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Seeding the Solidarity Economy

The Center for Popular Economics (CPE) recently hosted the first Forum on the Solidarity Economy at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst — home of Sea Change Radio. CPE Executive Director Emily Kawano explains the theory and practice behind the solidarity economy, and discusses strategies and next steps for the US Solidarity Economy Network in cultivating a socially and environmentally sustainable economy. And Chilo Villarreal of the Coalición Rural in Mexico illustrates solidarity economy concepts through story. Finally, the News Analysis examines the business of water.

As our existing economy collapses under the weight of its own unsustainable growth, what economic forms will replace this failed system? Policymakers bend over backwards to prop up a the broken status quo, while idealists around the world envision more equitable and ecological alternatives. The solidarity economy — that’s one such vision. Last week, these visionaries traveled from around the world to the Forum on the Solidarity Economy here at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, hosted by the Center for Popular Economics. This week, after the dust had settled, Center for Popular Economics Executive Director Emily Kawano visited us in the WMUA studios. Sea Change Host Bill Baue opened the conversation by asking Emily, what is a solidarity economy, and what role can it play in helping fix the current economic breakdown?

Kawano identifies three priorities for advancing the solidarity economy by focusing on leverage points where the current economic system is failing or has gaps: housing, finance, and cooperatives.

The colorful wrap draped across her back immediately caught the eye of Sea Change Host Bill Baue at the Forum on the Solidarity Economy. When he saw her later in an empty classroom, he jumped at the chance for an interview. She introduced herself as Altagracia Villarreal — but everybody knows her as Chilo. Since 1995, she’s served on the board of the Coalicion Rural, a collaboration between 17 organization in Mexico. Its partner in the US, the Rural Coalition, is made up of 70 to 80 organizations throughout the country. He opened by asking Chilo how she defines solidarity economy, and later asked Chilo to describe a specific example that illustrates the solidarity economy in action, and she answered in both Spanish and English. You’ll hear her Spanish underneath her English response.

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