Following the 2008 economic crash, the need for innovative approaches to the economy has only grown larger. One such answer to that problem has been a strong resurgence in the use of “time banks,” a service for service exchange that skips the middle man of financial currency while building community in the process, according to a special report published by Al Jazeera America.
What is a timebank? From Rushey Green members’ handbook
Time banks are organizations where individuals come together to offer services, traditionally within their immediate community. In return for providing a service, individuals earn “time credits” based on hours donated, which can be redeemed from any other service provider in the system. The exchange of money is avoided all together and each service is treated equally.
Since the crash, over 300 time banks have popped up around the United States alone, “located everywhere from Appalachia to Oakland and run by institutions ranging from art galleries to retirement centers to hospitals,” Al Jazeera reports.
See article from CommonDreams.org
See the article on timebanks on the social economy in higher education project website. The project aims to gain an in-depth understanding of the social economy system, such as social enterprise, not-for-profit business, credit unions, cooperatives, etc. in order to enhance the study and practice of this field in higher education.
In this final article written by university students from Colombia, Diana Meza writes about the values and practices of the local Permaculture movement. The social/solidarity economy in higher education project handbook will begin with a chapter on the values and beliefs systems of people working in the social economy, arguing that these underpin any work which has community and environmental concerns as part of its ‘DNA’
Article in Spanish by Diana Meza, student of social communication at Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana, Colombia
Translated into English by Charles Hanks, UK, collaborator in the social economy in higher education project
Bucaramanga is a city where, paradoxically, over-construction is evident and yet there are more and more housing projects leaving fewer and fewer green spaces. Luckily for the inhabitants, however, there is a small group of people fighting to preserve the environment and for ecological education: Guan Permaculture Centre is an organisation which, without being officially part of the social economy, fully supports its aims.
Permaculture is a word few people know and a fewer still practise. It essentially consists of a sustainable system integrating housing and the natural landscape, saving materials extracted from the earth and, as a result, generating less waste.
The organisation stemmed from a concern about the constant harm humans inflict on the earth with toxins, chemicals, rubbish and other types of contamination that form part of our daily lives. One day, a group of friends decided, without ceremony, to live an eco-friendly life and to incorporate make that culture a habitual part of the people of Santander’s lives: one step at a time they formed the permaculture centre. The specific role that Guan plays in the region is to generate knowledge around bioconstruction so that people are aware of an economical, ecological and sustainable alternative living arrangement.
The people behind Guan have already been putting this into practice for two years, sharing their experience with others through workshops, run either by themselves or by international experts. The participants work together in a bioconstruction project and some of them end up joining the organisation as volunteers. It is important to note that there is no hierarchy at Guan: all the members take part collectively in decision-making and make up a network of sharing, be it materials or labour – they are in many ways more like a family than an organisation.
In a city where it seems titles and ownership are all-important and social inequality is evident, it is interesting to see such groups emerging, with ideas and projects that leave status and economic values to one side to make way for collective benefit which, though few of us acknowledge the fact, we all have a responsibility to achieve. It seems to me that this innovative bioconstruction project contributes to ecological development: the organisation is breaking with modern conventions and rediscovering a healthy lifestyle based on environmental conscience, that which our Guane ancestors themselves practised*; it is breaking with the consensus that in order to make a pizza or some biscuits you need a cooker or a sophisticated oven, reminding us that a clay oven performs the same function.
Guan Permaculture Centre exists to provide ecological education, convey messages about the responsible care we must take of the planet, nurture environmental conscience, and through this generate social impact in the sector. It is a non-profit organisation which, with a great deal of effort and love, is kept going by selling artisanal goods made from recycled materials, and various foods such as ready-to-bake dough, pesto, sauces, organic bread, as well as seeds, fertiliser and plants. There is a small fee for workshops which is used to pay the workshop leaders and to cover the students’ meals during their stay at the Centre.
*The Guanes were a South American people that lived mainly in the area of Santander and north of Boyacá, both modern departments of Colombia. They were farmers cultivating cotton, pineapple and other crops, and skilled artisans working in cotton textiles
This is the fourth article written by students of social communication from Bucaramanga, Colombia, as part of their collaboration with the social/solidarity economy in higher education project. The project aims to make the social economy more visible in the courses, research and practice of universities. In this article Paola Andrea Cogollo writes about Hypatia, an organisation which works for equality, peace and the rights of women through projects around, for example, education, art, ICT and sustainable tourism.
Hypatia: Corporation for equity, democracy and good living
Article in Spanish by Paola Andrea Cogollo, student of social communication, Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana, Colombia
Translated into English by Charles Hanks, UK, collaborator in the social economy in higher education project
What would happen if a more people were to contribute to the quality of other people’s lives, to unite to achieve something impossible for others?
This is how the Hypatia Corporation came into being, created by a group of women deciding to work collectively for their own interests and those of their families. In keeping with its name, Hypatia was formed by women who are today bringing their knowledge to the group and seeking a modern vision of the role of women in society, just as Hypatia of Alexandria did in the 4th century.
