Mon 31 Jan 2022 4:09PM

Solidarity Economy Principles

SF Sean Farmelo Public Seen by 108

Hi all,

I thought I would share these principles which are being worked on at present by North American co-operatives, I wonder what people think of them and whether anyone sees any scope for contributions to the drafting process. Personally I was thinking that something to do with climate, approaches to value and degrowth would be a good addition, and that these sort of more developed principles could be something useful to worker co-operatives in the process of developing their secondary rules. https://solidarityeconomyprinciples.org/about/


Graham Tue 1 Feb 2022 11:02AM

My very rapid take on this long list is that it is narrowing in its nature. If a goal of building a solidarity economy is to be inclusive, this probably isn't the best way to go about that.


Sion Whellens (Principle Six/Calverts) Thu 3 Feb 2022 10:35PM

V interesting. Let's imagine there was a new worker co-op federation in the UK; what would we take or adapt from this to inform own vision/mission/practice? I find it in some ways high falutin' but a basic orientation to solidarity economics and social/ecological equity seems... logical


Simon Ball (Blake House) Fri 4 Feb 2022 8:06AM

obvs I've had a bit of a think about this topic...

A new worker coop federation would have to take a very soulful approach to formation, stepping outside the fashionable terminologies of the present context to become a true embodiment of the membership (rather than chasing fashion).

I would call it Association Cooperation. A bit like supporting your local non league football team instead of submitting to the professional wrestling of the bigger leagues.

The concept being, worker cooperation, especially filtered down into Solid Fund membership, has a club like mentality. We, to paraphrase, reject the norms of traditional business models (and even the organisation of society) and work incredibly hard for the ideals that we believe in. Often for little material gain, several headaches and (maybe only in my personal experience) daily existential crises.

If we take a brief look at why Coops UK membership has been a source of frustration to many (aside from its unfortunate acronym), it's to do with ironically wanting to rebel and reshape the whole organisation so that it would actually practice cooperative principles and values...and then having a moan when it doesn't put on relevant or interesting events for worker coops. It's unlikely that it'll ever exist as a truly satisfying representative body for worker coops, as, broadly, that's not what it is or will be or even can be.

So then if we imagine that there was a new worker co-op federation in the UK, I would suggest that it ought to keep things simple. It ought to act as a private members club for worker cooperators who choose to join, using the SF pot to put on events and experiences that interest the membership, occasionally doing subversive outreach of some kind (in very iconoclastic fashion), having fun, and offering family (not business) like support when a member is in hardship.

Politics ought to be reserved for pubs and self organised discussion circles, as you can literally walk down the street and join any mainstream organisation and get roped into doing political campaigning for nebulous causes. I believe that if you 'self identify' as a worker cooperator, that ought to speak for itself in many ways. There is no way you can find an agreeable political position for all members of worker coops, we're too independent and, at least in my case, uncompromising.

I could give you a run down of my work experience making videos about the 'Social and Solidarity Economy' (the last film was SSE in SE Asia..) and why it's a tongue twister that nobody can actually satisfactorily define (even if there's a lot of "work" being done on the topic), but it's probably a more entertaining recollection in a pub (or private members club chambers).

I have no idea if something like what I've described is desired by anybody, but it's the organisation I would want to be a part of.

Ultimately it would take a bit of collective will and cooperation to get it off the ground, but if it was spelled out in these kind of simple terms then there wouldn't need to be long political meetings trying to get a google doc organised correctly (the organisation should be far, far removed from labouring - it needs to be an escape from labour!) and it could be knocked up pretty quickly, like in one concentrated evening or weekend.


Graham Fri 4 Feb 2022 8:49AM

It is logical, and in my view these things naturally stem from the cooperative values and principles. Is it useful to make them explicit? I'm really not sure on that point - isn't it just making the list longer?


