Solidarity Economy Commons

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European Commons Assembly – Policy Proposal

Commons & Social and Solidarity Economy

Proponents: Ana Margarida Esteves (ISCTE-IUL), Nicole Alix (La Coop des Communs), Ruby Van Der Wekken, Sunna Kovanen, Natália Avlona

Policy Proposal hackpad link:


Economic globalization and the growing financialization of productive activity has led to a growing concentration of production and commercialization in large transnational conglomerates. This resulted in the highest levels of unemployment, social exclusion and de-skilling since the Great Depression of the 1930's. Two emerging social movements - The Commons and Social and Solidarity Economy - have been integrating the knowledge accumulated by the Global Justice movement of the 1990's and 2000's in the development of (g)local responses to these trends. This includes the defense and/or promotion of urban, rural and internet commons for the purpose of promotion of economic and environmental justice, community-building and neighborhood, town and rural revitalization. It also includes the promotion of grassroots, cooperative forms of production, finance, commercialization and usage of the commons.

The promotion of a Social and Solidarity Economy is considered a fundamental condition for the sustainability of the Commons. Social and Solidarity economy is a set of practices and institutions that support the creation of cooperative, democratic and inclusive commons and the commoning around them. It also supports the transition from an extractivist and accumulative value regime to a generative value regime. Therefore, it is fundamental to promote not only collaboration, but also convergence between these two movements.

The Problem

There is ample evidence, both from academia as well as from social movements and social and solidarity economy practitioners, which suggests that the lack of regulatory mechanisms which support commons-oriented projects, as well as social and solidarity economy practices and organizations undermines not only the sustainability of these two types of initiatives, but also the possibility for an effective and sustainable collaboration between these two movements.

European Regional Policy and international trade policies hinder strongly the development of social and solidarity economies in Europe. The first mentioned are based on the idea of global economic competition between the regions. This puts the emphasis of regional policy on a few, international competitive companies and solutions commercializable in the markets, although in the light of prominent economical visions regions should more likely adapt to slow- or zero growth in the future and strengthen regional social and solidarity economies: i.e. local resilience as well as non-competitive, long term sustainable economical exchange between european regions and regions globally. Therefore social and solidarity economy should be taken stronger into the agenda of european regional and international development, trade policies and Europe 2020 Strategy and its funding programmes.


To draft policy and regulation recommendations which address the following topics:

- The legal and financial support to grassroots, community-controled institutional forms and practices of cooperative/decommodified production, finance, commercialization and participation in the commons;

draft funding programms for network-type organizations with small budgets and outcomes that do not require high investment

Include the above mentioned target into regional policies and funding programms. Understand local resilience and subsistence production as a a part of a regional development and social economy programms in parallel with economical spezialization for international competition.

- The centrality of gender, spatial and environmental justice in these practices.

- The centrality of cognitive justice in these practices, namely in the integration of technical and tacit knowledge in a way that recognizes and promotes cultural and epistemological diversity and dialogue.

Guidelines and Recommendations:

What are the existing experiences of the commons movement in this field, and initiatives of commoning related to this issue ?

Everywhere in the world different forms of collective ownership and governance are invented and reinvented, to create, preserve or give access to goods and services "in commons".

Commons are an important part of a Solidarity economy. In fact, the developing of a solidarity economy - including the increased cooperation between solidarity economy actors and the developing of new practices - can be seen as a furthering of our Commons and commoning. A solidarity economy furthering and upholding our commons is also what importantly gives a Commons its solidarity values, whilst building towards a more responsible, democratic and inclusive society. The SSE has indeed established a dynamic or system where citizens’ participation is based on their economic, social and cultural means, that are available on the grassroots level without great investments.

The means are brought together through a legal and institutional framework – in which the originality of SSE lies.

Solidarity economy initiatives produce local resilience both in the north and the south and promote a globally coherent international trade policy, that ensures the prosperity of all nations in the world. This approach reduces the global environmental and humanitarian crises caused by the current, exploitative and competition-oriented trade policy of the EU, that is also in strict contradiction between EUs own development policies and the strive for regional equity on its own terrain. Solidarity economy approach in international trade would increase the accountability and resilience of European international relationships significantly.

Rural/Urban Commons, food sovereignty and the development of an alternative public sphere and commercialization sphere:

Integration of Cooperative production/alternative currency/free software/free culture:

Natural Commons, Permaculture and Renewable Energy Technology as a material base for a community-based solidarity economy:

Why is this proposal pertinent to be discussed at the European scale, with the EU institution, in the EU Agenda. It could also be because it is an urgent matter to introduce at this scale of policy.

