To appreciate the opportunities that a solidarity economy offers, it is necessary to have a good understanding of the principles and values that underpin it. These elements include cooperation, solidarity, sustainability, and social and economic justice.
Solidarity economics is an approach to understanding and restructuring the economy based on principles of social justice, environmental sustainability, and community-based economic democracy. In other words, it’s an alternative to the current capitalist system that prioritizes profit over people and the planet.
The solidarity economy is based on the principle of sustainability, which means that we use resources in a way that meets the needs of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This contrasts with the extractive, exploitative mindset of the capitalist economy, which sees natural resources as nothing more than commodities to be extracted and consumed. There are many different ways to practice solidarity economics, but all of them share a few key values. First and foremost, solidarity economics prioritizes people and the planet over profit. This means that decisions about what to produce, how to produce it, and for whom to produce it are made based on meeting human needs and protecting the environment, rather than on maximizing financial gain.
The solidarity economy is based on the principle of cooperation, which means that individuals and groups work together to achieve a common goal. This contrasts with the individualistic, competitive mindset of the capitalist economy, which pits people against each other in a race to the bottom. In a solidarity economy, businesses work together for the common good, rather than trying to undercut each other or drive each other out of business. This cooperative approach extends beyond businesses to include workers as well—solidarity economics envisions a future in which workers own and control their workplaces collectively.
Social and Economic Justice
The solidarity economy is based on the principles of social and economic justice, which means that everyone in a community should have access to the resources they need to live a dignified life. This contrasts with the unequal, exploitative nature of the capitalist economy, which concentrates wealth and power in the hands of a few. Solidarity economics strives for economic democracy—that is, decision-making power over economic activity should be vested in communities rather than in large corporations or institutions. One way this can be accomplished is through worker cooperatives, which are businesses owned and operated by the people who work there.
The solidarity economy is based on the principle of solidarity, which means that members of a community help each other out and look out for each other. This contrasts with the atomistic, self-interested mindset of the capitalist economy, which encourages people to look out for only themselves. For example, the principle of cooperation provides opportunities for individuals and groups to work together to create something bigger and better than they could on their own. The principle of solidarity provides opportunities for members of a community to help each other out and look out for each other. And the principle of sustainability provides opportunities for us to use resources in a way that meets the needs of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
How to Build a Solidarity Economy
The Solidarity Economy movement is still in its early stages, but there are several things that individuals and groups can do to support and build the Solidarity Economy.
Support Local Businesses
One way to build the Solidarity Economy is by supporting local businesses. When you buy from locally owned businesses, you keep your money circulating in your local community, which strengthens the local economy. In addition, locally owned businesses are typically more responsive to the needs of their community and are more likely to give back to the community through charitable giving and other forms of social responsibility.
Cooperate, Don’t Compete
In the conventional economy, businesses are always trying to get ahead of their competitors by undercutting them on price or offering a better product or service. This type of competition often leads to negative outcomes such as job losses, wage stagnation, and environmental degradation.
In contrast, cooperation is based on the principle that we all do better when we work together. When businesses cooperate, they can pool their resources and knowledge to create positive outcomes for everyone involved. For example, cooperative business models such as worker-owned cooperatives allow employees to share in the profits of the business, which gives them a vested interest in its success.
Invest in Your Community
When you invest in your community, you are supporting its long-term economic stability and resilience. One way to invest in your community is by becoming a member of a local credit union or community development financial institution (CDFI). These types of institutions provide loans and other financial services to small businesses and low-income individuals who might not otherwise have access to capital.
Advocate for Policy Change
Attempting to influence policy change at the local, state, and federal levels is another approach to creating a solidarity economy. There are several ways to get involved in advocacy efforts, such as writing letters or making phone calls to your elected officials, attending rallies or protests, or donating money to support organizations that are working for change.
The principles of the solidarity economy—solidarity, cooperation, sustainability, and community-based investing—provide a values-based framework for creating an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy few. By supporting local businesses, investing in your community, and advocating for policy change, you can help build a solidarity economy in your community.