By Juliette Bertrand, Ripess Europe

The Coordination committee of Ripess Europe (15 members from all over Europe) met from January 19 to 21, 2023 in Paris and more precisely at the headquarters of UFISC (House of cultural and artistic networks), in Belleville.

These few days of brainstorming were the occasion to re-elaborate the strategy of the network for the next 3 to 5 years. The first objective of the meeting was to elaborate “where we are now“: the internal dimension of the network, the evaluation of the strategic objectives so far, the orientations of the General Assembly, and how the team and the coordination work. In a second step, we focused on continuing the effort to develop and recognize the SSE, co-construction of public policies, advocacy, alliances and communication.

In order to continue to promote territorial ecosystems and to support the emergence of new networks, several agreements have been reached to strengthen the structure of the network, based on the decisions taken at the General Assembly of September 2022 in Wroclaw (Poland). In addition to the usual organization of the network (members, Coordinating committee, scientific committee and operational team), a co-coordination (shared between 2 members, in this case Drazen Simlesa and Ruby van der Wekken) as well as a Care commission (still in structuring), with a special focus on relational aspects, were set up. It was also pointed out that the SSE ecosystems are not always structured in “networks” : in many countries SSE actors are often « initiatives » in their first stage of development when they become members of Ripess Europe.

Another important aspect of the discussion was to analyse the context we are in today and to consolidate the network on a common identity, vision and purpose and thus on a revision of the validity of the founding principles, answering the question “what do we stand for?”. We need to re-elaborate the charter of principles as a common basis for building networks. A survey was launched to all members to define the principles we stand for as a network. The development of the charter of principles will serve as a guideline transversal to all strategic dimensions. By redefining our common vision, we want to make clear where we want to go in the coming years and what we want to share with our stakeholders.

What we are adding to the Ripess Europe 3 main strategic objectives :

– strengthen the capacity to re-imagine and tell the story of how we look to the future, while facing the attacks that our communities are currently experiencing. 

– build a post-capitalist society, promoting economic initiatives that change society and bring sustainability into our daily lives

-support local ecosystems to promote social justice, the commons, economic democracy and environmental awareness.

Regarding the structure of the network, we agreed on deepening the network, i.e. strengthening the relationships/cooperation between the existing members, rather than widening it with an active search for new members. Newcomers are always welcome to join the network, especially from different fields, sectors and territories.

On the internal communication side, while continuing to share and promote the use of open and free software digital platforms, a focus will be on addressing needs and competences of our members, in order to clearly offer them adapted collaboration solutions, according to their specific fields of expertise.

It has also been decided that the working groups will be replaced by thematic projects since they allow a more efficient collaboration thanks to their structure, clear objectives and human/financial means. An intranet platform to foster the exchanges within the network and share knowledge and expertise will be developed.

Still on internal issues, we agreed on the importance of strengthening the capacity of our members to raise funds and to be economically sustainable. We could, for example, support our members in the effort to find resources through the design of a common fund or through training on fundraising.

More generally, Ripess Europe will strive to diversify the network’s funding sources and ensure the economic sustainability of projects. Last but not least, the planning of the Coordination committee meetings has been validated. The Coco will meet twice a year – in person: once during the General assembly and once at the beginning of the year to update the network strategy. These meetings will be complemented by online meetings, once a month. The next General assembly should take place in Villarceaux (Paris, FR) in September 2023 with an online pre-GA in June, 2023.

4 main actions have been proposed to implement the strategy development in an action plan for the coming years.

  • The first action will be to increase our capability of advocating towards the European Union’s policies on SSE, by working more closely with other allied networks that have professional capacity and co-developing our positions where relevant (for example with ECOLISE ; FTAO/WFTO Europe, REVES, Social Economy Europe, etc.).
  • The second activity concerns the campaign for the European elections in 2024. By June 2023, the network will develop positioning around different themes (such as energy and climate, finance, mobility, commons, empowerment) and share them with allied networks, in order to develop a common campaign towards the political parties in the EU parliament.
  • The third action will be to help members work on local policies, through exchanges on practices and research, translating and adapting existing guides and with the expertise that exists in the network.
  • The last activity will be a special SSE common action in a specific period of the year in relation with the Sustainable communities week and the Communities for Future platform. It will start with a day (which could – in a future edition – be extended to a SSE week or month), with online event(s) organized to invite members, partners and the general public to discover the actions of Ripess Europe members, on the ground.

Finally, the network will work on continuing to improve its channels and means of communication, in coordination with RIPESS Intercontinental and with the support of technical partners, developing an ecosystem of tools at the service of all members.  We will also address the media, both alternative and mainstream, promoting new collaborative initiatives to make SSE more visible.