Local economies in a globalized world 
Wednesday, October 15, 2014, 10:33 AM - The Solidarity Economy & Microfinance


How do small producers and artisans get a leg up in a globalized world? Community organizing and support to local economies for a start combined with solid historical, market and contextual analysis. Taught the Livelihoods and Markets course with Yogesh Ghore at the Coady Institute the last couple of weeks. Such a treat. Yogesh is highly experienced and adaptive. Participants had rich experience to share from cooperative and federation organizing to pushing policy and legislation at national levels. Colleagues from Latin America, CUSO partners, most representing cooperatives and associations- a few government representatives- shared their work in such diverse areas as wild medicinal plants, wild almonds, honey, fruit/jam, cacao, coffee.

Great debates about the extent to which what we are doing is contributing to or building alternatives to the neo-liberal model. We work toward the bottom-up solutions where cooperatives can network and build their capacity to market their goods and do well, particularly in niche markets like fair trade and organic produce. But what of the producer cooperatives who choose to become distributors for large grocery chains. Tapping into a larger system allows smaller coops with capacity issues to focus on what they know-production. Is this an alternative economic model or more of the same? Does it depend whether it is wild medicinal plants or a commodity like coffee? These are the tensions and trade-offs. No easy answers.

Promising examples of citizen-driven change in North America 
Saturday, June 29, 2013, 11:43 AM - The Solidarity Economy & Microfinance
It is the 85th year anniversary of the Antigonish movement. Over 150 community organizers, policy makers and entrepreneurs met at the Coady Institute to share some of the most promising initiatives in North America.

Examples: Cross-cultural neighbourhood revitalization in San Diego, reclamation of land and heritage in the Deep South, green retrofitting in Buffalo, conservation-based enterprises in the West Coast, land trusts using permaculture in Tennessee, Inuit self-determination in the Arctic.

I was excited to be part of some of the early research and case-study identification. Inspiring stories of a new public and new economic models where community members are the drivers. There were examples of community investors, housing trusts, cooperatives, neighbourhood associations, a coastal loan fund. The key was starting small and local, building energy and trust. Passion capital someone called it. Also financial contributions from the community tied to ownership and decision-making. Then external support and finance was leveraged.

This is so possible in our neighbourhoods in Halifax, especially in the North End where we have passion capital to spare! Urban Roots Farm and Hope Blooms are some inspiring examples. The St. Patrick's Alexander school site is another opportunity.

Check out the site below for details of the cases featured.
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Arusha Savings Group Summit 
Sunday, October 9, 2011, 09:37 AM - The Solidarity Economy & Microfinance


Some graphic facilitation at the plenary.



Does Microfinance Work? Does it do more Harm than Good? 
Saturday, August 13, 2011, 09:13 PM - The Solidarity Economy & Microfinance
Microfinance has come into the news lately, in part because of this new book and in part, because there are issues with some microfinance programs. Microfinance is often part of the financial sectors that have gotten themselves in a mess. Like them, there is over lending, over leveraging and just plain bad management. I've seen some of these. But I've also seen some powerful examples of what microfinance can do. Check out SEWA Bank on my links, for example. 800,000 women in a trade union with a cooperative, small scale pharmacies, literacy, marketing, producer and service cooperatives. They even offer pension schemes and daily savings collection. Most of these incredibly savvy and resourceful women are illiterate. Much of my work has been with savings groups and cooperatives but I've also seen some very effective microfinance programs. KixiCredito, Angola, also on my links is one of these examples. Polarizations are provocative but in the real world, it's messier and more complex. There is always good, bad and ugly. But don't take my word for it. Ask the women themselves.

Click on the Related Link below for an interview that I did with the Halifax Media Coop on these issues.
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What is a Savings Group? 
Thursday, August 19, 2010, 12:31 PM - The Solidarity Economy & Microfinance


I work with informal unregistered savings groups. They use their own money (no loans or donations from outside), pool it, put aside some for an emergency fund, lend out to each other or invest. Each group makes its own constitution and policies for membership, attendance, fines, interest rates. I have seen fines for: gossiping, your cell phone going off during a meeting, being late, not knowing the groups' balances, coming to a meeting drunk. Each meeting begins with each member reciting one policy as they get their passbooks. As you can see here, passbooks use stamps so those with limited literacy can understand how much savings they have. If it is all their money and their rules, what do they need others for then? Support in weighing their options, governance issues, financial management, linking to other forms of support. Even then, the support is only for a time. In India, over 3 million groups are linked to financial institutions including banks, coops and rural banks.


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