Wednesday, February 06, 2008

International Newsletter on Sustainable Local Development

Newsletter #45
February 1st, 2008


Message from the Editorial Team

Co-responsibility for the well-being of all
Social Cohesion and Territory meeting, Trento, Italy, November 29th and 30th, 2007

Renewable energies and sustainable local development
Interesting prospects


Message from the Editorial Team

As 2008 begins, we wish an excellent year to everyone. The challenges remain numerous. The two articles in this issue take this into account. But at the same time we are encouraged by the many initiatives that local people around the globe undertake, in order to not only defend their rights, but also to build concretely tomorrow’s world.
As we welcome new subscribers regularly (you now number 225), we thought we would like to share with you some information about the current activities of members of the editorial team. We think it is useful to keep you informed (the team is presented in alphabetical order).

In addition to his various activities concerning local development in Portugal, Francisco Botelho is also involved with «Cooperar em português» (cooperation in the Portuguese speaking cultural sphere). This cooperation is between local development actors in Brazil, Portugal, Mozambique, Angola, Cape Verde and East Timor. It was initiated in the framework of Expo Brazil meetings.

Yvon Poirier is mandated by the Groupe d’économie solidaire du Québec (GESQ) (Group for solidarity economy in Quebec) in order to develop international networking in the field of solidarity economy, and he is also president of the International Committee of the Canadian Community Economic Development Network (CCEDNet). He is equally involved in the North American Network for the Solidarity Economy (NANSE).

Martine Théveniaut is president of an associative Platform BASE in Sud Audois which “brings together expertise and resources to improve the impact of a more solidarity economy and a model of development that respects people and natural resources". She is co-responsible for the dynamics Pactes Locaux (local pacts) and is vice president of the European network Euronetz for solidarity economy and local development. She is also a member of the European Steering Committee for the 4th International Meeting of Globalization of Solidarity. In December, Martine received her doctorate in sociology. Her thesis topic was Social inventors for liveable territories: Evaluation and perspective of thirty years of practice of research to serve Action (a summary in French and English is available upon request).

Francisco has been combating leukemia for over two years. The medical advances have made it possible to stabilize his condition and our friend is coping well. Yvon and Martine salute the energy he brings to remain active and militant and would like to acknowledge a collaboration that enriches them.

Editorial Team
Francisco Botelho
Yvon Poirier
Martine Théveniaut

Co-responsibility for the well-being of all
Social Cohesion and Territory meeting, Trento, Italy, November 29th and 30th, 2007.

This meeting was organized by the Social Cohesion Development Division (CDCS) of the Council of Europe. Its theme was "Developing the potential of ethical and solidarity-based initiatives for an inclusive society", in cooperation with the Platform IRIS (Inter European Network of Ethical and Solidarity Initiatives).

Recent years have led to an awareness that economic development cannot succeed if it is at the expense of social cohesion, the fundamental condition of democratic security, sustainability, but also the well-being of our societies. This article summarizes the round table which I attended, devoted to socially responsible territories.

The road to regaining our freedom
The autonomous province of Trento has become a district of solidarity economy. "It's not only a matter of law. The problem is to tackle the whole to change mentalities," said Marta Dalmaso, an elected official, during the opening of the meeting. Gilda Farrell, from CDCS, and the initiator of the meeting, quoted in her introduction the novel by Italo Calvino, The Invisible City: Marco Polo, upon arrival at this invisible city is very astonished to note that the project to make people happy leads to a pile of waste (environmental … and human!). Gilda states that in personal accomplishment and well-being nothing is said about consumption choices. We must now reintegrate these to our social functions. "This will not be easy ... It is a long road to recover our freedom: no freedom of choice (products), but "the freedom to give meaning to our choices."

Socially Responsible Territories

The round table presented the result of a territorial application of the methodology developed under the auspices of Samuel Thirion, also from CDSC. The indicators for a "co-responsibility for the well-being of all" were tested in 4 cities: Rovereto (Trento), Timisoara (Romania), Mulhouse and Paris (which is now just starting) in France.
The method keeps its distances from statistics. It is qualitative and participatory. Meetings bring together different classes of citizens according to their ages, situations, genders, issues. The "monochrome" group meetings (e.g. the elderly, migrants, ...) are followed by "rainbow" meetings (crossing of groups). The production is considerable. Then it must be organized and validated with groups of citizens.

