2-3 July, 2009
The Solidarity Economy and the Commons: report from the Graz “Solcom” workshop

A report by Andreas Exner:

On 2.-3. July, a workshop on Solidarity Economy was held in Graz, Austria. Organized by Andreas Exner and Bernhard Mark- Ungericht (Univ. Graz, Dep. of International Management), it was kindly supported by the Arbeiterkammer Steiermark (Labor Chamber, Styria) and the Dep. of International Management.

This enabled us to invite keynote speakers from Brazil (Ana Dubeux, Jonas Bertucci) and Germany (Kristina Bayer, Barbara Schweitzer) who shared with us their long-standing experiences with mapping, linking and incubating Solidarity Economy projects.

Solidarity Economy does not correspond to any fixed definition but is an evolving practice of solidarity in a capitalist force field, striving to generate income, to foster subsistence and promote free giving against poverty, alienation and the principle of abstract equivalence.

Though related to the traditional cooperatives, Solidarity Economy-activists are very aware of the limitations of traditional approaches of workers democracy as well as of the degeneration many cooperatives have undergone, loosing their transformative potential completely to market competition and neoliberal management. In order to operationalize the concept of Solidarity Economy for mapping purposes, the movement in Brazil currently works with a definition integrating self-management, cooperation and solidarity towards society. The mapping and incubation group in Nordhessen (Kassel, Germany) added ecological consciousness to this working definition of Solidarity Economy.

The background of our invitation to the workshop was the manifold crisis of neoliberal capitalism, encompassing all economic, social and ecological relations. So we invited a group of about 30 people from quite diverse fields of intellectual and political activity from Germany, Austria and Brazil who wanted to explore Solidarity Economy as a promising, multifaceted and diverse approach for doing economy differently - as a crucial alternative to the capitalist crisis we have to deal with.

You will find all presentations in English as power point slides under the following link: http://solcom.ning.com/forum/topics/materials-workshop- solidarity

After the presentations at the end of the second workshop day, possible project partnerships and options to find financial and organizational support were explored. The most promising developments currently are the political interest in Styria for Solidarity Economy, even if much mediation and communication on this perspective is still to be done, as well as the activities for establishing a Solidarity Economy Center in Vienna.

The website cited above - http://solcom.ning.com/ - was already created before the workshop, but beautifully fits to the event. The aim of the SOLCOM- Ning is to combine the approaches of Solidarity Economy (SOL) and the Commons (COM), promoting research into two elements of a new reality: an economy based on concrete values instead of one, abstract value and a culture of sharing instead of separating.

We currently run the Ning only in German (expect the materials from the workshop on Solidarity Economy in Graz). If an English version should be implemented is open to discussion. If anyone is interested in being registered (which is necessary in order to contribute), please contact andreas.exner@chello.at

More Information (ToC of the presentations):

Ana Dubeux: Incubation, concrete examples of Solidarity Economy in Brazil

Jonas Bertucci: Mapping of Solidarity Economy in Brazil in view of the RIPESS-process

Kristina Bayer, Barbara Schweitzer: Mapping and incubating Solidarity Economy in a Middle European context

Markus Auinger: Solidarity Economy - emancipatory social change or self- help? The relation between state and civil society

Reinhard Paulesich, Angelika Peckary: A rating system for sustainable enterprises. A way towards solidarity economy networks?

Andreas Exner: Solidarity Economy ? pathway towards a commons-based mode of production

Armin Pircher-Verdofer: Solidarity Economy and democracy. Results from empirical studies

Anna Schreuer: Energy cooperatives and local co-ownership in the area of renewable energy technologies

Florian Ledermann: On the possibilities of mapping and visualizing Solidarity Economy projects

Article of the P2P Foundation