Friday, September 05, 2008

International Newsletter on Sustainable Local Development
Newsletter #51
September 1st, 2008


Message from the Editorial Team

15th Santa Maria Fair - Brazil
Another economy exits!

World Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi, May 26th-27th 2008
Reflections on different notions of enterpreneurship

Message from the Editorial Team

In this issue we are presenting two articles. Yvon’s participation at the Santa Maria Fair in Brazil enabled him to see the vitality of the solidarity economy in this region of the world. Also, he saw how the city of Santa Maria has been revitalized like his hometown of Quebec City, by mobilizing its citizens and social movements. For her part, Judith Hitchman was able to observe in a meeting in Kenya that various notions of entrepreneurship exist. We wish to share these reflections with you.

Editorial Team
Yvon Poirier
Martine Théveniaut

15th Santa Maria Fair - Brazil
Another economy exists!

Under this theme, the 15th Santa Maria Fair was held from July 11th – 13th, 2008. Santa Maria, a city in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, located 300 km from Porto Alegre. Beyond the "fair" itself, which had 150,000 visitors, the fair was also the opportunity for an annual meeting of a growing number of networks and organizations.

Therefore, during the fair, the following meetings were held which are related to the topics of concern regularly presented in our newsletter:

• 4th Solidarity Economy Fair of Mercosur
• 15th Cooperative Education Fair
• 7th National Fair on Solidarity Economy
• 8th Mostra on Biodiversity and Family Farming Fair
• 4th Latin American Seminar on Solidarity Economy and Fair Trade
• A mini-Forum on Social Solidarity Economy (preparation of the 2009 WSF in Belem in the Amazon)

The products from the fair itself demonstrate the ability to live by consuming healthy and natural foods. In its documentation, the Fair organizers state their conviction that "you have to say no to the marketing of products which contain chemicals, agro-toxic, products developped to avoid refrigeration, the industrial production of beer, tobacco products and to motivate consumers to find environmental and natural products, such as sugar cane juice, drinking water, healthy and natural food supply - for the quality of life and health of consumers". The goal is to show that it is possible to consume otherwise by buying local products, which are natural or of good quality.

The 4th Latin American Seminar on Solidarity Economy and Fair Trade was held on July 12th. In the presence of over 150 people, representatives from Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, France, Mexico, Spain, Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina exchanged with their colleagues from Brazil.

The following themes were discussed:
• Solidarity Economy as a regional development strategy - the vision of civil society across borders
• Public policies in support of the solidarity economy - dialogue with governments
• Construction of an agenda for the inclusion of solidarity economy in regional integration - dialogue between social networks and governments

After fruitful exchanges on these topics, the participants met to prepare their participation in the World Social Forum in January 2009 which will be held at Belem in the Amazon.

The municipality of Santa Maria is very involved in the Fair, especially since Valdeci Oliveira was elected mayor in 2001. A brief tour of the city helped to understand how citizens’ mobilization made it possible to revitalize the municipality. For example, the municipality transformed an abandoned train station into a municipal library, and built public parks in several places. Employees of the municipality showed us with pride a new popular restaurant that will serve 13,000 meals a day at a cost of one Real (about half of a US dollar). Solidarity Economy is one of the important pillars of the revitalization of the municipality. In her opening speech, the project coordinator of the Fair since its inception, Irmã Lourdes Dill, was proud to say that Santa Maria is the "international capital of solidarity economy".

Author: Yvon Poirier
Fair participant
Representative from North American Solidarity Economy Networks

World Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi, May 26th-27th 2008
Reflections on different notions of entrepreneurship

SACOMA (Sahara Communities Abroad) was established in 2000 to support Kiswahili speaking communities from Sub-Saharan Africa living in the UK, many of whom are experiencing disadvantage, such as poverty, social isolation and discrimination. It aims to empower, inform and educate members of the Kiswahili community to enable them to overcome disadvantage and social exclusion and effectively participate in the social and economic regeneration of marginalized communities in the UK. The main purpose was stabling an enterprise that would serve the education and welfare needs of people from Sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere, particularly Kiswahili speaking communities living as immigrants in the UK.
SACOMA’s mission is working in a world where people are economically and socially independent and have good quality of life. We aim to increase the economic and social development of the community through broadened horizons and also add value to community development initiatives by introducing a new dimension through social entrepreneurship. (From website)
The conference brought together a wide range of speakers from various countries and sectors, and participants from many different walks of life. As a member of the European steering committee for Lux’09, and speaker in a workshop on social entrepreneurship, the conference, dynamic though it was, caused me to reflect deeply on the different meanings attached to the term social entrepreneurship, and the ambiguity the term can cause.

The conference was built on the concept of developing networks as the social cement of society, on building confidence and capacities through micro-projects, aimed at economic development, with special attention to women, youth, the disabled, those with special needs, immigrants, refugees and ethnic minorities. The levers identified were personal development and employability and social development as well as economic development. The aim was to develop the non-tangibles of intellectual and social capital and achieve social cohesion.

The European Commission defines social enterprise in the following manner: « Social enterprises devote their activities and reinvest their surpluses to achieving a wider social or community objective either in their members’ or a wider interest.
This involves the social dimension of the initiatives being :
• An initiative launched by a group of citizens
• A decision-making power not based on capital ownership
• A participatory nature, which involves the persons affected by the activity
• Limited profit distribution
• An explicit aim to benefit the community »

Which is all fine and good, and subjected to many cultural variables, even within Europe. Sadly I had the impression that very few of the speakers seemed to share all the above criteria. Many quite openly favoured the capitalist model of venture capital and profit-making with dividends being redistributed to share-holders, and relegated the social approach to the creation of new jobs. What did however emerge as an important dimension in the WES conference, was the clear importance attached to including the value added stages of production at local rather than European level. This in itself is an important aspect.

All of which really got me thinking about the (often legitimate) way in which corporate social responsibility (CSR) and the social objectives of local job-creation are at odds with the more fundamental approach of the social and solidarity economy which is an attempt to actually review and change the fundamental economic approach to society. The former are market driven by the forces of civil society at a global level, in a collective push to achieve greater equity and control of their lives. The latter is what is emerging as leading the market towards a new and more sustainable model. There seems to be something of a global trend at present whereby the paternalistic approach developed in the 19th century economic model, and which includes a strong faith-based approach to charity, has been transformed into an extension of CSR, without re-examining the fundamental causes of social or economic exclusion, as is the case with the solidarity economy model, which is anchored in self-help and empowerment as pillars of the endogeneous model of local development. This in no way detracts from the genuinely positive impacts of many actions resulting from CSR.

At a time when the issues in developed and developing countries alike are increasingly those of not just job creation, but access to fundamental human rights and well-being in general, the kind of wealth created and the collective approach to endogeneous territorial development that truly benefits the local community as a whole needs to be carefully approached.

Author: Judith Hitchman
Original article in English and in French
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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

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Yvon Poirier

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