A Few Thoughts on Studying the Most Radical Social Movement of the Twenty-first Century

First published by John Foran, on Resilience.org  | MAR 14, 2016

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Introduction

We are living through an unprecedented crisis, in a world beset by massive social problems – the obscene poverty and inequality that neoliberal capitalist globalization has wreaked on at least two-thirds of humanity, the immobility of the political elite almost everywhere, and cultures of violence that poison our lives from the most intimate relations to the mass murder of the world’s wars.

These interconnected problems are rooted in long-standing processes of inequality – patriarchy, racism, colonialism, capitalism, and now corporate-controlled globalization – whose ongoing, overlapping legacies are making the early twenty-first century a crucial hinge of history.

And now, with climate change, we are facing a perfect storm of suffering. In fact, given the timeline that climate science is screaming at us, we confront a crisis of humanity and of all species that must be resolved for better or worse by those living on this precarious planet today.  We are called by the urgency of the crisis to “change everything” as Naomi Klein puts it, and to do so in something like the next two decades.

With other observers, activists, and scholars I believe that only the assembling of the broadest, most powerful social movement the world has ever seen has a chance of doing this in the narrow window the science imposes on us. The movements for environmental, climate, and social justice that I have spent my life studying and now participate in must become much stronger than at present.  But my reading of world history leads me to believe that they can succeed.  They must, if we are to safely navigate the present crisis and even come out of it living in ways that are far more egalitarian, deeply democratic, and fulfilling than the world we presently inhabit.

Those of us who are academics (or journalists, or writers and creators of culture of every kind) need to focus our minds now, I think, on the “wicked” problem of climate change, to reinvigorate our own disciplines and work on our interdisciplinary skills (another way of saying learning how to connect the dots) and bring all this into a wide open dialogue, in ways that are consistent with the first principle of sociology, of ecology, of systems thinking, and, ironically enough, of Buddhism, as I understand it (and of Gaia theory, for that matter):  everything is connected.

How Strong is the Climate Justice Movement?

The movement I study and am part of is growing, getting bigger, stronger, smarter, more diverse, and more creative with every passing year – and that’s important.

But it’s still not enough.

The task – and the question on every scholar-activist’s mind – is how do we get from where we are to where we need to be?  And how do we do that thoughtfully, quickly, and for the long haul?

If I had to try to sum up the broad outlines of what the climate justice movement is planning going into 2016, it would be something like Resist, Rethink, Retool, Re-imagine…

What Happened in Paris at the UN Climate Summit?

Let’s do a global stock take – as the UNFCCC [United Framework Convention on Climate Change, which oversees the annual climate summits] likes to call it – of the recent “Paris Agreement.”  I’ve thought about this a fair amount, gathering into a bundle some of the fascinatingly divergent analyses, and as Paris recedes into the rear view mirror, more and more I’m coming to the view that that’s where it belongs – behind us.  Paris comes down to a cynical joke played on the peoples of the world.

The Paris Agreement calls on the world to keep global warming “well under 2 degrees, and as close to 1.5 degrees as possible.” That is useful, but like the rest of the high-minded words in this non-binding agreement, it is merely “voluntary” and “aspirational,” and at the rate these negotiations have been going for two decades, it will take at least the next ten COPs for them to get any traction (the COP refers to the Conferences of the Parties, as the climate negotiations are called, followed by the number of years since the first in 1995, making Paris COP 21).

We can’t let them delay that long, or the window for two degrees will close…

I titled my blog post on the day of the treaty “Paper Heroes.”  I think I may have stumbled onto one of the deep truths of what went down.  Paris was so triumphalist and so flimsy that it bears comparison to the shrillness of the know nothing/do nothing crowing of the Trump campaign. 

Will the movement use it against its architects (the well-meaning capitalist reformists of the UNFCCC and the enlightened wing of the one percent) and against our enemies – the fossil fuel industry, the political elites, the rich, the banks, and all the rest?  That’s a certainty.