By developing different activities with marginalised groups and families, the Corporation tries to reconstruct and repair damage caused by both conflict and social discrimination, promoting the defence of human rights, especially those of women and ethnic groups.
Succeeding in this goal has been complicated for Hypatia, however, since much of their work goes unseen, due to a lack of support from other organisations.
The training, workshops, and other assistance and activities carried out by the Corporation have provided communities with a more complete support programme, not only a training space but what has become a space for mutual growth.
And Hypatia has managed to demonstrate its work by constantly making use of ICT, through its website and social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, which have made the public aware of their development and the results of their experiences within different communities; this is a vital communication tool as it helps the group financially and gives them more visibility in the public sphere.
The group of people behind the whole process must not be forgotten: 13 people who fight daily for a fairer, more humanitarian country, people with a broad social conscience who dedicate a large part of their lives and a great deal of their time to a corporation that pays them, yes, but also rewards them with smiles, hugs and satisfaction from those who receive their help.
It is, for me, gratifying to know that in a country where there is so much violence, big actions like these exist – however small some people may consider them – making this a simpler world for the thousands of families which benefit from the programmes offered by the Corporation. Evidence once again that to be happy, we don’t have to change the whole world.
If you work in a UK-based social enterprise (such as a social business, a community enterprise company, a cooperative, etc), could you spend 10 minutes completing a survey from York St John University? Click here for the survey.
Answers will inform a handbook about teaching and practice of social enterprise in higher education. It is part of an international project which seeks to understand models of business for social purpose by learning from the people who make it happen.
At the end of the survey, there is an opportunity to put yourself forward for an in-depth interview or collaborate with the project in other ways.
If you are a non-UK social enterprise, we will launch a separate survey (which doesn’t have UK-specific aspects) shortly.
This is the third article in a series of five from students of social communication from Bucaramanga, Colombia. The students found local organisations operating in the social economy (known as the solidarity economy in Latin America), visited them and wrote a report about them. In this article Laura Pradilla writes about an organisation in which people work to produce food for the community in sustainable ways and to lobby for a policy environment which supports this.
As part of the social economy in higher education project we are seeking to understand where social economy organisations, who they are and what they do (Chapter of handbook: Identity and profile of organisations)
Article in Spanish by Laura Pradilla, student at Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana, Colombia.
Translated into English by Charles Hanks, Collaborator in the Social Economy in Higher Education project
“How happy farmers would be if only they knew they were happy!” Virgil
For healthy land, a decent job and a better future: the Corporación Buen Ambiente (Good Environment Corporation, ‘Corambiente’) is backing the development of the Santander region’s farmers and carrying out food security proposals, starting with the recovery and improvement of organisational processes in farming communities, especially those displaced because of the armed conflict.
Corambiente carries out its work in different areas such as: farming for personal consumption; generating income; improving access to drinking water; supporting the creation and strengthening of community organisations, principally those for women and farm producers; and political lobbying to ensure that food remains a topic at the heart of local, regional and national politics.
Corambiente has been working for around nine years with the farmers of Santander, for which it has gained recognition in the promotion of good environmental practice, educational processes and the commercialisation of organic products offered directly onto the market by farming communities. For its work helping the rural population, Corambiente has in its turn received support from national and international bodies such as the Norwegian Refugee Council, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the International Organisation for Migration.
Finally, Corambiente continues to implement its work and development expertise through participatory processes characteristic of the assistance it offers to rural communities, and as such the organisation is helping to secure a prosperous life for present and future generations.
More information about Corambiente
This is the second in our series of articles researched and written by students of social communication at the Bolivariana Pontificia University, Colombia, in which students research organisations working in the social/solidarity economy in Bucaramanga region of Columbia and write an article about them. This article looks at the Coopanales Cooperative. See previous article here. If other universities would like to involve their students in the social economy project in this way, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @ysjsocialecon
Article in Spanish by Paula Andrea Serrano Gélvez, student of Social Communication, Universidad Pontifícia Bolivariana, Columbia
Translated into English by Charles Hanks, collaborator in the social economy project
Cultivating sugar cane
The sugar cane (Saccharum officinarum L) “is a giant tropical grass, related to the sorghum and to maize, in the stem of which forms a liquid rich in sucrose, the compound which when extracted and crystallised in the sugar factory is turned into sugar. Sucrose is created by the cane thanks to the energy taken from the sun during photosynthesis”. Although it is not originally a Colombian plant (it comes from South East Asia) the sugar cane has been one of the most important economic sources for this country for many years.
Various activities have developed around the farming of this plant, for example the artisanal production of panela, a type of brown sugar, which is “obtained through the extraction and evaporation of sugar cane juices, and manufactured in what are called panelero sugar mills”. This trade is traditional in various parts of the country, such as Piedecuesta (Santander), where the majority of the work of the Coopanelas cooperative takes place. Part of the third economic sector, the organisation is dedicated to the commercialisation of its members’ products, all produced from sugar cane cultivation, such as panela.
