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Seeing Solidarity Economy Movement in Motion

The SEI Report is an attempt to make visible the elements of solidarity economy movement that already exist. Mapping has been a common activity for solidarity economy initiatives in the US and beyond. Advanced projects in Brazil, Italy, and Quebec[i] have created platforms for solidarity economy enterprises to find each other and build supply chains. These maps have inspired the US Solidarity Economy Map and Directory, funded by the National Science Foundation.[ii] Led by four academics (in MA, NY, NJ, PA) and Emily Kawano of the US Solidarity Economy Network, this project has more than 20,000 entries across the US.

While these efforts are valuable and help to advance consciousness and visibility, they have limitations, not the least of which is the lack of comprehensive data. The US Solidarity Economy map, for example, has entries only for sectors where formal databases already exist, such as credit unions. While more local mapping efforts have been undertaken, these are incomplete snapshots of a particular time and place.[iii] Maps are often limited to entities more conventionally seen as “economic” or to initiatives that are already legally established. These maps are not intended to show how solidarity economy consciousness is growing, how power-building practices are happening, or where more informal activities are dispersed.

Given these limitations, we chose not to advance mapping efforts in Massachusetts, but rather to conduct case studies to see solidarity economy movement in motion. The case study approach enables more depth in understanding how solidarity economy movement is happening, particularly in each of the three dimensions of consciousness, power-building, and alternative economy. We do not claim to sample all such initiatives; we know there are more out there. The first criteria in choosing our cases was that they be operating in lower-income communities of color. We developed an initial list of possible cases through previous research and the networks of our SEI members. Then we chose to sample a set of cases that were at varying stages of development, from very new to defunct. We also tried to include initiatives that spanned various types of economic alternatives and organizing models.

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[i] See Craig Borowiak's Solidarity Economy Resources website’s page “Other Mapping Initiatives”: http://cborowiak.haverford.edu/solidarityeconomy/mapping-initiatives/other-mapping-initiatives/.

[ii] See http://solidarityeconomy.us/.

[iii] See Mira Luna, “How to Map the New Economy,” Shareable, March 12, 2013. http://www.shareable.net/blog/how-to-map-the-new-economy