Nathan Brown (Co-op Culture) Fri 4 Feb 2022 9:13AM

Interesting take Simon. I thought a worker co-op fed would have worker co-ops as the members - one co-op one vote. The worker co-ops pay in not the individuals. It also makes the "membership" job far simpler and ensures that the only stakeholders who get to join and have a say are actually worker co-ops. Clearer definition, less of them. Solidfund can still exist as the separate entity for individual worker co-operators and supporters of worker coops and decide whether or not to support the federation - I would be proposing we do as the best embodiment of our stated purpose and aims, and have that as a major spend decision that is reviewed annually :-) An interesting fork is whether SF membership counts towards the subs/membership fee for any worker co-op (if more than x% of your members are Solidfund members you get free/discounted membership...creating a symbiosis. Sorry getting ahead of myself here


Nathan Brown (Co-op Culture) Fri 4 Feb 2022 9:15AM

To your point @Sion Whellens (Principle Six/Calverts) A commitment to social/ecological equity would be a great principle/aim. And orientation to "solidarity economics" (which as Simon says below may be replace by a newer cooler shinier term) might be the tactic/strategy we use.


Simon Ball (Blake House) Fri 4 Feb 2022 9:26AM

I dunno. We kind of have whole worker co-op membership of Solid Fund and there ends up being a lot of signing up but not a lot of engagement, which then probably leads to large coops having to invent work to tell people about Solid Fund (assuming), which then still leads to low engagement around a core group of active participants. So clearly that method of marketing doesn't really work and we would be much more likely to attract a larger circle of engagement if the new federation was more 'exclusive', prompting ideas of scarcity and aspiration. From all of my experience in life, having something that is more mysterious and harder to get in to usually makes me want it more.

Eg, look at the Free Masons. Here's me thinking it's a cool historical suspicious organisation, but then you look at the website and it looks almost exactly the same as joining coops uk or the bakers union or whatever...forget about needing to source a member out in the world and get initiated, I can just fill out a form....boring, disregarded.

I don't know if Solid Fund is working as well as it could, judging by the small number of proposals that are submitted. An interesting fork of SF to a private self selecting worker cooperator federation would, in theory, lead to a pipeline of new members who might have something to pitch to the fund. This then respects the members of worker coops who want to be left alone and not interact with 'the movement' as a whole, and provides an appropriate outlet for those that do.


Sion Whellens (Principle Six/Calverts) Fri 4 Feb 2022 9:07AM

An updated Worker Coop Code would probably do it


Sion Whellens (Principle Six/Calverts) Fri 4 Feb 2022 11:11AM

@Simon Ball (Blake House Coop) I'd question the idea that participation in Solidfund is peculiarly low (wrote about this in a recent article for Stir), and I feel Solidfund is a separate thing from 'the new federation' idea, even if there would obviously be synergies. Wouldn't a federation have worker co-ops as its core membership, rather than individuals like Solidfund, and a different remit?


Simon Ball (Blake House) Fri 4 Feb 2022 12:10PM

not peculiarly low, just low in the context of how I perceive the potential/ambition of the fund I suppose. Idk how proselytising in Stir will necessary expand the membership of Solid Fund as presumably a lot of the readership and membership crosses over. It all, ultimately, depends on how the level of risk and ambition is set in the wider 'movement'.

I can only write what I think. I suppose if the goal of a new worker coop fed is to simply be a like for like replacement for Coops UK and you follow their membership criteria (eg be a cooperative business) then you're likely to end up with an identical organisation, warts n all. It's probably fine for Coops UK to exist if people feel the need to attend the practitioner's forum and get HR training or whatever. Those things are theoretically necessary for the folks that get sent to them, but are not necessarily revolutionary. There shouldn't be any desire for a new worker coop federation to run mirror image events like that..!

What I'm getting at is that when a big cooperative signs up lots of people to Solid Fund, it doesn't really equate to lots of engagement. But when someone has found the page and on their own volition decided to participate, usually the outcome is lots of engagement. So therefore why not set up a self selecting group of individuals who are enthusiastic about worker coops and doing cool stuff, rather than getting all institutional and complicated. Make something irresistible, have lots of fun. Let Coops UK handle all the boring procedural stuff while we blaze an exciting new trail etc etc.

But as I mentioned above, it can only exist if there is the collective will and desire to see something like the above described exist.

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