Social economy in a Globalized World

Guest blog from Irena Knezevic, Assistant Professor, Communication, Carleton University

CIRIEC international research conference on social economy

July 2015, Lisbon, Portugal

International Center of Research and Information on the Public, Social and Cooperative Economy (CIRIEC) organizes a bi-annual research conference focusing on social economy, which by their definition includes cooperatives, mutual societies, foundations, and cultural and philanthropic organizations. This was its fifth conference and over 300 people from around the world were in attendance. Portugal was an appropriate setting for this gathering as the country boasts a vibrant social economy sector and in 2013 it adopted its General Law on Social Economy, following the example of Spain that similarly cemented social economy into its legislative framework in 2011.

This year’s theme was “Social economy in a Globalized World” and consequently many of the sessions focused on issues of globalization, financialization, governance, territories, and the social economy’s relationship to the state. In many ways it was a celebration of the contributions that the sector makes (and can potentially make) to social well-being in a world where economic inequalities are on the rise and the neoliberal economic model is failing.

A number of presentations relied on traditional economic theory to provide very abstract assessments and projections related to social economy. Others reported on very regionally specific trends. Nevertheless, several presentations offered some interesting intersections to our own work. Nathalie Verceles from the Philippines used her fieldwork with indigenous women’s cooperatives to illustrate how the social and informal sectors have been historically undervalued precisely because they typically employ those who are already socially marginalized. Alex Murdock from the United Kingdom described his work with social enterprises to develop measurements of social return on investment, something our community partners have already identified as a pressing need here in Canada. Jutta Gutberlet from the University of Victoria, BC, shared her research on participatory sustainable waste management in Brazil where informal recyclers’ networks formalized into cooperatives to develop enterprises focused on social inclusion, empowerment and collective action.

While generally an enthusiastic gathering, the conference was not without its critics. The purpose of the conference was to “[encourage] interdisciplinary dialogue, exchange and collaboration in order to enhance the contributions and applications of scientific inquiry for understanding and improving the life conditions and experiences of the less favoured people.”

CIRIECWhile the diversity of the participants was notable, the organizational leadership and keynote speakers were much more monolithic. The opening night and the second day’s plenary session included a total of twenty speakers. Only two of them were women (and one of them was not even on the original schedule but spoke in place of a participant who was unable to attend). The rhetoric of inclusion was thus not very well reflected in the voices that were featured. This, however, did allow for very lively coffee-break discussions among participants, suggesting that this imbalance was far from unnoticed.

Despite this shortcoming, the general tone of the conference was that of certainty that social economy can bring about prosperity and equity much more effectively than the neoliberal model ever could. That potential, many of the participants suggested, is what will make social economy blossom in the coming years. You can find more information about CIRIEC here. Or visit the conference website where you can find the complete conference program.

Scaling Up

The Convergence of Social Economy and Sustainability

When citizens take collaborative action to meet the needs of their community, they are participating in the social economy. Co-operatives, community-based social services, local non-profit organizations, and charitable foundations are all examples of social economies that emphasize mutual benefit rather than the accumulation of profit. While such groups often participate in market-based activities to achieve their goals, they also pose an alternative to the capitalist market economy. Contributors to Scaling Up investigated innovative social economies in British Columbia and Alberta and discovered that achieving a social good through collective, grassroots enterprise resulted in a sustainable way of satisfying human needs that was also, by extension, environmentally responsible.

Read more

Quebec Budget Boosts Social Economy

… from CCED Network

Quebec’s Minister of Finance, Carlos Leitão, presented the 2015-16 budget on March 26th. Some of the most significant positive measures include:

  • The $20M addition to the Programme d’infrastructure en entrepreneuriat collectif (PIEC) [Collective entrepreneurship infrastructure program];
  • The $10M recapitalization of Réseau d’investissement social du Québec (RISQ);
  • A $30M budget to relaunch Investissement Quebec’s program to stimulate the capitalization of social economy enterprises;
  • $10M over five years for an action plan for seniors and persons in loss of autonomy as well as the renewal of the Financial Assistance Program for Domestic Help Services (PEFSAD);
  • $3.5M over five years to support innovation and the development of markets, and the confirmation of funding for five years of the liaison and transfer organization, Territoires innovants en économie sociale et solidaire (TIESS);
  • A $1M fund over five years to support workers in their process to create worker cooperatives in the context of business reactivation;
  • $29M over five years for various grassroots organizations that work to support the development of social economy enterprises, especially in rural and remote regions.