Will we throw the cynical references to indigenous rights, a gender perspective, vulnerable nations, human rights, and intergenerational equity into their faces?  Yes, we will.

Will we seize on the phrase “climate justice, as some call it” they so patronizingly let appear in the text – yes, we intend to make them come to rue the day they wrote them, and force them to understand these words, if we can.

To hold the line on climate change to “dangerous” levels (that is the best we can do, and we are headed for “extremely dangerous” – in all probability catastrophic – at present), we would need something akin to a radical climate moonshot, an ecosocialist World War II-type war effort, a great transformation of everything that is so wrong about the world we live in.  Everything.

How do we do it? Or “What I’ve learned about how to change society radically (in a good sense, of course!) in the last thirty-six years…”

Revolutions – and other movements for radical social change[1] – require broadly-based alliances of people from multiple classes, both (or more) genders, and cross-racial/ethnic alliances to succeed.

People get involved in such movements when one or more political cultures of opposition and resistance gain adherents (Foran 2014).  The origins of such political cultures start with the experiences of people, in the grievances they endure and the emotional and political responses they fashion using every available cultural tool and historical memory they possess. For example, when collective discourses like environmentalism or feminism are available in the form of consciously articulated ideologies, would-be social actors take them up and put them to work locally, and in this way they tend to diffuse through activist groups into local settings and circulate among social movements. Perhaps more importantly, popular idioms or folk understandings – what student of revolutions Eric Selbin calls “rich stories,” or cross-generational political imaginaries in the language of my research partner Richard Widick – are also available for use, providing new social actors as well as seasoned activists with locally understood, everyday terms such as fairness, justice, or democracy. In the case of climate activism, this might mean justice, buen vivir, historical responsibility, or intergenerational equity.

When these take hold in a large enough social group or wider society, often through the work of some kind of radical/progressive organization or network, a social movement can gain enough committed followers to take decisive action. The forging of a strong and vibrant political culture of opposition is thus a collective accomplishment, carried through by the actions of many people.

In any given society, there usually exist multiple political cultures of opposition, for people do not necessarily share the same experiences, speak similar idioms, or respond as one to the call of formal ideologies. The most effective social movements find ways of bridging the differences through the skillful creation of a common goal, such as the concise demand for “System change, not climate change!” raised at COP 15 in Copenhagen in 2009. When this happens, a movement’s chances of growth and success are considerably increased.

Such alliances, and the political cultures of opposition that motivate them, are an indispensable factor in the making and success of revolutions.

There are, of course, also political and economic factors involved in a revolution’s success.  I explored these in depth, and developed a model of the causes of revolutions in Taking Power:  On the Origins of Third World Revolutions.

Unfortunately, all twentieth-century and anti-colonial social revolutions fell short of the achieving the dreams of those who made them.  The reasons for this include:

~ fragmentation of the broad revolutionary alliance after it came to power

~ intense outside pressures, usually from the First World, often from the U.S.

~ pre-existing inequalities, both within and between countries

~ lack of popular participation in governing (related to the first factor)

But 21st-century movements for radical social change – recall that my definitions is not restricted to revolutions – look different from their 20th-century counterparts because:

~ they are mostly non-violent

~ they are more horizontally organized

~ they are even more diverse

~ they have dynamic new political cultures of opposition and resistance

They also feature exciting political cultures of creation…  Movements become even stronger when to a widely felt culture of opposition and resistance they add a positive vision of a better world, an alternative to strive for that might improve or replace what exists. As David Pellow  has put it: “Many movements begin with a grievance or a critique, but what sustains them and pushes people out into the streets (or underground) is often a vision, a dream of something better.”

These movements are coming to power or attempting to do so, in some strikingly new ways: through elections, as in the case of the “Pink Tide” governments in Ecuador, Bolivia, and Venezuela (and now attempting this in Europe, or even with the Bernie Sanders campaign);  through occupations of public spaces, as in the wave of the Occupy movements of 2011 and others since;  through regional or local power-taking, or of re-making the nature of power altogether, as the Zapatistas have been doing in Chiapas since 1994; and through global networks such as the global justice movement of the 2000s, and now the global climate justice movement.

