After the outbreak of the World Economic Crisis it was investigated which sectors of society and economy were the most resistant to the blows of that crisis and everything pointed to social enterprises. While the number of overall employees in Italy was drastically reduced in 2009, social cooperatives increased the number of employees by 2.7%. There were 5 million unemployed in Spain, and cooperatives employed 7.2% of the unemployed. During this period, the sector in Serbia began to develop rapidly. This is not the time to focus the responsibility on those actors, who can be called actors of the non-profit, third, social or solidarity sector, but we are again given the opportunity to reflect on the principles and values around which the entire system is tailored: organizing, management, decision-making, business, and distribution. Such moments of crisis remind us that it can be different and that the consequences of terrible social and economic upheavals can have different effects.
Solidarity economy does not deviate from the principle. Solidarity, cooperation, reciprocity, equality at all levels, participatory democracy, sustainability, and pluralism are not mere terms nor do they in themselves and separate from each other make any sense. They are woven into every aspect of what a solidarity economy is. They are taken as the starting point of every structure and process of organization of the solidarity economy, ensuring a consistent focus on people and the planet, that is, a just and sustainable system. We remind you that the solidarity economy encompasses very different economic models focused on improving quality in the entire community, based on the principles of caring for people, the environment and equitable distribution. Examples are inexhaustible: goods sharing systems, ethical banks, local currencies, local trade trading systems (LETS), mutual funds, etc.
Solidarity economy organizations emerge in crises and continue to operate after crises, still rooted in the principles on which they are based. Consistency is one of the main reasons for their stability and the trust that citizens place in them, through employment and volunteering in these organizations, purchasing products and services from them, and participating in the establishment, financing, and management of such organizations.
It is the responsibility of all of us as individuals to see that any crisis that befalls us will not be resolved in a sustainable way or establish a new just system if we do not rethink and implement new models of organization at all levels of our activities: political, economic, social and even private. This means that the call for solidarity is not a call to take care of only a part of our everyday life (small trader, local farmer, baker) when we are valorizing for the first time, but to understand that our entire everyday life is what we need and to which we must contribute in order to establish together a new, more just system in which people, the planet and the economy do not oppose each other, but complement each other, enabling sustainable development for the benefit of all.
In this moment of crisis, yes, we should applaud both health workers and bakers and grocers and volunteers. But every day we need to look at the examples of people who act out of solidarity and become part of it voluntarily. We should applaud each other every day, because we are each other’s basis of everyday life. There are no individual heroes, but there is reciprocity in action, responsibility for what has been done and said, and solidarity as a guide for building a better world.
Even in these moments the Coalition for the Solidarity Economy Development will continue to advocate for the promotion of the work, principles and values of social enterprises and the solidarity economy. We remind that social and economic problems in our community are present not only in times of crisis and do not arise only after they end, but exist continuously. For that reason, we repeat that this is the time to redefine the basis of our organization, management, decision-making, business, and distribution. Think, then act!
April 8, 2020 Coalition for the Solidarity Economy Development