[by Markéta Vinkelhoferová] Some 80 representatives of social solidarity economy got together in Prague on May 24th at the SSE Forum to discuss the issues of alternative economy, new cooperatives, social entrepreneurship, food initiatives, sustainable ways of production and distribution. It was organised by a Czech NGO Ecumenical academy, a RIPESS Europe member from June 2017, a partner organisation within SUSY – Sustainable and Solidarity Economy project in the Czech Republic.

The Czech social solidarity economy initiatives have actually been active for years, however we have seen a considerable increase in the past couple of years. It follows the trend of responsible consumption and concern for the origin of food and other products that aim not to create profit only but also contribute to the development of local economy and creating decent working conditions. This goes along with Sustainable development goals – not only in the countries of the global South but also here in Europe.

One of the most discussed issues was lacking self-sufficiency in food production, which is related to the questions of land and its degradation. The relation of the city and the country was debated and contributing initiatives were introduced: The Land Trust, social agriculture or urban gardening. Alternative economies are emancipative for consumers that are rather becoming partners for the producers – either within Community Supported Agriculture, Zero Waste initiative of Fair trade movement.

 The participants of the forum deal with the questions how to start, develop and sustain in social solidarity economy activities. The importance of a community approach was emphasised as well as cooperation. The 170th anniversary of a first cooperative in the Czech lands was mentioned as well as the tricky post-communist context where neoliberalism was embraced without a critical distance. The obstacles for social solidarity efforts were also talked about: the non-existent ethical finance institution in the country is the biggest one. One of the few chances to get investment for people without capital is to apply for European Social Funds grants (for the social enterprises integrating the disadvantaged people in the job market or so called environmental-social enterprises) at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs or via the Local Action Groups.

For more photos of the event, go to this link.