By Jason Nardi (RIPESS Europe coordination)

Looking back to all that we’ve done, as a network (of networks), in the last year and a half… we can say that it is quite an accomplishment, thanks to the work of many engaged people and organisations.  Beyond the many meetings, different projects, new alliances, participation in campaigns, online training as well as peer education activities, we’ve started to have more recognition by public institutions, foundations, academia and professional education structures who are interested in working with the network of solidarity economy initiatives that RIPESS Europe represents. From the Global Social Economy Forum last October in Bilbao, to the next UN SSE Task Force conference in Genève this month, to the European elections campaigns with allied networks (Europe we want and Fair Times) and the Transformative Cities Award (which is going to launch the Atlas of Utopias in Lyon during our General Assembly conference), or the Urban Alternatives mapping… to many other local and regional initiatives that took place throughout the whole year in which RIPESS Europe and its members were involved. 

Take for instance the North Europe Solidarity Economy Meeting (NESEM) in Helsinki – with people coming from Russia as well, a first attempt to bring together and network SSE in the Nordic countries. Something similar is now starting in Central Eastern Europe, with the Erasmus+ project BUSSE: Building Up SSE.  Another project is continuing the work on Vocational Education and Training in several European countries.

Or take the independent, cooperative and alternative media meeting in Villarceaux (near Paris) – connecting some of the many magazines and other media who give visibility and voice to the “other economies” and are themselves in most cases SSE enterprises, discussing about their different business models and sustainability as well as possible collaborations and exchanges. 

During last year, a group of members worked together on a Report to promote the culture of SSE in Greece – as technical assistance to the Greek government, and today our Greek member DOCK has become one of the support centers of SSE in the country.

Our communities of practice and social solidarity economic initiatives are multiplying and spreading all over Europe, in very different political and legal contexts. The challenges and difficulties we are facing today are related to global issues (such as climate change, migration and financial crisis, the future of work… and of the planet), but find similar solutions in many territories, where relocalising the economy and co-constructing public policies have become more than experimental practices.

But we need to deepen and broaden the trans-local exchanges among these communities and also foster the convergence and collaboration among different social economic actors, grassroot movements, public institutions, cultural and artistic “commoners”, systemic change funders and investors, and all those who are actively engaged in the necessary transformation of our financial and economic system. 

It is not by chance that RIPESS Europe is one of the main promoters of the World Social Forum of Transformative Economies (WSFTE Barcelona 2020). And it is not by chance that our next General Assembly will be in a city like Lyon, which is actively promoting SSE in many different ways (see it’s sustainable development report (in French) and the Label “Ville equitable et durable”). It will be connected to an international meeting called “Dialogues en Humanité” and preceded by a “Town hall debate” (4th of July – see program here) on Cities and SSE – how to inspire and learn from each other and develop municipal policies which are transforming our communities by changing economic practices in many sectors such as food, energy, trade, transportation, housing, tourism, health, finance, culture, production and consumption circuits, etc. The road ahead is long and uphill, but we are getting better at paving the way(s) and sharing the ride. Next stop, Lyon.  Will you join us?