Some tentative conclusions resulted. Topics concerning well-being were found to be recurring: employment, income, purchasing power, housing, health, education, training, culture, with specific patterns in each city. Regarding citizenship, exchanges demonstrated the importance of dealing with situations in their context. Thus, security is viewed from the angle of what compromises it in Rovereto (fear of going out, violence, rigidity of the police), while in Timisoara it was what fosters security that was put forward (better public order, protection, control of public measures as tools). Mulhouse insisted putting the emphasis on the respect for the dignity of persons. Without a good knowledge of the context and the existing citizens' initiatives, we cannot expect to improve public policy.

Mulhouse, who had to leave earlier, is in the evaluation stage. It highlighted the differences between the initiatives of communities and people's expectations. They are sometimes trenches (social diversity, fairness in education, income or access to culture, gender equality). To have a direct impact on ongoing actions (shortcomings, mistakes, consolidation, pursuit,...), meetings were conducted between the project promoters and local authorities, following interviews with recipients on the global impact of their situation, etc. Experimentation is also a tool for dialogue.

The issues of social cohesion in the territories: from the experimental to real life?

The assessment currently underway opens the door to the following general questions:
What are the impacts of training? Means, time, strength in the long term ... Ways to communicate, to make known to others?
Are governments convinced of the role of the territories in all this? Or are they looking for more social peace "by putting a lid from above"? Which is completely different from social cohesion ... which comes from the bottom.
Are citizens prepared for this resistance?
Will companies want to play the game?
We must now leave the rewarding phase of co-construction between participants from 4 cities to move towards answers.
How can we reach groups, unintentionally or resolutely excluded from the social game or out of reach?
What to we do with everything that is not said? The suffering, the impact of the religious phenomenon positively and negatively? From the non-utterable such as racism whose display is prohibited by law, but present nonetheless?

For further information on the Directorate General of Social Cohesion:

Author: Martine Theveniaut

Renewable energy and sustainable local development

Encouraging prospects

The theme of the 3rd Mont Blanc Meetings summit held November 9th – 10th, 2007 was the following: The sustainable consumption, production and distribution of energy - the response of the social economy. Several speakers in plenary sessions or in workshops presented concrete examples of approaches in the social solidarity economy, mostly at the local level.

The organization of Mont Blanc Meetings (RMB) is run by mutual groups and cooperatives from France and Quebec, with a view of opening up to organizations in other continents. The aim of the RMB is to unite operators of the social economy with an outlook leading to partnerships in regards to concrete projects. For example, let us mention a decision made in 2005 having an objective to produce open source software for the financial management of social economy enterprises. It will bear fruition within the next two years.

The summit also served to launch the Call of Mont Blanc (available in 3 languages on the website).

The meeting was very rich in various kinds of learning. An outstanding conference was given by Ralph Sims of New Zealand, one of the authors of the latest report of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). The awareness of the urgent need to act, and the potential of the social solidarity economy to bring about concrete answers, will have marked this meeting.

Some striking examples were presented: a region of 44,000 inhabitants in Denmark produces 100% of its energy (except for transportation) with renewable energies; solar dryers in Guinea allow fruits to be dried in order to ensure their long-term preservation; photovoltaic panels on buildings in Freiburg, Germany, the modernization of watermills in Nepal, biogas production, and so on.

What was very interesting in most, if not all of the examples, was the link with the local community. These technologies can be locally implemented and managed by the community.

This article does not allow further elaboration. Let’s simply mention that one part of the answer, or even a large part, to renewable energy production will come from local territories, which also reduces the costs and the waste of energy transportation. On the whole, as in agriculture, production and consumption must move as close as possible to one another. Is this not the only feasible path for the survival of the planet?

Author: Yvon Poirier

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Special thanks to:
Évéline Poirier from Canada for the English translation
Brunilda Rafael from France for the Spanish translation
Michel Colin from Brazil for the Portuguese translation

To contact us (for information, feedback, to subscribe or unsubscribe):
Yvon Poirier

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