Wrapped sugar cane
Since 28th November 1939, Coopanelas has helped its members, the majority of them land-owners and farmers, to sell their products at a fair price, as well as offering advice, assistance with crop-growing and sometimes even credits to enhance their economic activity.
Throughout this time the cooperative has not only offered support in the ways mentioned above, but has also educated others on topics such as the cooperative movement, inspiring its members with its key values: solidarity, comradeship and above all a respect for the rules.
According to Luis Enrique Figueroa, Coopanelas “was born, like all good things, of ambition and anxiety. Tax on panela was valued at very little – a laughable price in fact – which forced worried farmers to seek union and solidarity, credo of the cooperative movement, so as to get out of their predicament. And it has continued like this for so many years, bringing together individualist temperaments and unfriendly personal desires – a common trait of farmers by the way – and achieving the miracle, so to speak, of becoming an ‘interpreter’ for the land-owner, the harvester, even the rural worker who amidst the smoke of the sugar mill, dreams of a fairer future”.
Principal oven worker
Sugar cane – cooling down
Despite so many years in operation, the outlook for Coopanelas does not look too encouraging; much of the farmland has been urbanised and as a result production has reduced considerably.
For this reason, among others, the cooperative has considered seeking other fields of action, for example tourism, whereby people can witness the transformation of the sugar cane as well as enjoying a night of tranquility in one of the farm houses. The aim of all this is to preserve the work of the cooperative and perhaps establish themselves as a heritage site for the region, where the work of many generations comes together around the sugar cane.
 PERAFÁN, Felipe. La caña de azúcar [on line] < http://www.perafan.com/azucar/ea02cana.html> [cited 11th November 2013, translation C. Hanks]
 COOPANELAS. Historia [on line] <http://coopanelas.com/?page_id=133> [cited 11th November 2013, translation C. Hanks]
In November the Erasmus Mundus social economy project, led by York St John University, UK, was highly commended the UK Times Higher Education International Collaboration of the Year 2013 an award that ‘recognises exceptional projects carried out jointly between a UK institution and one or more international partners’.
Certificate for Highly Commended in International Collaboration of the Year
The project is international in its scope (see partners and associate partners/supporters) and aims to gain insight into the values and belief systems that people working in the social economy have in different regions of the world, and the way in which this motivation is turned into action with a social purpose. It aims to make this knowledge accessible and practical within higher education. It has international collaboration, the value of learning from each other and of creating knowledge together, as its lifeblood.
Over 30 Universities and NGOs worldwide have become Associate Partners of the project and over 600 people have signed up as friends of the project across the globe. Looking ahead, we want to attract more universities worldwide to study social enterprise in their regions to gain a better understanding of how the social economy impacts on people’s lives and communities. We are also seeking to understand how universities teach social enterprise and promote it on campus.
The most inspiring thing about being part of this project is the contact with people from all over the world who are motivated by the its aims and have been prepared to put many hours and days of work in to help move things forward, who have written pieces (see this blog), sent interesting articles and who have given a word of encouragement when it’s been most welcome.
University celebrates ‘Highly Commended’ Project achievement in Times Higher Education Awards
Getting this far has been a truly collaborative effort.
La Salete Coelho and Miguel Silva, partners in the social economy project at the Centre for African Studies, University of Oporto, Portugal, have just returned from Guinea-Bissau, where they carried out some interviews with people working in social and solidarity economy organisations.
These interviews will provide data and case studies for the handbook which will be a main outcome of the project to inform the teaching of social economy in universities in Europe, Latin America and Africa.
Miguel and La Salete chose a variety of types of organisations: associations, cooperatives, non-governmental organisations and informal groups. They also chose organisations in different geographical areas of the country.
The following organisations kindly agreed to take part in the research:
Artissal – local development NGO which promotes fair and sustainable tourism and produces handmade crafts – region of Biombo
COAJOQ - an agriculture and livestock cooperative formed by young staff trained in the sector – region of Cacheu.
Radio Sol Mansi – a radio station which began as a community radio and which now has national coverage. Some staff from the studio in Mansoa and in Bissau were interviewed.
Tiniguena – a local development NGO which promotes local management of biodiversity, targeting food security for present and future generations. Its headquarters are in Bissau but its main work is in the South and on the Islands of Bolama.
A representative of a group of women who work on the issues of livelihoods and gender through sewing activities and processing of local products (jams, juices, etc.) using a mutual savings and a credit system, called ”Abota”, was also interviewed.
The project handbook will discuss the nature and practice of the social economy in different regions of the world. It will include:
Epistemology and values – what knowledge and values do people in the social economy claim to have?
Identity and profile of organisations – who are they? Where are they?
Modus operandi - law, project management, administrative, operational. How do they work? What differentiates them from other economic systems?
Professional competences – what knowledge, skills and behaviour are needed for the job?
ICT – good practices within the field. How does ICT make their work more effective?
Social capital – how is it built? What sustains it?
Social responsibility and transformation – how do organisations/enterprises bring about positive social change? How are they accountable?