Read more

Ontario’s Regional Food Hub Development

Co-op Food Hub Discussion in Guelph

Changing the Way We Do Local Food

February 24, 2015
7:00pm – 9:00pm
Chapel, Loyola House, Ignatius Jesuit Centre of Guelph

Public Forum, Panel Discussion and World Café

Facilitated by Sally Miller, LOFC Network Food Hub Project Manager

Come participate in a robust discussion about how co-operative food hubs are offering Ontario communities viable, democratically driven business options for local food aggregation and distribution. Guests from the Local Organic Food Co-ops Network’s Regional Food Hub Expansion project will share their experiences before the audience has a chance to participate in small table discussions on Financing, Marketing, Governance, and Logistics for Distribution.

Special guests include Peggy Baillie, Eat Local Sudbury, Devorah Belinsky, Ottawa Valley Food Co-op, Kelly Skinner, True North Community Co-op, Jeff Pastorius, On the Move Organics, Alison Blay-Palmer, Wilfrid Laurier University, Jodi Koberinski, Canadian Council on Food Sovereignty and Health, Glenford Jameson & James Patterson, West End Food Co-op, Glenn Valliere & Randy Whitteker, Ontario Natural Food Co-op.

Tickets are $20 at the door, or included with registration at the Dan Kittredge farmer training (Feb. 23 & 24) or at Building the Soils of a Co-operative Food System, our 6th Annual Assembly (Feb. 24-6).

Fortnightly Feast

Farmland Forever Campaign

To celebrate their 10th Anniversary, the Ontario Farmland Trust has launched a $1 million Farmland Forever fundraising campaign. With this campaign, they will be able to nearly double the amount of farmland under agricultural protection easements. Currently more than 20 farm owners are waiting to donate easements. The Farmland Forever campaign will also give OFT more capacity to support farmland policy development and expand research and education for improved farmland protection across Ontario.
** And from now until December 31st, every donation will be matched dollar for dollar by the Metcalf Foundation!! **
In this season of giving, why not save some land for a future farmer?

Conference on Sustainable Food Choices Livestreamed

LiveWell for low-impact food (LIFE) is a project which aims to contribute to the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the EU food supply chain and demonstrate what healthy, sustainable diets could look like for different European countries.
Over the last three years, LiveWell for LIFE has worked with members of the multi-sectoral Network of European Food Stakeholders – which represent key stakeholders from across the EU – to reduce the impact food consumption has on the environment.
‘On our plate today: healthy, sustainable food choices’ is LiveWell’s concluding conference. Here they’ll look at the need for a global food strategy, and the role policymakers and business leaders alike play in encouraging sustainable food consumption.
To learn more about the project, please visit livewellforlife.eu
Watch the entire conference live online.

The Fourth Annual Eastern Ontario Local Food Conference

What is local? Some describe anything within a 50 or 100-kilometre radius as local; others include anything grown in Ontario or made in Canada as local. What was clear at the conference was that foodies want what they want, and business owners can’t afford to ignore them. Buying local is not a trend that is going to disappear.
Be unique. Grow your business as big as you want. Food hubs and sharing ideas and distribution processes are great ways to leverage your growth—as the master of your own destiny you can still remain niche while becoming mainstream. Read more

Taking Stock of the Mobile Good Food Market

“Basically the jury’s still out on how to operationalize it and make it sustainable, even for a nonprofit that’s subsidized,” says Debbie Field, executive director for FoodShare Toronto, the organization that runs the Mobile Good Food Market. “I don’t think that it’s actually working for anybody who’s doing it right now.”
The biggest value of mobile markets, she says, might be in demonstrating that there is a demand for healthy food in even the poorest neighborhoods. “It’s not that low-income people aren’t interested,” Field says. “They will buy the food if we can get it there. What FoodShare is proving is that people will buy this food and what we have to do is figure out logistically how to get it into communities.” Read more

Healthy food out of reach for many

If you suspect it cost more over the past year to buy groceries and cook even basic healthy meals at home, you’re right, according to new study. The 2014 Food Cost Survey released by the Brant County Health Unit reveals that the cost of eating healthy food for a family of four is now $193.85 a week in Brantford and Brant – or $839.37 out of the monthly budget. That’s an 8% increase over last year’s figure of $179.50 per week, or $777.19 a month. “The reality is that many families in our community can’t afford basic healthy food after paying for housing and other living expenses.” Read more

La Montañita Co-op: Fresh, Fair, Local and Organic!