All of these movements are increasingly intersectional in terms of both their social make-up (crossing race/ethnic, gender, and class lines) and the issues they are connecting the dots of.

The movements that are most likely to succeed will feature some new combination of 1) stronger social movements and political cultures of opposition and creation, and 2) new kinds of parties, joined in 3) some new kind of networked structure, and 4) operating locally, nationally, and globally.

In a nutshell, the sum of my study of revolutions and movements for radical social change in the 20th and 21st centuries so far is this:

We may need a combination of both a dense network of movements and a totally new type of political party to achieve anything like deep radical social change.

These movements will have to develop both powerful political cultures of opposition, and compelling political cultures of creation.

At least these are hypotheses for scholar-activists to debate!

Conclusion:  What is to be done?

As for the global climate justice movement, might it prove to be the most radical social movement of the twenty-first century?

It could if we make it so.  We need to operate on all levels:  local to global, and from short-range defensive action against every fossil fuel project and electoral ploy, to medium-range reforms (like the Bernie Sanders campaign perhaps?  Come to think of it, the Sanders campaign is pretty short range at the moment, isn’t it?), to long-range radical (anti- or post- capitalist?) change.

With the added challenge that definition of “medium-range” in our critical present moment has been shortened to something like “from now to the next four years” and “long-range” “from now to the next 10-15 years” because that’s all we’ve got to bend the arc of climate justice.

But it can be done.  We will not “save” the world.  My reading of climate science makes me agree with ecosocialist scholar-activist Brad Hornick on this point:

All thinking clearly about climate and political realities can do is change the nature of the struggle.

It’s not an easy prospect as it requires heart-wrenching personal and collective existential crisis (questioning meaning in all facets of life and work).

I’ll say it now: there is conclusive evidence-based scientific determination of irreversible physical changes that will by necessity cause catastrophic destruction to civilization in the coming decades. Full stop.

We are at the point where we need to acknowledge these truths. It will come now or later – and if it comes later it will hit us much harder, and will mean deterioration in the relevance of certain life/work/political strategies.

It’s hard to say it better than that.  Consider this essay a wake-up call, colleagues.  A call to arms, comrades.  The time is now.  We are the available ones.  All of us.

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[1] Radical social change means, for me, “a deep transformation of a society (or other entity such as a community, region, or the whole world) in the direction of greater economic equality and political participation, accomplished by the actions of a strong and diverse popular movement.”

Borrow, Save, Share: 3 Ways Seeds Can Democratize Our Food System

Originally published on Yes Magazine authored by Neil Thapar.

Just six companies control 63 percent of the commercial seed market. But seed libraries offer us an opportunity to reclaim the seed commons and create our own community food systems.

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Our food system is broken and needs to be fixed, many say. But it isn’t broken. In fact, I think it’s working exactly how it was intended. The current food system, and the legal rules that govern it, have been built by and for only the largest producers, retailers, and manufacturers. The bigger the better, the logic goes, which is why our food economy is dominated by large, increasingly consolidated, vertically integrated corporations.

An especially consolidated sector of our food system is the seed economy; for example, just six companies control 63 percent of the commercial seed market. Because most of our food starts off as seed, instead of trying to fix a system that isn’t intended to work for the vast majority of people, animals, or the planet, we should try to create our own.

 If we want more equitable access to healthy, affordable food grown locally by small farmers who steward natural resources responsibly, this is exactly what we need to do. The task is tall, but so achievable, especially if we all commit to working together in the right direction. Here are three simple steps we can take to reintroduce democracy back into our seed system and into our neighborhoods.

1. Borrow

If you haven’t been to your local library recently, you might be surprised to find a seed library there. Across the United States, there are about 400 of these community-based seed sharing initiatives, which allow neighbors to share seeds with one another. It basically works like this: You borrow seeds, grow the plant, harvest almost all of the fruit (which you eat!), and save and return some of the seeds back to the library, where others will repeat the process. Seed librarian extraordinaire Rebecca Newburn, cofounder of Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library, says it like this: “It’s like checking out a book, except that you’ve added a chapter when you return it.”

