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Defining the Solidarity Economy

By Jenna Allard and Julie Matthaei, Guramylay: Growing the Green Economy


Alliance 21 | Marcos Arruda | Ethan Miller | Carola Reintjes | Asian Forum for Solidarity Economy | Brazilian Forum of Solidarity Economy | Manish Verma | Alma Cecilia Omana Reyes and Jorge Santiago Santiago | Emily Kawano | Latin American Confederation of Cooperatives and Worker's Associations | Bob Stone and Betsy Bowman
Dan Swinney | Marcos Arruda | Ethan Miller | Latin American Confederation of Cooperatives and Worker's Associations | Manish Verma
Excerpt from "Si Uno Come, Que Coman Todos, Economia Solidaria"




“Solidarity economy designates all production, distribution and consumption activities that contribute to the democratization of the economy based on citizen commitments both at a local and global level. It is carried out in various forms, in all continents. It covers different forms of organization that the population uses to create its own means of work or to have access to qualitative goods and services, in a dynamics of reciprocity and solidarity which links individual interests to the collective interest. In this sense, solidarity economy is not a sector of the economy, but an overall approach that includes initiatives in most sectors of the economy.”

- Alliance 21
“Proposal Paper on the Solidarity Economy”, 2001


“We have also seen the emergence of various forms of Solidarity Economy as a new proposal to organize the economy and society around the conviction that Another Global Socioeconomy is possible, another Human Being is possible. It aims at overcoming alienation with holistic individual and collective self-development.”

“It is economic activity organized for safe and sustainable individual and collective self-development, which implies the shared satisfaction of needs and wants and the co-management of the houses people share in common – the home, the community, the district, the county, the ecosystem, the country, the planet. It is an ethical, reciprocal and cooperative way of consuming, producing, financing, exchanging, communicating, educating, developing which fosters a new way of thinking and living.”

                        - Marcos Arruda, PACS Brazil
                        “Solidarity Economy and the Rebirth of a Matristic Human Society”


“Solidarity Economics begins here, with the realization that alternative economies already exist; that we as creative and skilled people have already created different kinds of economic relationships in the very belly of the capitalist system. We have our own forms of wealth and value that are not defined by money. Instead of prioritizing competition and profit-making, these economies place human needs and relationships at the center. They are the already-planted seeds of a new economy, an economy of cooperation, equality, diversity, and self-determination: a ‘solidarity economy’.”

“Solidarity is a powerful word that names the dynamic, collective process of taking active responsibility for our inter-relationships on both a local and global level. When we practice solidarity, we recognize that our fates are bound up with the fates of others, both human and non-human; that our interconnections—sometimes profoundly unequal and oppressive—demand conscious action and transformation. Through solidarity, we recognize the diversity, autonomy, power, and dignity of others. We come to understand that our struggles to be free and joyful are not as separate or distant from one another as we may have thought. We begin to develop an ethical practice of shared struggle.”

                        - Ethan Miller, GEO (Grassroots Economic Organizing)
“Solidarity Economics: Strategies for Building New Economies From the  Bottom-Up and the Inside-Out”.


“Solidarity Economy is a strong tool of empowerment and social change that starts from the initiatives of responsible citizens that want to keep control of the way they are producing, consuming, saving, investing, exchanging. It is a model of community-based and locally-based people’s economy. We may call it grassroots economy. Solidarity Economy constructs a sustainable development from civil society taking State policies and resources only as complementary to their own actions and resources. It makes economy accountable with ethical standards.”  

- Carola Reintjes, REAS (Network for Alternative and Solidarity Economy NetworksWorld Social Forum, Spain)
“What is a Solidarity Economy?”


“Solidarity Economy” is one of terms used to describe all those economic activities and regulations which are based upon cooperation and solidarity, so as to place human beings and social relationships back at the core of the economic activities.”

- Asian Forum for Solidarity Economy
“What is Solidarity Economy?”


“Solidarity Economy is fruit of the organization of workers in the construction of new economical and social practices based on relations of solidarity partnership, and inspired on cultural values where men and women are protagonists and the purpose of the economic activity, and not the private accumulation of wealth in general and capital in particular.”

                        - Brazilian Forum of Solidarity Economy
“The Management and Organization Experience of the Solidarity Economy Movement in Brazil”


“The term solidarity economy is interchangeable with social economy, popular economy and labour economy. But the word solidarity – [which I define as] unity (as of a group or class) that produces or is based on community of interests, objectives, and standards -- describes the processes involved in the best possible way. Coming together of people as a cohesive unit working to serve common vision and interests form the foundation of these initiatives.”

- Manish Verma, AWID (Association for Women’s Rights in Development)
                        “What is Solidarity Economy?”


“Parallel to the neoliberal model, exists another model known as Solidarity Economy, and its concept of development is based within the liberation of the potential of humanity.”

