What is the solidarity economy?

The solidarity economy is an interconnected worldwide tapestry of people, organisations, economic initiatives, projects and activity all committed to building a better world together. It’s both a means of self defence for surviving and sustaining our communities through the onslaught of neoliberalism and wider economic uncertainty, as well as a framework and set of tools and examples people across the world are using to create transformative and liberatory change – a new world in the shell of the old.

The term ‘solidarity economy’ was popularised and developed in the Global South, specifically in Abya Yala (Latin America), and is rooted in social movements working towards systems change from below. Principles of the solidarity economy include democratic decision-making and ecological sustainability, active opposition to all forms of oppression – including social and racial justice – and it is inherently transformative.

We see the solidarity economy both as part of a strategy to build a world beyond capitalism, and a framework for what that world might look like, where people share resources and collectively govern themselves through many different practices of grassroots democracy, workers self-management and ecological regeneration.

Common solidarity economy tools in the countries of Britain often include: Workers self-organisation (though unions, councils, autonomous associations, strike committees), neighbourhood assemblies, renters’ unions and rent strikes, political and popular education, mutual aid networks, worker, housing and other forms of cooperatives, such as reduced price food cooperatives, sports clubs, squats, community land trusts, collective food production and distribution, neighbourhood assemblies, community gardens, credit unions, rotating credit and savings associations (called susustandemspartner schemes and a thousand other names), informal childcare circles, neighbourhood initiatives, alternative currencies, factory takeovers, crisis funds, autonomous schools, social centres, eviction resistance committees, self-run community projects, unconstituted organisations and collectives, alternative media, swap shops, defending and building the commons, movement software and digital infrastructure development, and many forms of self defence groups.

All these can be examples of parts of the solidarity economy – a tapestry of institutions, infrastructure and initiatives anchored in values of democracy, justice, collective freedom and people power. Alone, they can become isolated from the broader vision, and can become reformist, managing the worst excesses of capitalism rather than building a world beyond it. Taken together, these are the networks of solidarity that can sustain movements and communities, building up the power and capacity of society to self-organise and creating a better world for everyone.

The Solidarity Economy Principles

We are in alignment with the Solidarity Economy Principles framework outlined on this website and are taking part in a transnational conversation to further develop this work.