Seed libraries make seeds freely available to its members or the public, relying on reciprocity and a sense of interdependence to ensure that its stock is continually replenished. By treating seeds as a common resource to be stewarded for the public benefit, libraries create what is called the seed commons. The commons reframes our role in relationship to seeds as that of caretakers instead of owners. While owners only have a responsibility to themselves, caretakers have a responsibility to the seeds and to the community that placed them under their care. By bringing seeds into the commons, we have the power to democratize access to, and control over, one of our basic necessities: food.

2. Save

Seed saving is nothing new. If anything, it’s likely one of the oldest continuous human traditions, going back some 10,000 years. Just in the last century or so, we as a society have lost—and been removed from—our connection to seed. In this time, seeds have been transformed from a common resource into a commodity, bought and sold and owned by fewer and fewer companies.

But saving seed is not necessarily simple. That’s why libraries exist as educational resources to help us rediscover the art and skill involved with it. Re-skilling ourselves means that we will be able to provide healthy foods to ourselves and our families, build community resilience in the face of climate change, and rediscover the cultural history and significance attached to the seeds we save.

In practice, it also means growing food for ourselves and our communities. The more food we grow ourselves, the less we rely on a global food system that prioritizes profit over environmental, human, or animal welfare. It also means that we are buying and selling food locally, circulating our dollars in our communities, and generating local wealth. Seed saving is at once an act of resistance and renewal.

3. Share

The success of our new food system relies equally on our independence from the current system as it does on our interdependence on each other. What that simply means is that we should share more and sharemore equitably. We should share both the risk and the reward, the profits and the losses, the efforts and the outcomes. By sharing, we also begin to take part in an alternative economy, one not based on transacting money for goods or services, but on relationships, gift giving, and mutual aid. At a time when dollars in our economy are increasingly scarce and consolidated in the hands of the wealthy few, sharing gives us the means to provide for ourselves.

In particular, sharing seeds is an easy place to start, because seeds by their nature almost beg to be shared. One tomato plant might produce upwards of 500 seeds, which, in theory, could be planted in 500 different gardens the next season. Now, imagine that 100 households grow five crops each to share their seeds. It’s not difficult to picture the multiplying effect community-based seed sharing could have on the total amount of local food production!

Yet no good deed goes unpunished. Right now, seed libraries across the country are struggling to protect their ability to facilitate local sharing. In partnership with others, Sustainable Economies Law Center, where I work, has been leading a campaign to raise public awareness of this struggle and to advocate on behalf of seed sharing organizations. You can learn more about it at our Save Seed Sharing website.

Creating a true bottom-up democracy means that we need to envision democracy not just in our government but in all aspects of our lives. Civic engagement is not just about choosing who to vote for—it’s also about choosing how and where to spend a dollar. Seed libraries offer us an opportunity to become more civically engaged by reintroducing democracy into the food economy, reclaiming the seed commons, and empowering communities to begin creating their own local food systems.

 

Neil Thapar wrote this article for YES! Magazine. Neil is a staff attorney at Sustainable Economies Law Center and leads its Food and Farmland programs. He is passionate about building collective power to recreate healthy, just, and resilient food systems. Follow him on Twitter @NeilThapar.

Plan C for Advancing the Commons Transition in Greece

Excerpt:

Plan A is the name for the capitulation towards the demands of the creditors, now the most realistic possibility; plan B is the Grexit which offers Greece an independent path within the same economic logic, but with basic sovereign powers to protect and advance their own interests; plan C stands for a Commons Transition, which can take place either under conditions laid out by Plan A or Plan B, but which could become the main strategy under conditions of a revival of popular power and democracy.

Read More here

It’s Time to Think Boldly About Building a New American System

First published on Yes Magazine here

The inability of politics to address poverty, climate change, and other basic challenges has fueled extraordinary experimentation in American communities. Welcome to a new conversation on how we make change happen.

