Make projects more visible to each other and the public -- free advertising!
  • Movement and regional community-building by connecting SE entities, social movements, and activists through social networking for developing mutual support and common infrastructure.
  • Facilitate the creation of viable solidarity economy supply chains that link SE producers, distributors, and finance.
  • Foundation for research to make the case for allocating resources and policies to support the solidarity economy.
Brazil's solidarity economy map and directory
Brazil has an elaborate, government funded Solidarity Economy Map of over 20,000 collectively run enterprises throughout the country, which enables consumers to find SE goods and services and develops SE supply chains. The map's social networking function is supported by a separate platform called Cirandas where enterprises, organizations, networks and individuals can create their own information page. ZOES is a platform in Italy that links mapping and social networking and allows entities to self-map after being vouched for by someone already in the ZOES network.
Within the US, there are many examples of simple maps, some just beginning:

How to Make a Map
Sometimes mapping starts with a curious individual. However, it's best if the map involve the broader community at some point. A community survey can collect information to populate the map in a balanced and diverse way. This may help you figure out what your geographic boundaries are, who to include in the map, as well as what to name it.

Read the rest on how to map here.

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