La Montañita, a consumer cooperative, believes in the shared benefits of healthy food, sound environmental practices and a strong local economy with results that justify the resources used.
The Co-op is a leader in the local foods movement! We support local farmers through the Food-Shed Project. This initiative helps local farmers and producers get their products into more markets. Over 1,100 local products from 400 local producers make it to small community grocers, restaurants, and commercial kitchens as a result of the Co-op Distribution Center.
We know local, but we call it community. We serve our membership, but we also collaborate with farmers, local food and environment advocates, and educators to build community awareness about the links between food, health and the environment. Read more

Special Issue on Cooperatives Available FREE in July!

The special issue of the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development (JAFSCD) on Cooperatives and Alternative Food Systems Initiatives has just been completed and will be freely available — no subscription needed! — through the month of July. The journal is doing this to make these papers more readily available to researchers and practitioners and to extend the research on and practice of cooperatives. It also offers prospective subscribers a chance to explore the contents of JAFSD.

This issue also includes an article about our community partner: Leveraging the Local: Cooperative Food Systems and the Local Organic Food Co-ops Network in Ontario, Canada.

Please share this information with your colleagues and networks.

http://www.agdevjournal.com/volume-4-issue-3.html

Cloverbelt Local Food Co-op

From the latest newsletter of the Cloverbelt Local Food Co-op

Getting started: Looking back, I realize it’s been over a year since a group of us sat down and said: “Let’s turn the dream of a local food co-op in Dryden into reality”. The concept has been kicking around our community for a long time (learn more about the research behind the co-op here: http://www.dryden.ca/cms/One.aspx?portalId=7851&pageId=39046). The project really came to life when some of us attended a workshop about strengthening local food systems, that was hosted by the Northwest Training & Adjustment Board, and the Food Security Research Network in November of 2012.  It’s hard to believe how far we’ve come since then.  Cloverbelt Local Food Co-op was officially incorporated on August 20, 2013, and we have been steadily receiving new memberships as people eagerly support the opportunity to become a part of change, for the better.

Read more

Fortnightly Feast – vol. 11

For the faithful reader of this post, and those interested in the creation of sustainable regional food systems, here are two wonderful sources of news, information and events:

Locavore News

The Locavore News Editor, Elbert van Donkersgoed, puts together concise but informative summaries with links to only the most interesting and relevant stories about local food on the internet. These stories are carefully separated into three separate weekly posts, with  Ontario-based, Canadian and international versions. Information about Locavore News is available on the Terra Coeur website. This includes an archive of past issues of Locavore News.  To add your address to the Locavore News distribution list, send an email to: Plumbline-subscribe@terracoeur.com.

Sustain Ontario

Along with a huge amount of information on their policiespolicy papers, consultations and campaigns, Sustain Ontario also has three streams of food news: from SO, from their member organizations, and from around the world. You can also subscribe to have Good Food Bites sent to you every Wednesday, or to receive monthly updates about the work of the Alliance and opportunities to support food and farming in Ontario.

 

6 US Regional FOOD HUB models

Seems to be all food hubs, all the time – particularly south of the border, where state and local planning and economic development efforts appear to be following the lead of the USDA in advocating the value of these regional food hubs:

NC   Are Food Hubs the Key to Expanding Regional Food Systems?

WI   Wisconsin Food Hub Cooperative and institutional procurement

Regional Food Hub Planning

The Southern Tier West Regional Planning and Development Board has presented the results and recommendations of a six-month feasibility study of a proposed food hub to serve Allegany, Cattaraugus, and Chautauqua county farm and food producers.

The research and report have been undertaken by Anthony Flaccavento, an economic development consultant and farmer who pioneered a local food hub in southwestern Virginia and northeastern Tennessee. This report is incredibly detailed, and is a must-read for those interested in developing their own regional food hub.

Ecological Farmers of Ontario / West End Food Co-op

Developing the Producer and Retailer/Distributor Relationship

A Panel Discussion

Saturday, April 27th 2013

Location: The West End Food Coop, 1229 Queen St W Toronto

Are you interested in finding out more about selling your farm products to a retailer/food box/food coop/distributor?
The EFAO and West End Food Coop are offering a panel discussion highlighting local growers and buyers sharing their experiences as well as buyer expectations for producers. 

The panel includes:
Mama Earth Organics – Emmalea Davis
Kind Organics – Tamas Dombi
Vibrant Farms – Melissa Baer
West End Food Coop – Ayal Diner

Arrive at 1:00pm and panel to start at 1:30pm
Break and refreshments
Finish time 5:00pm

This event is for farmers who operate small to medium sized farm and would like to find out more about how their farm could start selling to retail/distributor/food box/food coop.
Please contact Karen Maitland to register at info@efao.ca or phone at 519-822-8606