European Union is strengthening its efforts in supporting social entrepreneurship, but it is not enough. Social entrepreneurship does not include the social innovations and reproductive activities in loose networks, collectives, households and other non-entrepreneurial forms of organization, which often produce socially and materially essential value not countable in money.

Social and solidarity enterprise models, which attempt to reconcile economic activities with non-economic activities and social objectives with economic objectives are not explicitly recognised by European competition law, which, for 25 years, has been treating the SSE if it was evidence of ‘market failures’ (regulation of ‘services of general interest’) or ‘governmental failures’ (public procurement directives).

The result is that public procurements tend to favour large-scale and commercial operators. Small operators, volunteers and commons tend to be excluded as they do not have the means to participate in such procedures. They are forced to merge, which affects their performance as campaigning organisations and which may ultimately condemn them to failure.

Moreover, current procedures for selecting future investments are not conducive to either long-term financing (choice of discount rate) or intangible assets (choice of assets to be valued). Almost all social investment decisions are now based on rating systems, the rankings of which result from measurement systems based on figures that can be manufactured and on criteria that are never neutral. Education, research, social protection, everything becomes an investment and the system creates new enclosures

These experiences should be used to prevent new enclosures and to promote solutions “in commons”.

We are convinced that an alliance and a reciprocal relationship between SSE, commons and the European policymaking will foster the collaborative economy’s development and the wellbeing and resilience in all levels of the society in Europe.. Together, SSE and commons are able to constitute a solid foundation for sustainable development – based on a combination of different perspectives on economy – instead of just providing short-term solutions. Supporting grassroots alliances between commons and SSE can help in the promotion of solutions to for example:

  • Growing unemployment and social inequality (including access to information and skills, a.k.a. “digital gap”);
  • Increasing territorial inequalities within Europe;
  • Crisis of the welfare state;
  • Climate change and loss of biodiversity;
  • Need to reduce dependency on non-renewable energy sources;
  • Risk of natural and demographic desertification in most of the Mediterranean Basin, as well as in post-industrial areas of Central and Northwestern Europe;
  • Limitations of the “green revolution” and global supply chains in addressing food security, food sovereignty and public health issues related with mass produced processed foods and pesticides;
  • “Ecologies of knowledge”: Local knowledges and cultural heritage (and with them sources of economic creativity and innovation) under threat as a result of mass production and commercialization;

What are the main ideas the commoners are reclaiming or struggling for in this field ?

What are the already experimented measures in this field and where (in a particular country? part of Europe? Elsewhere?

  • Legal recognition of natural commons-based communitarian economies (Global Ecovillages Network);
  • Revitalization/promotion of resilience of local economies through:
    • The promotion of “rurban” local and regional-level supply chains, supported by participatory certification systems (i.e. Esperança/Cooesperança, Genuino Clandestino);
    • Use of urban commons as spaces of commercialization for solidarity economy initiatives (i.e. Esperança/Cooesperança, Xarxa de Economia Solidária)

Who are the actors involved in these struggles ?

Individual solidarity economy initiatives, regional, state, European and intercontinental networks, municipal, regional/state and national level administrations, the European Union, for example

  • In France, “La Coop des Communs” brings together activists, researchers and entrepreneurs from Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) and Commons, together with public stakeholders. We want to contribute to the creation of an eco-system that favors the emergence of commons, with the support of SSE and concerned public stakeholders.
  • Rede Portuguesa de Economia Solidária
  • RIPESS Europe:

Spanish state: ;

Replication, scaling up and legislative development of this type of commons – what is needed from the EU-institutions:

- incorporating long-term, “commons” and general interest criteria into investment rating and selection systems;

- Give European citizens the legal right to demand long-term investment on the grounds of their fundamental right of access to energy, education, culture, information, etc. (“claim for commons”), or to buy public goods (for example the water supply in Naples, which gave rise to a petition to manage water as a common good in Europe).

- Promote “communitysupport in the shape of citizen funding for services of general interest, as collectively-managed “commons”.

The legal and financial support to grassroots, community-controled institutional forms and practices of cooperative/decommodified production;

Draft funding programmes for network-type organizations with small budgets and outcomes that do not require high investment;

Include the above mentioned target into regional policies and funding programs. Understand local resilience and subsistence production as a part of a regional development and social economy programs in parallel with economical spezialization for international competition.

European Commons Assembly/Policy Proposals