Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Solidarity/Social Economy Networks

August 2, 2005

I wanted to introduce you to two networks that I have been active in over the last three years, and seek your assistance in introducing them to the broader activist community in the US.

Like most of the things we do, these networks are in the process of becoming…but I think they have promise and already constitute an interesting and constructive venue for building the movement around an alternative vision of development and plan of action that can compete with the neo-liberal global strategy.

RIPESS (www.ripess.net) is the French acronym for the Intercontinental Network for the Promotion of the Solidarity/Social Economy. It grew out of a joint effort of community development leaders and academicians from Montreal and the same from South America. In 1997, they organized a conference on the Solidarity/Social Economy in Lima, Peru, expecting your typical 40-50 people. Over 200 people from 21 countries showed up and RIPESS was born. Due to the enthusiasm for North and South solidarity around a development vision, they committed to building their network. They had a follow-up congress in Quebec City in 2001 with almost double the participants and countries represented. At that Congress, leadership for RIPESS was elected and the central office was established in Dakar, Senegal. They have been active in the World Social Forums at Porto Alegre and Mumbai.

I was recruited to be on the International Liaison Committee and have attended meetings in both Montreal and Dakar. This network is serious about building the international movement around the social economy. Their members have strong ties in local universities; in the community development field as well as in the networks that serve the informal economy in their countries. They are eager to have increased contact and exchange with their American colleagues.

They are now actively recruiting for their Congress in Dakar. The Congress will be a rich experience of exchange between organizations as well as a fascinating introduction to West Africa and Senegal. I've included the description of the Congress and the Call for Workshops. I think you and your organization would find the experience incredibly rewarding.

I'm going and taking my family. My first experience in Dakar was incredible both because of the interesting character of the country but, more importantly, because of the excellent access our hosts-the current leadership of RIPESS-had with grass root organizations, the business community, NGOs, and government officials. We saw a number of very interesting projects during our visit and created lasting relationships with those who share our commitment for a global solidarity economy.

Out of this broader network, a Canadian/US group was formed last year at the national Community Economic Development conference in Trois Riviere, Quebec. This is the North American Network on the Solidarity Economy (NANSE). It is committed to increasing the strategic dialogue and joint action between leaders in community economic development and the social economy in our two countries. For example, CLCR's program, Food Chicago now has a sister project in Vancouver with the Specialty Food Producers Cooperative and we have had two productive meetings and regular exchanges. The national journal of the Canadian CED movement, Making Waves, dedicates four pages each issue to news and ideas that are evolving from this network. It is also dedicated to organizing participation in the Dakar conference.

Here's a link. www.cedworks.com/international.html

If you go to this link, scroll to the bottom of the page and there's a link to the current issue of Making Waves and an article I wrote to stimulate discussion.

I would encourage you to look into these networks, to consider becoming involved and supportive, and to pass on the information about them to your various networks whose interests overlap with these, and who could contribute to as well as benefit from increased contact with those in the South and North working on the alternative model.

I would be more than happy to answer any questions you might have. I am also very interested in getting the word out-so any way you could help me would be deeply appreciated.

Dan Swinney
Center for Labor and Community Research
773 278 5418, ext. 13