“In the Solidarity Economy market, the market is a space for the interchange of goods at a fair price with just relationships and constituting a means of creating development. Technology and the financial resources are instruments for work and production. Natural resources are raw materials for production, the basic means to contribute to the development. Within the model, exists a consciousness of respect for nature and the knowledge that natural resources aren't of an unlimited supply; therefore they require planning, preservation and sustainable use so they can be used by future generations.”

                        -  Alma Cecilia Omana Reyes and Jorge Santiago Santiago
Si Uno Come, Que Coman Todos, Economia Solidaria, trans. by Chris Treter


“A new form of organization of economic life, from local to global. It is an ethical, reciprocal and cooperative way of consuming, producing, financing, exchanging, communicating, educating, developing which fosters a new way of thinking and living.

- Emily Kawano, CPE (Center for Popular Economics, U.S.)
“Social and Solidarity Economy”


“We understand the Solidarity Economy to be the socioeconomic system made up of the multiple associative forms of production and service, of solidaritous enterprises whose goal is not profit, based on universal principles and values of mutualism, cooperation, the worker's movement.”

- COLACOT (Latin American Confederation of Cooperatives and Worker's Associations)
“Solidarity Economics: An alternative for development, equity, social justice, and peace in Colombia”


“Solidarity economies are those in which local production for local needs employs democratic and often non-market forms of manufacture, distribution, savings, and investment.”

- Bob Stone & Betsy Bowman, GEO
“The Meek Want the Earth Now: the Solidarity Economies of Brazil & Mexico”

“Solidarity economy” names not just participatory budgeting but any economic activity  --  co-ops, fair trade, ethical consumption, credit unions, local currencies, micro-finance, socially conscious investment  --  that democratizes an economy, subordinating profit to human ends.  It includes:  ethical consumption, fair trade, local currencies, micro-finance and credit unions, socially conscious investment, and co-ops of all kinds.”

- Bob Stone & Betsy Bowman
The World Social Forum at the Crossroads in Caracas: The Solidarity Economy and Other Options


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The Solidarity Economy is a broader [than the social economy] development vision and actions that seek to contend with the powerful international neo-liberal vision on all levels and in all sectors, that is gaining recognition by leaders from the market, state, and civil sectors in all societies globally.  It is anchored in the following values and priorities:

1)  Economic, social, and environmental development that is truly sustainable and restorative to society and the planet;

2)  Profoundly internationalist in seeking development that builds communities and human capacity as a principal objective; is based on understanding and applying best international practice from the developing and developed world; is based on active international exchange and the creating of common projects that reflect High Road development.

3)  Reflects a positive and comprehensive development vision and plan that will successfully compete with the current and dominant Low Road development trend in communities, regions, countries, and internationally.  Scale is important.

4)  Accepts the urgency of addressing the urgent crises such as the looming ones in relation to water, climate, food, and Peak Oil;

5)  Promotes solidarity and common action with community, labor, business, government, and educators towards these objectives both in the design as well as implementation of programs; and

6)  Is premised on the fundamental assumption that true social, economic, and environmental change is finally a product of a broad informed and powerful mass movement.

- Dan Swinney, NANSE (North American Network for the Solidarity Economy”
“Defining the Social Economy, the Solidarity Economy, and NANSE”


    • Civil society, especially the working sectors, empower themselves to be the subjects of their livelihood and of their own development. The State, capital, economic and technical development are conceived as means for enabling social and human development.
    • Cooperation in solidarity is the prevailing form of social relationship.
    • Sharing and co-participation in production, distribution and consumption are the emotion and the action.
    • The democratic State is a common project, whose role is to foster a system of conviviality based on cooperation, mutual respect and fulfillment for each and every citizen and community.
    • Democracy is made real as a collective construction of a social human system, a socioeconomic, mental and psychic space of sharing, of mutual respect, of cooperation and co-participation.
    • The cultural matrix is that each and every worker – the social individual - is the legitimate leader and, therefore, share the power and the responsibility of decision-making. In one expression, a culture of social individualism or collective personalism, or individual socialism.

- Marcos Arruda
“Solidarity Economy and the Rebirth of a Matristic Human Society”


    • Unity-in-diversity
    • Shared power (as opposed to power-over)
    • Autonomy (always both individual and collective)
    • Communication (horizontal, not top-down)
    • Cooperation and mutual-aid (shared struggle)
    • Local rootedness, global inter-connection

      - Ethan Miller
      “Solidarity Economics: Strategies for Building New Economies From the  Bottom-Up and the Inside-Out”.


1) Solidarity, cooperation, and democracy as norms that all people and organizations have to follow if they are to be a part of the Solidarity Economy.
2) The supremacy of labor over capital.  Labor is the core of economic life and human development.  It is to be rescued from the slavery of capital and returned to its proper dignity.
3) Worker's association as the fundamental basis of the organization of enterprises, production, and the economy in general.  This is to be substituted for the waged work of capitalism that is the principal cause of social disparities, the unjust distribution of wealth, poverty, and social exclusion.
4) Social ownership of the means of production by the workers who, as direct producers, are owners and managers of the enterprise as a community of workers and beneficiaries of the work.  This eliminates the exploitation of people by other people, of people by the state, and the cause of the class struggle itself.
5) Self-management as the best form of participation of workers in the management of enterprises, of the economy, and of society and the state.  This eliminates marginalization and constructs and consolidates real democracy.
6) The supremacy of service, social welfare, and equity over individual accumulation, profit, and 'added-value'
7) The integration of the solidarity economy and the conformation of the macro-economy with the solidarity economy.

