La Bergerie de Villarceaux, lovely eco-centre and organic farm outside Paris, was the convivial setting for RIPESS Europe’s 5th General Assembly, which took place from 20 to 22 June 2016, thanks to the hospitality of the Foundation for the Progress of Humankind (FPH). Several new members and observers participated.
During an opening session, Claudia Neubauer presented the FPH and its positioning with respect to the Social Solidarity Economy (SSE). Jean Louis Laville gave a indepth perspective of the potential role of the SSE to respond against the growing ecological and social economic violations by the globalized neo-liberal system. Stressing the need to establish effective cooperation with public institutions, Laville stated that the SSE should works in the direction of a just transition by encouraging new forms of collaboration between the SSE and the public policy actors. After the meal prepared by the Bergerie’s restaurant team with their locally produced food, the evening was devoted to the presentation of the activities and motivations of participants wishing to become new RIPESS Europe members.
The second day was dedicated to discussions on several issues: the inter-cooperation among member networks at European level, rethinking economy and work, how to measure the impact of the SSE, agro-ecology and the SSE, the construction of the Panorama of the SSE for its visibility and what public policies are actually useful in the European territories. After the morning workshops, the statutory Assembly took place in the afternoon with the classic agenda: presentation of the activity report, of the plan of action and financial report, that were approved. An amendment to the articles of association for a greater opening to actors other than networks, such as SSE structures and individual members, was lively debated and finally accepted after amendments.
This year, as a result of our strategy of enlargement towards the East and North, we had the pleasure of welcoming new members and observers from different parts of Europe, until now under-represented. Thus Finland participated, as well as the Czech Republic, in addition to Slovakia, Croatia, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary. Five new members joined the network: the Italian Rete di Economia Solidale (Tavolo RES) and the regional Trentino SE network (Trentino Arcobaleno), the German Technologie Netzwerk Berlin, the Finnish Solidarity Economy Network (Commons.fi) and Enercoop, as a sectoral network with the innovative experience of energy cooperatives.
The General Assembly meeting took place in an atmosphere of openness and conviviality. The Coordination Committee welcomed this contribution of new energies and a rejuvenation of the persons present wishing to become involved in the dynamics of the network. Inter cooperation processes have been initiated, they are exchanges of knowledge, cross-border projects, as well as economic cooperation and trading between cooperatives. The collection of data for the realization of the Panorama of the ESS was also revived. In conclusion two proposals for the next Congress in 2017 are under consideration: one by Solidarity4all in Athens, connected to an event organised by the Greek solidarity initiatives, the other by the Inter University Network for SSE (RIUESS), which will hold its next Conference in Marrakech in the context of cooperation with the Mediterranean countries.
The last day was dedicated to a round table and debate on SSE and public policies, from local to national to European and international, comparing the experiences of local authorities (RTES) and the SSE law in France, the creation of a legal framework for SSE in Greece, the European debate promoted also in the Parliament with the EFSSE (European Forum on Social Solidarity Economy) and finally the United Nations spaces of advocacy – promoting SSE as part of the solution to the global environmental, social, democratic and financial crisis.
We thank all participants who are part of a growing movement and continue to strengthen the base of the SSE in Europe, the Mediterranean and beyond.