From September 8 through September 11, I had the privilege of participating in two successive events in Berling that explored the commons, cooperatives, and the solidarity economy.
The first event, hosted by the Heinrich Boll Foundation in Berlin. “Capital for the Commons,” brought together two dozen practitioners and theorists of alternatives to the mainstream, profit-driven economy. The generational spread was substantial — people from their 20s through their 70s — as were their bases of operation: the Canada, New Zealand, the U.K., continental Europe. I represented the “old” generation of cooperators (in my case, credit unions and food cooperatives), while some of our younger colleagues were, for example, developers of common software platforms who were dedicated practitioners of non-hierarchical, collective work structures. The movement to reclaim the commons — space, natural resources, ideas, software, product-creation — from private expropriation is a growing one and critical for the future of the planet and the nation-states that inhabit it. Financing this emerging movement emerged as one of the compelling challenges of our joint work ahead.
From this event, I moved on to participate in Solikon 2015, at the invitation of Dr. Gunter Lorenz of the Technical University of Berlin. I had the opportunity to share with a full, primarily German audience the experience of our work for CEANYC, the Cooperative Economics Alliance of New York City. My co-panelists (Ugo Biggieri, Christopher Guene, Pat Conaty) brought experience from community land trusts, a cooperative finance group for immigrants in Berlin, and Banca Etica, the prominent socially responsible bank of Italy, while I highlighted the Lower East Side Peoples Federal Credit Union in New York City, today a nearly 30-year old, $50-million assets financial cooperative formed by grassroots activists in the wake of the last bank branch closing in their neighborhood.