- COLACOT (Latin American Confederation of Cooperatives and Worker's Associations)
“Solidarity Economics: An alternative for development, equity, social justice, and peace in Colombia”


    • Processes involved utilize the resources available to fulfill social needs rather than those dictated by the market
    • Cognizance of value of labour and finding ways for its maximum utilization and preservation
    • Focus is on self-sufficiency and cooperation rather than dependence
    • Prudent use of resources based on needs rather than over-consumption
    • Management strategies/systems are based on democratic processes like cooperation and participation rather than on control and decision
    • Values and ethical principles play an important role in developing the models
    • Sustenance of the culture, language and customs of the community

- Manish Verma, AWID (Association for Women’s Rights in Development)
                        “What is Solidarity Economy?”


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The Solidarity Economy

excerpt from Alma Cecilia Omana Reyes and Jorge Santiago Santiago,
If One Eats, Then All Should Eat:  The Solidarity Economy
(Si Uno Come, Que Coman Todos, Economia Solidaria), 
trans. by Chris Treter

  • The Solidarity Economy as a collective and integral social process implying the construction, growth, and fortalization of community.
  • Work is collectively based.
  • Production is organized in a manner which is satisfactory for self-sufficiency and for commercialization related to the global market.
  • There is an interchange of experiences between working groups.
  • There is an interchange of products that favor the producer and the consumer.
  • Apprenticeship and the value of collective knowledge are inherent in the economic processes.
  • There are development strategies to further ones' ability and potential to create.
  • It looks to create integrated collective development.
  • It creates relationships between communities based upon mutual support and equality.
  • There is an equal distribution of the benefits.
  • There exists the knowledge to administrate the resources.
  • There is access to new technology.
  • There is ethical and moral worth, respect and solidarity.
  • There is a union of the forces.

Relationships that exist in the process of the construction of the Solidarity Economy are between:

  • The Solidarity Economy and the autonomy of the rights of the community.
  • The Solidarity Economy and capital.
  • The Solidarity Economy and natural resources: to make use of natural resources without depleting them, the social property of the resources.
  • The Solidarity Economy and the ecology. The systems of production of agro-ecology.
  • The Solidarity Economy and the organizational processes.
  • The Solidarity Economy and the human race.
  • The relationship between Solidarity Economy and faith (the christian experience).

Fundamental Principles: Important Elements of the Solidarity Economy

  1. It is an exercise which permits the collective maintenance of resources, organizes for work, teaches solutions, motivates organizations, allows for the ability to obtain resources that can be used for education and motivation, solves community problems, and also proposes the use of administrative based technology and mechanisms.
  2. It implies the administration of resources as fundamental for the economy. Regulation, control, order, systems, rules, and operating processes based in practice.
  3. Links work and services to organizational processes of the community.
  4. It is an economic support to develop initiatives in order to generate community-based resources in line with autonomy of communities.
  5. Carries out the need to clarify the fundamental principals of the economic processes in order to identify the experiences in the scope of the regional and national economies as producers and as a social sector.
  6. Collective work is not necessarily the collective possession of land and instruments of work.
  7. It implies a fortalization of the judicial and legal aspect of the economic organizations.
  8. It is the promotion and the creation of technologies that increase the potential for obtaining resources for the community.
  9. It implies the integration of ethical principles of cooperative work with justice.
  10. It implies the fortalization of culture and the organization having the ability to use its' native language, systems of election, uses, customs, in relation to the responsibility and the recognition of authority and prestige of the communities.
  11. It also does not take ownership over experience; it is in this sense that it maintains the appropriate space for the communities to make their own decisions.
  12. It implies the development of a social subject and not the development of an institution. Specific work is not done unless the community is interested in it.
  13. Participation increases starting from the time benefits are recognized and free political participation is begun.
  14. It combines a political strategy with the practice of economic development. It is not work isolated from processes of consciousness and politics. We considerate it fundamental to understand that social practice is part of a process of liberation, created from a social subject, toward the consolidation of a solidarity economy that permits the clarification of its position in front of socio-political challenges and also contributes to the formation and training of its members toward the creation of a new society.
  15. It supports the processes of community support, consciousness, creating options, with risk, and also as part of a process. The economic experience is able to be initiated or part of an organic process.
  16. For this it is necessary to understand everything within the global society, within the framework of love. For this it is important that community problems are seen as problems of a sector of society, conditioned by them, and not totally isolated. The solutions need to be raised in the scope of the global society in its totality and not only for the marginalized, or for those from different ethnic backgrounds.

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images credited to Tiffany Sankary: