This work is a loving response to the urgent need for greater cooperation, education, and self-governance in Solidarity Economy (SE) and co-operative organizing at all levels. SE organizing, whether it is within a single group or a federation of groups, is developed through study, reflection, and practice. If you are involved in SE organizing at any level the principles and practices are for you.
Our movements for freedom thrive when we share and develop knowledge together. We learn from what we have in common, and we learn just as much from our differences. We value deep study, and we honor what we have observed and experienced ourselves. This work is meant to support all of us in learning rooted in practice, no matter how new or how experienced, in the craft of making solidarity economies possible.
We believe Fannie Lou Hamer: “Nobody is free until everybody is free.” As SE organizers, we commit to struggling for this freedom together, learning to face conflict and challenges directly. We commit to addressing the harm created by systemic oppression, including the ways we and our communities are both harmed by and benefit from dominance, privilege, and oppression. We understand this work takes place on a scale from the local and interpersonal level to that of global networks. Our shared effort here is to begin collecting guidance on what practices are needed for this crucial work, while holding there are many ways to approach getting free. Your contributions are welcome.
How To Participate
The next sections invite you to orient yourself to the history and process of the SE principles and practices project, and to what we mean by Solidarity Economy. From there, you can read through the principles and practices offered here as a foundation for SE organizing in the US (part of the land known as Turtle Island by Native Peoples). You can submit any comments via this form.
Thank you for being here. May our collective efforts grow our capacities for solidarity and practicing freedom.
WHAT DO WE MEAN BY SOLIDARITY ECONOMY?
“We recognize and honor the responsibility that we have to forge our own ideas about SE. SE is an open process, an invitation. The concept does not arise from a single political tradition or body of ideas. Its very nature and definition are in continual development, discussed and debated among its advocates. Seeking to “make the road by walking” rather than to push a closed or finalized ideology, SE is a “movement of movements” continually seeking connections and possibilities while holding on to the transformative commitment of shared values.” — Ethan Miller, SE: Key Concepts and Issues
Solidarity economies grow from the need to create regenerative, circular and sustainable ways to produce and distribute goods and services in an effort to transition away from extractive, exploitative economic practices. As a term, Solidarity Economy came to the US through the World Social Forum in Brazil, where its practices are rooted in Indigenous ways of being and co-operative principles. SE rests on our shared values: cooperation, democracy, social and racial justice, environmental sustainability, and mutualism. We seek to create systems that honor the interdependence of all beings, and elevate the needs of those beings over the priorities of systems based on individualism, profit, and private property. It is distinct from the social economy, which according to Michelle Williams includes nonprofits, co-ops, and social enterprises that, “seek to achieve limited, progressive change within the confines of the current social order by ameliorating the effects of market failure, unemployment and poverty.” Solidarity economy is a “transformative vision of society based on democratic self-management, redistribution, solidarity and reciprocity.” (For more on this distinction see Michelle’s essay, The Solidarity Economy and Social Transformation in the linked anthology).
SE models on Turtle Island (North and Central America) often include: Low-income credit unions, housing cooperatives, community land trusts, food and consumer cooperatives, community supported agriculture (CSA) programs, worker and producer cooperatives, fair trade networks, community gardens, susus, buying clubs, barter networks, timebanks, and even complementary currencies and open source software. Movement-building strategies and practices used by SE organizers include value chain creation, anchor institution strategies, joint marketing or certification initiatives, peer-to-peer technical assistance and knowledge sharing, educational projects, democratic and cooperative financing, policy campaigns, and forums, assemblies, and participatory budgeting spaces to build vision and strategy together for SE development. These are partial lists, and there are plenty of activities that are more informal or invisible. But none of these models or activities on their own constitutes a ‘solidarity economy.’ That only develops when we work together as a movement, in networks and federations and coalitions that themselves embody SE values. This is where we become truly powerful.
BUILDING A MOVEMENT
Truly embodying SE values means transforming our social, economic, and political relationships and institutions. Too often we see our organizations — from individual co-ops on up to international federations — replicate colonial and capitalist relationships and values. Perhaps the hardest part of our work is maintaining the balance between what’s realistic vs. what’s too idealistic and where we must compromise to keep our communities alive in the present even as we build towards a future liberation. Naming and honoring that tension, stretching ourselves to embody SE values, and acting collectively in decolonial and anti-capitalist formations, are central to the practices and principles offered here. These are the seeds of solidarity economies and greater freedom for all of us.
We believe that developing our capacity to self-govern and develop an SE movement is amongst the most urgent matters of our time. Capitalism, white supremacy and colonization are driving humans and many other species to extinction, and SE provides extraordinary opportunities to fundamentally change our relationships to ourselves, each other, and the land. We cannot afford to replicate business as usual at this time in history, and we don’t need to if we work together as a collective to change our relationships to one another’s organizations and focus on the task of building alignment and movement.
While many SE organizing activities are frequently described as solidarity economy or cooperative models for achieving “scale”, these “models” are often fetishized and divorced from their movement context and movement building goals. It is important to recognize that these models operate very differently depending on who is involved, who gets to define and control the initiative, whether decision-making is democratic and accountable, and whether they are embedded in and accountable to a broader SE network or movement.
SE innovation supports building a movement that is true to SE values and embraces the need for rigor and discipline to foster new possibilities. This is what we hope to do by wrestling with and building on existing organizing principles for cooperatives and for SE. We need to ensure that the interdependent economies that we’re visioning and creating are embodying SE values at any and every scale.
Ultimately, SE values and goals cannot be achieved without the inclusion of a broader set of actors and a firmer commitment to joint strategy, collective action and solidarity.
The principles and practices on this site are intended to spark conversation and action in our communities and movements.
From September 2021— March 2022 we invite you to submit your comments about what is presented here — whether that’s a critique, question, suggestion, or an ah-ha moment.
You are encouraged to take these SE principles and practice to your organizations and communities for discussion, and to offer your knowledge back to us through this form. If you’d like the organizers to present on these and be part of your initial discussion, or share with you a participatory workshop you can run, we are happy to do so either virtually or in person if possible. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You are also invited to participate in the convenings organizers are hosting throughout the fall and winter to learn from each other’s experiences and sharpen our shared knowledge. We’ll post links to public gatherings held through PeoplesHub, the online movement school, and share information about other opportunities movement organizations are hosting. Our national federations and membership organizations will be invited to host gatherings, and if they don’t have one planned, you can initiate it.
PRINCIPLE: Trust and accountability are the core of Solidarity Economy work. We value relationships over transactions and single outcomes.
- Each level of SE work (global, national, regional, local, individual organizations) has its own sphere of work and responsibility particular to that level. Organizations should strive to collaborate and support each other in their work and avoid competing. Decision-making and organizing work should be done at the most local level possible. All levels of work should be connected (i.e. the local should connect to national, and national or global should elevate the decisions and work of the local).
- National SE policy advocacy should always include local associations and grassroots members who live and work within the districts represented by our SE legislative champions. Even if a group does not have capacity, an invitation should be issued out of respect for the relationship and grassroots needs.
- Spokespeople at any level should have clear accountability within movement networks and organizations. Organizations can provide formal training and acknowledge this role is challenging and important.
- SE practitioners who interface with media must commit to elevating a wide variety of examples – not just the usual suspects. Those with frequent access to the mic should look for opportunities to pass it to others, especially those most impacted by the work and those who do not have the same opportunities for visibility.
- Build communication structures and feedback channels that are mutually beneficial and supportive of multiple levels of SE work. Such structures should build understanding of who is taking responsibility for what part of the work, and facilitate the development of policy platforms.
- Slow down. We move together in intentional alignment rather than giving in to opportunism. We should make sure those most directly impacted are leading. We should create accessible governance mechanisms and provide language and physical access accommodations. This is important at all levels but especially nationally, where federal policy shifts impact all the groups on the ground.
- Regional or local associations should pass resolutions or endorse specific strategies and priorities in their own work, thereby providing guidance to national organizations.
- Build and honor peer networks. Prioritize resourcing these spaces with time, money, and support. Anti-individualism means that in a single organization it is insufficient to have just one member responsible for all peer networking. These relationships need to be deeper and spread throughout the organization, and for people to feel supported by each other both within and outside their group.
- We honor cooperative principle #7 Concern for Community. We gauge whether something is a good decision not only short-term but for the long-term by asking: 1. Will this be good for all people? 2. Will this be good for future generations? 3. Will this be good for the Earth?
- We do not undermine the work or resources of other organizations in the movement. Constructive criticism and dialogue is necessary. Constructive engagement is necessary if a person or organization acts in a way that is harmful to the common aim or to a companion organization.
PRINCIPLE: We hold space for movement reflections and accountability to each other and our values.
- Ella Baker provides us with a good example in her organizing with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) where she advocated for dedicated annual spaces to hash out tensions and have principled debate and decision-making. Differences in strategy and tactics were considered points of discussion and required political education and context to understand. (For more on this please check out Barbara Ransby’s biography of Ella Baker.)
- Each organization needs to articulate which changes it hopes to make in the world and how its actions contribute to that. (For example, check out Sustainable Economies Law Center’s Mission, Theory of Change, and Financial Transparency page.)
- We share information about outcomes with each other, what worked out as planned and what did not, so that we can all learn and advance together.
PRINCIPLE: We respect the traditions and legacies of the work we are doing.
- In the case of cooperatives, we uphold and honor the cooperative identity by holding groups which claim to be co-ops accountable to the International Cooperative Principles and SE values, legal definitions pertinent to co-ops in their territory, and apply the same standards which are widely adopted globally to determine whether a group is a co-op.
- We protect our SE movement from “faux-ops” who seek to claim the Cooperative Identity or SE identity without any of the practices or principles that entails. For example, when large corporations use the co-op name to sell something, without any democracy or collective ownership in their operations, we organize to protect the co-op identity. Similarly, if a group attempts to claim the term Solidarity Economy, without relationships to movements or embodying SE values, we hold them accountable.
- All of our traditions and legacies have practices for supporting start-up groups. In the cooperative tradition, Principle 6: Cooperation Among Cooperatives, has guided existing co-ops to help new co-ops form. Tensions can arise when start-ups claim an organizational identity they aspire to, but do not yet hold because they have not matured fully into that kind of organization. When this happens it benefits the whole movement for older groups to build a relationship to the start-up and support their development.
- All people have ancestors who practiced cooperation, but we vary widely in our ability to access that knowledge and history. We respect and uplift the work of individual communities to access their own traditions and knowledge of SE as practiced by their ancestors. When that knowledge is shared with those outside of the community, that is a gift and should be met with respect and gratitude.
- We avoid conflating models with each other, or pitting them against each other, or holding any one model up as The Way.
PRINCIPLE: We don’t throw people/orgs away, and we don’t let harm slide. We embrace conflict as generative and clarifying.
- Groups at all levels should have proactive, well-defined processes for addressing and repairing harm, and addressing conflict between organizations or individuals. This includes transparent processes for safely reporting and addressing harm. For example, check out this guide to member conflict and harm resolution from the national membership organization, Resource Generation.
- Groups should prioritize conflict-resolution by including it in their budgets, reserving time in retreats and meetings, engaging in training for members, etc.). For example, Soul Fire Farm “uses a peer-to-peer “Real Talk” process to give one another direct feedback on a monthly basis. When conflict arises, we use a Courageous Conversation protocol, which we learn and practice during our annual staff orientation. A witness or mediator is present if desired by anyone involved in the conflict. Our team creates and upholds safe & sacred space agreements that call for nonviolence and a trauma-informed response to harm. We are committed to transformative justice, and have a professional facilitator available for meditation and healing as needs arise. We are inspired by the work of adrienne maree brown “we will not cancel us” and are committed to giving and receiving constructive feedback in ways that uphold our precious comrades, collective work, and institutions. We also welcome community members to offer us feedback at any time using this form: https://bit.ly/SFFfeedback.” This information comes from a Soul Fire Farm Facebook post.
- Groups at all levels should have clearly defined standards of behavior that everyone must agree to prior to joining the group and that are a requirement for ongoing membership. These must include protections for people from oppressed groups being targeted by people from dominant social groups.
Shared Resources & Shared Vision
PRINCIPLE: Autonomy and Independence (cooperative principle #4): Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organisations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organisations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their autonomy. We understand this co-op principle of autonomy and independence to be applicable to all forms of Solidarity Economy organizing whether informal or formal.
- Challenge the ways that state and philanthropic funding operate so they are more responsive to our needs.
- Challenge “charity” approaches, invest in building power and agency for member and community self-determination. Never do for an SE organization what the members inside it can and should do for themselves. Instead, support them with guidance and solidarity.
- Organizers, developers, funders and incubators should always include explicit exit plans for themselves while working with new entities so that the new entity can move on to exist independently and sustainably after the initial support or investment.
- In worker co-ops specifically, honor the Mondragon principle of sovereignty of labor over capital, which means the interests of the workers are considered primary, especially when making financial decisions.
PRINCIPLE: Create abundance, not scarcity. SE organizers should cooperate to access resources across all levels – internationally, nationally, regionally, and locally.
- We can and should organize funder collaboratives (where foundations jointly pool resources for solidarity economies) with attention to the breadth of solidarity economies, taking care to avoid promoting any one model or project over another, and framing the work in terms of the economic, social, and racial equity we seek to address within our movements.
- Conduct joint funder briefings and funder education initiatives, shared resource mapping, and clearly articulated theories of change that we share with each other and our potential supporters.
- We can and should organize funder collaboratives (where foundations jointly pool resources for solidarity economies) with attention to the breadth of solidarity economies, taking care to avoid promoting any one model or project over another, and framing the work in terms of the economic, social, and racial equity we seek to address within our movements.
- National organizations can fundraise with the explicit purpose to distribute funds to the grassroots membership using an equity lens. We can do this through shared grantmaking/participatory budgeting approaches using a process that gives members decision making power. (For example, the coalition NY Renews raises funds that are then distributed to their steering committee and hold a regranting process for the rest of the membership. This provides resources for everyone to participate in the coalition’s internal and external work in their own location and with their own communities.)
- Regularly host movement strategy sessions with the groups in your area or sphere. Part of this should include a gap analysis to identify what we need to build movement and economic power in collaboration with groups on the ground.
- Engage in participatory budgeting whenever possible inside our own individual organizations and more widely within our movements. The space in between our organizations and silos must be bridged. Our organizations and networks could all be contributing to common pools of money to put towards shared initiatives.
PRINCIPLE: Financial and data transparency is essential to our democratic practices and to learning as a movement.
- Funding sources and their uses should be transparent to the membership of any SE organization. For example, networks and federations can share their budgets with members at their member meetings along with information about where they money is drawn from, any restrictions placed on it, and expectations for its future flow.
- Data about our movements should be shared (with consent) in ways that promote learning while anonymizing specific data points when that’s important. For example, SE groups that conduct surveys can share information with each other, and allied researchers, via the Data Commons Cooperative. Groups can choose what information to restrict and where special permission is required.
- When we are seeking publicity for our projects, we will strive to tell the messy truth whenever possible, and when the story gets ahead of the reality, we commit to slowing down and catching up. For example, the founders of Renaissance Community Cooperative in Greensboro, NC held a webinar to discuss what happened after the coop closed, offering their hard-won wisdom to the SE community.
- All SE entities and their associations, including their subsidiaries, should conduct regular social/democracy audits (e.g. every 1-5 years). This should be conducted by a member-elected committee. In Latin America this type of committee is called Consejo de Vigilancia. See Cooperatives for Sustainable Communities for a variety of social audit tools. The UN published a guide on social auditing, and the SA 8000 is a very formal international tool.
PRINCIPLE: Invest in Solidarity Economy and Cooperative entities directly.
- Prioritize direct financial gifts to models and practitioners on the ground without strings attached whenever possible.
- When direct gifts are not possible, prioritize forgivable, zero-interest, or low interest loans whenever possible.
- Prioritize direct investment in the models and practitioners on the ground whenever possible instead of channeling funds through third party organizations such as loan funds. When investing in a loan fund, make sure it is member controlled, like Seed Commons or the Buen Vivir Fund.
- Prioritize building trade networks amongst SE/Coop entities. Look for ways to meet your individual and group needs by cooperating with other SE or Coop entities, whether that’s looking for a new vendor for your group or creating something new. For example, some groups form purchasing coops with other groups so they can access goods at a lower cost.
PRINCIPLE: Our relationships are built on solidarity and cooperation, not competition. This doesn’t mean our individuality and particular points of view are erased. It means we engage each other in all our particularities as comrades who share values and a broad vision for working together to achieve a common goal rather than as opponents in a battle for spoils.
- We participate in social, political, educational and economic activities with allied groups in order to know one another, build trust and practice solidarity. This includes joining federations, coalitions, and other formations for political and economic power.
PRINCIPLE: We shift culture with our language, practices, expectations, and pedagogy.
- Our organizations should have an ongoing commitment to language and access justice.
- Use ritual to create repeated, lived experiences for people that reinforce cooperation and solidarity.
- Examine language, use of metaphors and styles of communication for cooperative vs. competitive and liberatory vs. oppressive content.
PRINCIPLE: We are nature, not apart from nature. Our continued collective existence as humans is based on clean water, clean air, healthy soil, and respect for all living beings.
- Commitment to ongoing education/knowledge-building about a just transition away from an extractive economy and toward regenerative practices and systems.
- Include your carbon footprint and impact on the planet in your group’s reflections and strategic planning. Do what you can to minimize the harm your causes and to amplify the good. Growing positive relationships to land, air, water, and living beings is just as important as minimizing negative impacts, so be sure to focus on both.
- Be an advocate for climate and environmental issues in your community. Sign on to letters, join coalitions, and participate in actions. You could even give staff or members specific time to dedicate to this work. (For example, if your group is a business you could consider joining American Sustainable Business Council to be a voice for businesses opposed to fossil fuels.)
PRINCIPLE: Our organizations must have a robust commitment to racial justice.
- Acknowledge the Native Peoples where you are working. Understand and honor the treaties, and build relationships with Native nations and individuals in the territory where you are located.
- Pay land taxes. This is a practice of identifying whose land you’re on and regularly making financial contributions to support those who were displaced or remain on the land fighting for survival. In some areas there are organized land tax projects (such as Sogorea Te Land Trust) but even if they do not exist you can do your own research to identify traditional Native leadership and lend your support. Native-land.ca can help you start that search.
- Offer scholarships to Native people and provide services that are pro bono or reduced cost to Native groups.
- Engage in land back when and where possible. This does not always look like transferring legal ownership of a property, though it can mean that. Land back can encompass agreements to allow Native groups access to spaces for their work, ceremonies, and households. It can also mean support Native advocacy to protect or access sacred lands or stop dangerous pipelines.
- Acknowledge the history of enslavement and the legacy of anti-Blackness that remains.
- Support reparations, landback, and rematriation. This might include joining with other organizations to advocate for reparations, educating your group about the ways your work is implicated in enslavement, segregation, genocide, and dispossession of Black and Native Peoples, and deepening your own knowledge about what reparations and landback mean. For example, check out the Movement For Black Lives Reparations Toolkit to learn more about the difference between reparations and redistribution, and NDN Collective’s Landback campaign. We also strongly encourage you to look for reparations and landback work rooted locally where you live.
- Invest in SE efforts led by and for Black communities, especially in the US-South.
- Create inclusive cultures where white supremacy and racism are named and addressed. Whether your group is multiracial, folks of color, or white folks, racism and white supremacy are impacting your culture and dynamics. Make regular space to talk about and grapple with that and budget time and space to train folks who need support to grapple with it.
- Know the lineages of your work. Know who developed the kind of work you’re doing, who is owed respect, who the ancestors and elders are in your space. Come to understand your place as a lineage holder.
- Support organizing for immigrant justice. Acknowledge that many immigrants are building solidarity economy movements under an atmosphere of constant threat, including that of detention and deportation, and support efforts to dismantle these hostile conditions.
- Support efforts to abolish systems of punishment including jails, prisons, detention centers, policing, immigration enforcement, and surveillance.
PRINCIPLE: We acknowledge the history of patriarchy and misogyny as a root of capitalist exploitation and we seek to address these behaviors when they appear in our organizations and ourselves.
- Gender-based caucuses for study, reflection, and workshopping behaviors are useful for any level of SE organizing. For an example, check out the Everyday Solidarity for Everyday Sexism work in NYC.
- Monitor and address pay disparities that arise from gender
- Monitor and address labor disparities that arise from gender. For example, co-ops can audit the labor that falls outside individual job descriptions that is essential for a healthy group. This is often care work that is invisible and unpaid, but crucial to the functioning of the organization.
- Normalize the use of pronouns, gender inclusive restrooms and uniforms, and require an understanding of basic concepts of gender identity for staff and members. Resource this work with workshops and cultural competency trainings led by women, trans, and gender non-conforming people.
- Participate in gender history celebrations, event, and gender justice advocacy as part of a commitment to building an inclusive culture inside and outside your organization
PRINCIPLE: Support workers rights and poor and working people.
- Support unions in our workplaces. For example, many worker co-ops choose to join unions in solidarity with workers in their field. This also gives them access to benefits and services, such as a grievance process. All groups that have a formal workplace can benefit from union affiliation.
- Develop strong worker support processes and structures like steward councils, mediation practices and educational programs within cooperative and SE enterprises/organizations.
- Never cross a picket line. If you have a vendor or ally group where workers are on strike or picketing, respect that need and let the vendor or ally know you support the workers and will get your goods or services elsewhere.
- Symbolically and materially support worker self-organization (e.g. contribute to strike funds, look to fulfill specific requests of organizing committees)
- Develop a culture of talking about the impacts of classism in your group. Train members of your group to learn about how class dynamics work using tools from Class Action or others. As you learn together about the impact of classism, change your policies and structures to accommodate people from poor and working class backgrounds and families.
- Mitigate class bias in your hiring process as much as possible. Some examples: include pay rates and benefits details upfront in job postings, create job descriptions that don’t pose unnecessary qualifications (e.g. requiring formal degree when equivalent experience or the ability to learn a core task would suffice), anonymize applications before reviewing, use the same structured interview questions for all candidates.
PRINCIPLE: Incorporate disability justice principles into your organization and incorporating access as a value, practice, and culture.
- Learn about the 10 disability justice principles from Sins Invalid and discuss incorporating them with your organization.
- Design your group’s work with access in mind. If you are offering services, determine if they are available to disabled people, and if not, identify ways you can practice accessibility in your offerings. There are many checklists on the Internet to help you evaluate how accessible your website and marketing is, how to hold accessible events online and offline, and ways to build relationships to disabled people. Consider disability when you’re designing your hiring, training, and membership onboarding processes, and create policies that are disability-friendly. There are many trainings and resources available to help you on this journey, just remember that access is a practice, not a destination.
Democracy & Process
PRINCIPLE: We practice democracy in all aspects of our work.
- Strategic Planning should always include meaningful member input and approval.
- Organizational mission, vision and values should be reviewed by the membership regularly (e.g. every 1-5 years).
- Leaders should be evaluated each year based on their performance in the service of organizational mission, vision and values. An HR committee of members could perform this function.
- The organization should recognize and appreciate the many perspectives and contributions made by members.
PRINCIPLE: Subsidiarity: Decision-making and organizing work should be done at the most local level possible, by those directly impacted by the decisions.
- National, regional, and local SE organizations need to make all organizational documents, including budgets, meeting minutes, bylaws, strategic plans, etc. should be available to all members and easily accessible. Members should have the right to decide what information is available and at what level of detail. Internal transparency is distinguished from general “public” transparency. (An example of this work is the Chantier in Quebec, which has built regional networks and movement capacity to engage in long-term strategy development and implementation as a network of networks.)
- It’s insufficient to just elect a board and call it democratic, if decisions have impact in a community that community needs to have a meaningful say in what those decisions are. It should go beyond “input” to actually having decision-making power.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment! Exercise democracy in varied and creative ways; both impromptu and defined process.
- Each historical moment of the organization should be carefully documented and archived, so that we can learn from our successes and missteps. Investing in documentation also ensures that the power that comes from information is better distributed within and between our organizations. It also makes our organizations more resilient to leadership transitions.
Education & Leadership Development
PRINCIPLE: We commit to ongoing education. In the co-op tradition this is Cooperative Principle #5: Member Education. This allows members to contribute effectively to the development of their enterprises/organizations, and to inform the general public (particularly young people and opinion leaders) about the nature and benefits of solidarity and cooperation.
- Learn how to best label and contextualize your work. Cooperatives are well known and there is a tendency for everything SE to get labeled as a co-op, but that diminishes the unique contributions of organizing that does not fall under a co-operative label. Groups engaged in SE work should consider carefully which label to apply to their work by learning about co-operatives and their unique rights and responsibilities (including legal formations and traditions) and learning about or exploring the history of collectives. If you are in a group that is democratic, but does not adhere to the Co-op Principles and Values and is not incorporated as a co-op, consider what you need to do to move your group towards actually becoming a co-op. If you do not wish to be a co-op, consider the potential harm claiming the identity causes and be aware of the legal liability you face in some states for applying that term to your work.
- Educational activities should happen regularly within every SE entity. Promulgate clear principles & revisit/revise periodically. This should include political education as well as ongoing training in all aspects of the work you are doing together.
- Education should always be integrated into our networking and organizing since it is about transforming our understanding and capacities for collective & cooperative action.
PRINCIPLE: We value collective learning to examine, adapt and improve in response to challenges, opposition and new ideas.
- Convene regular member meetings and informational forums to discuss and debate issues arising in our organizations.
- Share research, data and educational materials freely within our networks.
PRINCIPLE: We democratize educational practices. Everyone is a learner and everyone is a teacher.
- Use context specific popular/participatory education methods
- Prioritize peer support and education, utilizing the knowledge/expertise of practitioners
- Use study groups as a way to learn new things together and build relationships
- Develop a shared definition about this work – not necessarily using the same words, but being clear about what is SE vs what is something else. This should be debated at all levels and renewed on a regular basis.
PRINCIPLE: We continually build new leadership within our organizations.
- Utilize ladders of engagement, which are ways to specifically tier learning that allow people to take on more leadership and responsibility as they gain a deeper understanding of the work.
- Commit to ongoing leadership development and succession planning for all management, board, committee and leadership roles.
- Develop and support mentorship programs within and among organizations.