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Intergenerational workshop on the economy and social justice
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The Solidarity Economy and Responsibility
The USA Charter: Youth Charter of Responsibilities
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Nina Gregg, Charter of Human Responsibilities, and Wolfgang Hoeschele, geographer at Truman State University, Kirksville, Missouri, co-led a workshop titled “A Liberatory, Equitable, and Sustainable Economy” at the first US Forum on the Solidarity Economy.
The Forum at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst from March 19-22, 2009 was convened by the US Solidarity Economy Network in partnership with the Universidad de los Andes from Venezuela and RIPESS-North America, the Intercontinental Social Solidarity Economy Network under the theme “Building Another World.” CHR (US) was one of many organizations sponsoring the Forum.
According to Carl Davidson of the USSEN Coordinating Committee, the US Solidarity Economy Network was launched at the 2007 US Social Forum in Atlanta, which drew some 12,000 participants. SEN activists organized over 80 panels and workshops for the US Social Forum, and the network was founded from among the participants. The Amherst Forum was USSEN’s first major U.S. project. For more information on USSEN, see www.ussen.org
Forum attracts participants from across the globe
[Elandria Williams from the Highlander Research and Education Center and member of the USSEN Coordinating Committee addresses the first plenary session]
Nearly 400 organizers, activists and educators attended the Forum, coming from North America, South America, Europe and Asia. Arriving in the midst of the world economic crisis, people were eager to share their experiences, to learn from each other and to work together to design alternatives.
The Forum program included plenary sessions on Defining the Solidarity Economy, Real World Visions and Models of the Solidarity Economy, and Building the Solidarity Economy Movement and with 200 workshops addressing topics such as the practical dimensions of forming co-operatives, the history of the solidarity economy in different countries, developing a green economy, cooperative housing, fair trade, credit unions, alternative currencies, cooperatives in Venezuela, worker takeovers in Argentina, feminist economics, the social economy in Quebec, the role of labor unions, solar power and many more.
“A Liberatory, Equitable, and Sustainable Economy”
Participants in the “Liberatory, Equitable, and Sustainable Economy” workshop represented a wide range of economic activities, including a community land trust, a credit union, a responsible endowment, organic agriculture, organizing against gentrification, sustainable community housing, educational organizing, community economic development, and labor education. Several students who took part are studying social thought, social change, and sustainable agriculture.
After all the participants introduced themselves, Nina offered an overview of the Charter of Human Responsibilities. She focused on creating cultures of responsibility and the difference between acting out of duty or obligation (based on norms) and acting voluntarily to take responsibility (based on values). We affirmed that responsibility has different meanings in different cultures and communities and also the differential power we have to take responsibility. Collective action as a component of the solidarity economy is an example of how collective responsibility can accomplish more than individuals acting responsibly.
Wolfgang Hoeschele (on the left in the photo) built on Nina’s discussion about responsibility by asking, what shall we take responsibility for? What do we want to achieve?
Workshop participants formed small groups to discuss how they can take responsibility to work toward these goals. An aid to the discussion was a matrix supplied by Nina that identified various roles each of us may play (as wage earner, consumer, saver, supporting others, citizen/voter, or activist) and scales of action (individual, family, community, workplace, state, country, and world).
After these group discussions, several members of the group shared their observations from the exercise:
• I noticed how connected everything is – from the individual to the world – and the importance an individual has in the world.
As US Coordinator of Charter activities, Nina is continuing to work with USSEN and with a group of activists who are preparing a community workshop on the solidarity economy. CHR committees have supported Solidarity Economy networks and conferences in Asia and South America for many years.