Editor’s note: This video and statement are part of the Next System Project, a multi-year initiative to spark deep conversations on how to deal with systemic change in the coming decades.

It’s time for everyone who cares about our troubled country to face the depth of the systemic crisis we now confront as a nation. We must step back from the daily fray and ask: How do we actually get on a path to the kind of society—and world—we’d like now and for future generations? We must begin a real conversation—locally, nationally, and at all levels in between—on how to respond to the profound challenge of our time in history.

It is possible to build a new and better America beyond the failed systems of the past and present.

“If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending,” Lincoln said, “we could better judge what to do.” Today’s answer to Lincoln’s charge is grim. If one looks at “where we are” among advanced democracies across more than a score of key indicators of national well-being—including relative poverty, inequality, education, social mobility, health, environment, militarization, democracy, and more—we find ourselves exactly where we don’t want to be: at or near the bottom.

We face a systemic crisis

The challenging realities of growing inequality, political stalemate, and climate disruption prompt an important insight. When big problems emerge across the entire spectrum of national life, it cannot be due to small reasons. When the old ways no longer produce the outcomes we are looking for, something deeper is occurring. We have fundamental problems because of fundamental flaws in our economic and political system. The crisis now unfolding in so many ways across our country amounts to a systemic crisis.

Today’s political economic system is not programmed to secure the well being of people, place and planet. Instead, its priorities are corporate profits, the growth of GDP, and the projection of national power. If we are to address the manifold challenges we face in a serious way, we need to think through and then build a new political economy that takes us beyond the current system that is failing all around us. However difficult the task, however long it may take, systemic problems require systemic solutions.

We need systemic solutions

The social pain arising from the economic crisis, the steady unfolding of the climate calamity, and many other deeply troubling developments have made it possible to pose the question of large-scale system change in a serious fashion in the United States. Yet, despite this new space for a debate about fundamental change, challenges to the system have until recently been constrained by a continuing lack of imagination concerning social, economic and political alternatives. It is said that the existing system is the only possibility, one we must accept and work with—that, as Margaret Thatcher famously insisted, “There is no alternative.” But she had it wrong.

There are real alternatives

The good news is that the inability of traditional politics and policies to address fundamental challenges has fueled an extraordinary amount of experimentation in communities across the United States—and around the world. It has also generated an increasing number of sophisticated and thoughtful proposals for transformative change. Together these developments suggest that it is possible to build a new and better America beyond the failed systems of the past and present.

We have fundamental problems because of fundamental flaws in our economic and political system.

Indeed, new terms have begun to gain currency among diverse social movements and activist communities—an indication that the domination of traditional thinking has already started to weaken. Thus we encounter the sharing economy, the caring economy, the solidarity economy, the restorative economy, the regenerative economy, the sustaining economy, the resilient economy, and, of course, the new economy. There is talk of the need for a great transition. Several of these approaches already have significant networks and thoughtful research efforts underway. New thinking by creative scholars and members of the labor movement and community-oriented advocates is also contributing to the ferment.

Time for a national debate

It is time for Americans to think boldly about what is required to deal with the systemic difficulties facing the United States. It is time to explore genuine alternatives and new models—”the next system.” It is time to debate what it will take to move our country to a very different place, one where outcomes that are truly sustainable, equitable, and democratic are commonplace.

Those of us signing this statement are committed to working towards these ends.

Sign on at http://thenextsystem.org.

