by Virginia Meo, RIES

The RIES – Italian Network for Solidarity Economy and the National Network of Emerging Commons and Civic Use met in November 2020 to identify common points and possible synergies in mutualistic and solidarity-based practices.

The starting point was a common premise. The current situation urges us to be more active in order to grow territorial and national networks that implement mutual and solidarity actions and connect them – not only to survive and get out of the Coronavirus emergency, but to consolidate the basis for a real social and ecological transition.

Both networks share a common vision: the centrality of solidarity and self-managed communities in transformative processes. For both, it is essential to start from real experiences and practices, such as economic projects: what we are producing (material and immaterial), what we can exchange, and what this exchange produces in terms of mutual support and sharing of resources. However, it is necessary to rethink the term “economic” and the meaning of “income”, declining it as civic and social income.

Several points of possible collaboration/constructive confrontation have been identified:

– knowledge sharing: the Commons Network has brought into play the idea of going beyond the public and the private and in this way creating community. The reflections on the economy are connected to the legal dimension, measuring the economy differently, broadening it on many aspects; the network of solidarity economy has developed various consolidated ecological and socially sustainable practices, which have been strengthened in the evaluation capacity (e.g. “Balanci di Giustizia” (1), as well as the common good balance sheet and other modalities);

– exchanging experiences: it emerged, for example, that the experiences of small-scale organised distribution and relations with producers, which are characteristic of the ecosol world, could be a supplement in particular for the experiences of cultural productions that inhabit the spaces of the commons, where the know-how of economic exchange networks is often lacking;

– sharing physical spaces, to build places inhabited by the realities of both networks;

– economic and financial sustainability, for practices that are sometimes in the balance between formal and informal economies;

– building common mutualism tools, such as the creation of a national solidarity fund to support self-organising spaces and to share resources horizontally;

– the expression of a political subjectivity, which is necessary in order to differentiate from the experiences of the so-called Third Sector;

– broadening experiences/practices outside what we already know and organise of local and/or informal economies, which will grow even more as the crisis deepens.

A first step of concrete collaboration, currently in progress, is a shared mapping, aimed at a more detailed knowledge of the organisations composing the two networks, of their main activities and needs, on which to build structured alliances also in the territories. A second step will be the organisation of thematic meetings on the basic topics of the two networks, in order to build a common vision.

Finally, RIES has been asked to collaborate in the drafting of the popular law proposal on Commons and in particular on the economic dimension and management of shared resources.

(1) Campaign for families to do a sort of “accounting” to evaluate their progress in shifting towards a more equitable lifestyle and consumption.