In March, people from across the United States and the world gathered in Massachusetts to expand the work and vision of the United States Solidarity Economy Network (USSEN). This umbrella organization started at the U.S. Social Forum in Atlanta in 2007, inspired by solidarity economy work in other countries and an international network, RIPESS, that works to connect information and alternative strategies for building an economy that has values beyond profit – an economy that recognizes the importance of people, communities, environment and equity.
Highlander staff, board and community members attended this forum, to learn more about it and to explore whether the Solidarity Economy Network is useful for groups in the South and Appalachia. It is clear that there are many people and groups around the world building alternative structures that can create a different reality. Some of these notions are not new, and some are very new, but it is an exciting way to help us think differently. Groups involved in the USSEN represent credit unions, cooperatives, labor, community housing, alternative agricultural models, along with people trying to figure out how to use the current economic crisis to push for different economic thinking to guide our politics and use of resources. Elandria Williams, Highlander staff, is part of the organizing and education committee for the USSEN. Staff and board members who went are working to develop a workshop to explore the current economic crisis, with a view towards alternative thinking and strategies.
For more information, go to www.ussen.org. Also, the Center for Popular Economics, which has been staffing the USSEN, is offering both an online class and a week-long institute on the Economic Crisis and Building a Solidarity Economy. For more information, visit www.populareconomics.org.