This weekend, UMass hosted the third conference of the International Confederation of Associations for Pluralism in Economics (ICAPE). The theme: Rethinking economics in a time of economic distress. Especially relevant to UMass Econ’s new certificate program were discussions around economic democracy in the classroom and community. Click here to download the conference program.
Women’s co-ops & peace-building in Nepal
On Saturday morning, Smita Ramnarain gave an extremely informative talk about women’s cooperatives, gender & “bottom-up” peace-building in Nepal. In 2008-2009, Ramnarain worked on a project called Developing Democracy in Nepal which was funded by the Canadian Co-operative Association and CIDA. In addition to forming women’s savings and credit cooperatives, the DDN project included advocacy & voter education campaigns. Ramnarain’s findings, via methodological awesomeness (case study analysis, interviews, evaluation reports, training materials, Hamro Aviyan documents, and her own research on women’s cooperatives):
women’s cooperatives in Nepal…
Overall, a fascinating presentation. Click to download powerpoint slides from a talk Smita gave in September on women’s co-ops & peace-building in Nepal.
Roundtable on worker ownership
This morning, Erik Olsen chaired a roundtable called “Worker Cooperatives, Employee Ownership and New Strategies for a Pluralist Economy.” Joining Olsen in conversation were Al Campbell, Christopher Gunn, Gar Alperovitz, and David Schweickart.
It was a fruitful conversation about the role of co-ops and ESOPs in democratizing the work process & people’s lives. Christopher Gunn talked about Mondragon within the context of community development, and made a case for investing in resources that encourage affective activity (i.e. caring for children and elders; consuming less, having more free time). Gar Alperowitz talked about the stabilizing effects of community-based institutions partnering with local government, with examples from Cleveland, Columbus, and other US cities. David Schweickart focused on the transition to democratic capital and labor — what the US might try and what we can learn from Sweden. Al Campbell talked about the importance of solidarity, and creating space for folks to respect each other even when they might disagree. He praised Mondragon’s training programs for this sort of skill-building.
After the roundtable, Mary Hoyer and Julie Matthaei contributed immensely to the discussion. Hoyer astutely pointed out the importance of diversity if a democratic economy is to be representative. And that goes for panels, too! Matthaei highlighted the commonalities between affective activity and the work that’s come from the feminist and green movements around care labor & shrinking the carbon footprint. A fantastic quote from Matthaei (but I might not have copied it perfectly): “In the 1970s, consciousness-raising was done after work. Now, co-ops themselves are consciousness-raising.” Matthaei noted the connection between movements and values in why she loves the solidarity economy: shared values (i.e. feminist, anti-discrimination, anti-racist, etc) but not a one-size-fits-all prescription.
Alperowitz recommends www.community-wealth.org for more information on community wealth-building.
Mary Hoyer mentioned a new Chamber of Commerce in the Pioneer Valley that’s geared toward co-ops. [edit: it's the Valley Co-operative Business Association, and here's the link!]
For more info on the Solidarity Economy, check out the US Solidarity Economy Network.
Paul Hawken’s book, Blessed Unrest, came up in conversation.