Signatories:

Gar Alperovitz—The Next System Project
James Gustave Speth—The Next System Project
Annie Leonard—Greenpeace USA
Robert B. Reich—University of California at Berkeley
Barbara Ehrenreich—Author
Bill McKibben—350.org
Oliver Stone—Academy Award-winning Filmmaker
Sarita Gupta—Jobs With Justice
Noam Chomsky—Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Daniel Ellsberg—Author, Whistleblower
Ralph Nader—Consumer Advocate, Author, Former Presidential Candidate
Ai-jen Poo—National Domestic Workers Alliance
Danny Glover—Actor, Social Activist, YES! Magazine board member
Kali Akuno—Malcolm X Grassroots Movement
Seymour Hersh—Journalist
Saru Jayaraman—Food Labor Research Center University of California, Berkeley
David Korten—Living Economies Forum, YES! Magazine co-founder and board member
Stacy Mitchell—Institute for Local Self-Reliance
Raj Patel—University of Texas, Austin
Sarah van Gelder—Editor in Chief at YES! Magazine

Plus hundreds more—view them here!

The First FairCoop Bulletin

Hello friends! This is the first FairCoop Bulletin; we plan on sending these out on a semi-regular, (non-spammy) basis to let you know what’s going on in the global Fair.coop movement. The wealth of any movement is its members so please if you have any doubts, questions, suggestions or downright inspirations, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and get involved.

1. Participate in defining how FairCoop is going to make decisions!

Ok first of all, as you probably know, the decision-making structure of Fair.coop is based around councils, like the branches of a tree, and the ‘trunk’ of this tree is the provisional Ecosystemic Council, which is now beginning to do its work, and as one of its main tasks has developed a draft of the methodological process for making decisions at FairCoop ecosystem level.

Right now the draft has been published here.

Please have a read – there are two weeks for the document to be discussed and improved in our own social network, the Fairnetwork.

These are the complete deadlines that are scheduled:

  • Draft: 06-18 November
  • internal discussion on the council: 19-26 November
  • open discussion on the network: 27 -17 December
  • draft update with network: 18-21 December
  • Voting: (to confirm between finals of December and beginnings of January)

2. Internal economics updates

FairCoop has received a donation of 12600 euros from lush.com, an international Fair Trade company dedicated to fresh hand made cosmetics, that is involved in helping activists and good causes, like permaculture and animal rights around the world. Our ongoing conversation with Lush continues to make broader collaborations in the near future possible.

At the same time that we are able to share this information we have published the incomes and spends of the first three months of FairCoop activity. You can get the info and make comments in this link: https://fair.to/SLgom

3. A new network front page has been released. From here it will be easy for you to browse the different resources of the FairNetwork.

https://fair.coop/fairnetwork/

4. A new local nodes guide has been published, if you are interested in setting up a local node, check out this document!

https://fair.coop/docs/how-to-create-local-nodes

5. The translation to diverse languages continues!

German and Romanian, are already translated and we are working for add they in the site. More help is needed for those languages that are in the works, like, Portuguese, Italian, Norwegian, Dutch…

Check how to contribute to translations here:

https://fair.coop/docs/how-to-cooperate-with-translations/

Also we want to remind you that if you don’t feel totally confident writing in English you can write in your own language. To make it easy for everyone to follow the discussions, we would like to suggest using these two forums for multilingual writings:

– For asking questions:  https://fair.coop/groups/faircoop-community/ask-us-anything/forum/

– For sharing ideas, proposals, thoughts, etc…: FairCoop Community -> https://fair.coop/groups/faircoop-community/forum/

6. Call for the Global South Council. The process for receiving the biographies of the candidates who want to become members of the first (provisional) Global South Council is open. If you are interested in becoming part of the council, please send your bio to any of the Ecosystemic Council members (https://fair.coop/ecosystemic-council/). If you aren’t yet in contact with any of us, please contact us at coop at fair.coop

Originally published here : https://fair.coop/the-first-fair-coop-bulletin/

10 Ideas For Change, Co-operative Local Economies

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As the cracks in corporate capitalism deepen, the co-operative economy is gaining strength. Rooted in community and in the democratisation of ownership, co-operative structures allow citizens to reclaim power over their workplaces, their open spaces, their housing, shops and public realm. Here are ten ideas for building grassroots democratic economies:

1. Take over local shops: Community-run shops – and pubs and petrol stations and libraries – have grown in the UK in recent years, particularly in rural areas. In Ceredigion a co-operative called 4cg began by fighting back against a supermarket planning to move into the town. Through a series of share issues it has communally purchased land and buildings and offers cheap parking and facilities. Its assets now include a community shop as an outlet for local producers and a children’s centre. In a remote island in Maine in New England, employees bought out the three main retail businesses in the town to create the largest worker co-op in the state.

