Mapping the Solidarity Economy

While solidarity economy initiatives across the US are beginning to network and organize with each other, much work remains to be done to make these initiatives visible (both to each other and to the public), and to demonstrate that these initiatives are not marginal but indeed thriving. To that end, we are a collaborative research project that aims to map and estimate the economic impact of the Solidarity Economy in Philadelphia, New York, Central and Western Massachusetts.The lingering after effects of the global financial crisis and the looming impacts of unfolding ecological challenges have prompted communities around the world to experiment with other forms of economic organization, including the formation of solidarity economies. Solidarity Economy is a term that originated simultaneously in France and Latin America that is meant to describe an economy (a system of production, exchange, finance and consumption) that prioritizes cooperation, mutual aid, workplace democracy, equity in all dimensions (race, class, gender, etc.) and care for the environment. Solidarity economy networks have sprung up all over the world to link together cooperatives, credit unions, community land trusts, and social justice organizations to facilitate their coordinated development. While all of these elements exist in the United States, they tend to be fragmented across the landscape and studied in isolation (when they are studied at all). This piecemeal approach contributes to the perception that they occupy at best small niches in the economy. As a result, they are undervalued and under-supported as a means for revitalizing communities.

Our project has four main goals:

  • to map solidarity economy initiatives and activities to see how they cluster along lines of race, neighborhood, income, and accessibility;
  • to estimate the total economic impact of solidarity economy initiatives in terms of contribution to the tax base and changes in consumer spending;
  • to use qualitative research techniques such interviews to capture the social and economic impacts on communities and people’s lives that are hard to capture through numbers, such as changes in people’s attitudes, or an increase in community involvement .
  • to create an interactive online map to help facilitate networking and economic integration among solidarity economy initiatives, and to help the public at large find ways to participate in the solidarity economy.

A Typology of Solidarity Enterprises

We are distributing a survey to solidarity economy organizations (tailored to individual sectors) to collect the information we need to conduct the geographic and economic analysis. We have partnered with many organizations including Solidarity NYC to help this happen. We also ask organizations filling out the survey to indicate whether they would like to be included in the public map. Finally, we will capture some of the unique social and economic impacts of the solidarity economy via in-depth interviews conducted by community, faculty, and student researchers.

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