Solidarity Economy Organisers Network
Solidarity Economy Association have been thinking about how we can grow the solidarity economy in the UK, and how we can support projects, movements and initiatives which already exist, to develop their capacity and the work that they do.
We recognise the incredible amount of often unpaid labour that is done in the solidarity economy, which is often carried out by women and other oppressed genders, by people of colour, and by people from poor working class backgrounds – in particular by people and communities struggling against oppression and marginalisation.
We want to help weave a web between organisations that can support and learn from each other, in order to build up a thriving solidarity economy that can meet people’s needs, build their power to fight exploitation and bring collective ownership of their communities’ resources.
We hope that this project will take some steps towards this goal, and that we will be able to expand the project to include more groups in the medium future. We want to support the work that people are already doing, and to begin building relationships between these organisers, ourselves, and each other, to develop a network of solidarity economy organisers across these islands.
What do we mean by ‘solidarity economy’?
It is a global movement of people, organisations, economic initiatives, projects and activity all committed to building a better world together and transforming our economic system from the bottom up. The Solidarity Economy is both a means to surviving and sustaining our communities against the hostile nature of the capitalist economic system, as well as a framework, set of tools and initiatives across the globe creatively building new worlds through an economy that centres human needs and dignity before anything else.
What is the issue on which this project is founded?
While there are a huge range of projects, initiatives, groups and movements working in what we call the ‘solidarity economy’, these are too often fragmented and working in their own silos. Some groups receive funding and can pay wages to staff, while others operate on a shoestring and are dependent on people working in their ‘spare’ time and ‘voluntary’ labour. Additionally, an incredible amount of this unpaid work in developing the solidarity economy is often carried out by people of feminised genders, diaspora and working class communities, in particular by those struggling against intersecting oppressions on a daily basis.
Groups operating with least access to resources are often those led by people experiencing high levels of precarity and insecurity, which limits the ability to sustain organisations long-term. The lack of resources can also make it difficult to reach out to build deeper links with other groups in order to exchange experiences and collaborate. Time to strategise, or make long term plans, can be almost non-existent. There’s also a lack of space – physical space in which to house people, or organise things like food co-ops or food banks or hold events; and emotional and psychological space away from perpetual crisis. We are also aware of the existence of many obstacles for groups operating at the edge of precarity to obtain funding, since grant funding applications, as well as writing and filing reports, assume a high level of written English, administration skills, the time and thinking space to put into applications, and the social and cultural capital needed to know where and how to apply in the first place.
What are the aims of this project?
The Solidarity Economy Organisers Network, or SE-ON, is a project launched by SEA in 2021 to bring together often disparate organisations working at the grassroots of the solidarity economy, to weave relationships between groups and movements and build an ecologically sustainable, resilient and socially just economic system.
SE-ON aims to support and build relationships between groups who are organising on a solidarity economy basis for survival reasons in their own communities, and who are led by people with different experiences of marginalisation. This is why we want to support projects that are led by people from the communities they aim to serve.
Our short term aim is to support the work that these groups are already doing, and to begin building a web of relationships between these organisers, ourselves, and each other. Our medium-term aim is to develop a network of solidarity economy organisers across these islands.
In the long term future, we want to live in a post-capitalist world where solidarity is the norm, where everyone can meet their needs, where there is no slavery (‘modern’ or otherwise), plundering the resources of other countries, homelessness, wealthy elite, racism, police brutality, sexism, queerphobia, or any of the other multifaceted and intersecting forms of oppression that we are struggling against today.
How do we action these goals?
We create a regular space for dialogue where we update each other about our work, plans and difficulties, aims and struggles, to support and learn from each other.
We organise workshops around capacity-building and knowledge exchange so that we can collectively learn from our mistakes and challenges.
We have conversations around the common issues faced by diverse groups in order to come up with sustainable solutions that can apply to various contexts of organising without detracting from their capacity.
We collaboratively reflect on the practices and systems that we can put in place to enhance capacity but also provide a shared network of care and support.
We map the skills and knowledge that every group has and how these can be exchanged across the network for the purpose of skill-sharing through cross-pollination.
We reflect on the frameworks and methods that can help us develop and sustain the work that we do (as individual groups and collectively)
We offer every organisation 500 GBP per month to compensate for their time and participation in these discussions. It is up to the members of the organisation to decide what they want to do with that money and which member it should go to on behalf of their group.
Who can join this project?
People organising in a ‘solidarity economy’ framework who are working to meet the needs of their own communities through mutual aid, cooperation, shared stewardship of commonly held resources and democratically owned and run infrastructure.
This can be summarised into a series of non-exhaustive criteria that are taken into consideration:
Working in the ‘Solidarity Economy’
Led by members of communities they serve
Doing the work for survival reasons / not for profit
Established group with strong internal democracy
Unfunded or underfunded
Not a part of the state / government or NPIC (Non Profit Industrial Complex)
In our attempts to be as inclusive as possible, new participating organisations can fit one or more of these criteria, and we are also open to discussing them accordingly.
If you are are part of a group, or know a group who would benefit from joining this network, email firstname.lastname@example.org