2. Support the development of co-ops: New York City’s most recent budget includes $1.2m for the development and support of worker-owned co-ops, the biggest investment ever made by a city government in the US. In the Bronx, the Green Worker Co-operatives runs a Co-op Academy to help new co-ops get off the ground. The Fund for Democratic Communities supports the development of democratic communities in southern states of the US. In the UK there are a number of development agencies including the Wales Co-operative Centre, Co-operative Development Scotland and Co-operatives UK.

3. Build community media: The centralisation and corporatisation of media has huge implications for local development and democracy. In many places local newspapers have succumbed to market forces and closed their doors. But a movement of co-operative and community-run media businesses is building. Sheffield is home to the UK’s first local television community benefit society, Sheffield Live TV, funded by community shares, and in France a crowdfunding campaign to save regional daily Nice-Matin and convert it into a worker’s co-operative beat its target of €300,000. The West Highlands Free Press has been running for over 40 years and is now employee-owned.

4. Mutualise the local economy: Sheffield co-operative Regather’s ambitious mission is to create a mutual local economy. It helps local people exchange goods and services with each other, expand co-operative working and build collective resources. In Dalston in east London, the Hackney Co-operative Developments supports and incubates cooperative and locally-run businesses.

5. Take over the local football club: The most recent issue of New Start shone a light on the growing number of supporter-led football clubs and the power of community-run clubs to boost their local economy. As big clubs get ever more remote from the communities in which they are based, Supporter’s Direct is helping a new wave of supporter-led clubs to emerge.

6. Gain community ownership of natural assets: Our ancestors – who worked together on common land and managed local woodland as communities – would have despaired at today’s concentration of land ownership and gated communities. A new commons movement is rebuilding community ownership of parkswoodlands and evenmountains.

7. House-build for the common good: Rather than allowing housebuilders, developers and property owners to extract all the value from new developments, there are a number of ways in which that value can be used for the benefit of the wider community. Community Land Trusts are gaining momentum across the UK as housing becomes increasingly out of the reach of many. Community-controlled and owned, they hold land in trust so that housing remains permanently affordable.New garden cities are reviving Ebenezer Howard’s model, which spread the increased value of development to build community infrastructure.

8. Set up community finance mechanisms: New forms of local finance are needed to drive a co-operative revolution. In many places local banks and investment clubs help support co-operative development. In the US urban community land trusts have flourished with the help of city-CLT relationships, in which the local government supports and helps fund new developments. In Germany the KfW public bank provides capital at 1% to local co-operative banks and municipal savings banks for local investment.

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9. Fund the platform: Co-ops and collaborative ventures rely on civic participation, and when it comes to participation, the wider and deeper the better. Organisations like Civic Systems Lab have learnt that the creation of an open platform, on which citizens are invited to co-build the projects and services they want, has greater impact than pre-defined projects that limit involvement. Good examples are Singeldingen, a kiosk in a park in Rotterdam that has become a base from which locals run an endless range of activities during the summer months, and Incredible Edible Todmorden, which invited the whole town to become food growers.

10. Open a Mayor’s Living Room – or similar neighbourhood space: An empty property on a street corner in Rotterdam, previously a place for anti-social behavior, has become the meeting place for the whole neighbourhood. In the so-called Mayor’s Living Room the local community comes together to cook, hold meetings, play music and hang out. Households can become members and pay €3 a month, which helps upkeep the building. Residents come together to celebrate national holidays and, as described in the Community Lovers Guide to Rotterdam, ‘young and old, local residents and professionals, everyone has found a place in our living room’.

Original article published at : https://www.popularresistance.org/10-ideas-for-change-co-operative-local-economies/