Platform Cooperative Salon

I made a short presentation on the Solidarity Economy and Platform Cooperatives in UCC and I included a number of references in my slides which I am posting here for anyone who is interested in learning more about the topic.

EVENT PAGE: https://www.cubsucc.com/events/the-platform-cooperative-salon/
SLIDES: https://archive.org/details/KevinFlanaganPlatformCooperativeSalonUCCCorkMay292018

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Humanising the Economy – Political Economy for People & Planet

 

Around the world, there is a growing awareness that we are living through a unique moment in human history. Never before has the need for systemic change been more obvious or more urgent. The next 20-30 years portend massive implications for future generations, and radically re-shaping human systems to function within ecological limits while fostering social and economic justice is now imperative for people and planet. This seminar explores how democratising and humanising our economies is central to any viable alternative for the kind of system change that puts people and the planet before profits. Using examples from co-operative economies around the world, John Restakis reflects on the principles, practices, and pathways that underpin a transformative vision for a new political economy.

AUDIO – https://archive.org/details/John_Restakis_Mar_2018

SLIDES – https://archive.org/details/HumanizingTheEconomyPoliticalEconomyForPeoplePlanet

artworks-000317957676-23e2bv-t500x500

John Restakis is Executive Director of Community Evolution Foundation and former ED of the BC Co-operative Association in Vancouver, a position he held for sixteen years. He is Adjunct Professor at the Centre for Sustainable Community Development, Simon Fraser University, BC and is Research Associate for Co-operatives UK.

 

 

 

JohnRestakis

Hosted by the Geopolitics and Justice Research Cluster together with the School of Geography & Archeology.

Thu Mar 15th 4pm – Seminar Room 113, Department of Geography, NUI Galway

Space Is The Place

“We work on the other side of Time… we’ll bring them here either through isotope teleportation, transmolecularisation, or better still transport the whole planet here through music!” – Sun Ra: Space is the Place. Sun Ra: Space is the Place (1974).

Community Mapping with UMAP

This is an introduction and tutorial on community mapping designed specifically for community groups and organisations in the city of Galway, Ireland. The tutorial probably requires 1 hour in total but it is broken into a numbered parts so that you can easily save and return to your map and progress in your own time.

Screenshot-2018-2-25 Galway Demo Map - uMap

Contents:

Introduction: What you will learn in this tutorial.

Part 1

  1. What is Open Data?
  2. Getting Open Data for your map.
  3. Local Government Data – Cycle Lanes
  4. Local Government Data – Arts Centres
  5. Community Mapping Data – Space Engagers

Part 2 – Creating your own map with free tools.

  1. Setting up a user account for Open Street Map.
  2. Create a map on UMAP
  3. Creating your layers.
  4. Importing Open Data to your layers.
  5. Editing colour, shape and icons for map markers.
  6. Create your own layer and custom map markers.
  7. Adding links to your marker description.
  8. Adding Images to your marker description.
  9. Collaborative Mapping

  10. Sharing your mapping data.
  11. Embedding your map on a website

Introduction: What you will learn in this tutorial.

 In this tutorial you will learn how to source Open Data and create your own map. UMAP is a free tool that any community organisation or group can use to easily create simple interactive maps. I am providing this tutorial so that local groups in Galway can get a sense of how easy it can be to start creating your own maps. For more advanced customisation of maps it is recommended that organisations host their own mapping platforms and make their mapping data available using Open Data Licenses. However in many cases this kind of self-hosting may well be surplus to requirements and as such free tools such as UMAP may suffice. The tutorial is in two parts. Part 1 deals with sourcing Open Data and Part 2 is an introduction to UMAP.

http://umap.openstreetmap.fr/en/map/galway-demo-map_200689

Part 1

  1. What is Open Data?

I have previously emphasised the importance of using shared Open Data standards. This tutorial will also illustrate why Open Data is important for community organisations and an essential component of any successful community mapping project.

Community Mapping projects may generate data in the course of a workshop or Community Organisations may have more formal sources associated with their day to day work. For example local government, academic institutions, partner community groups or organisations.

In Ireland many local and national government data sources are hosted on ARCGIS. ARCGIS is a proprietary, commercial map services provider. A common problem when working with proprietary platforms is what is called vendor lock in. Commercial providers often require their customers to use proprietary file formats that only work with that service provider and the features it provides. Institutions invest in these services spending significant sums on software licenses and on training staff. These factors combine to place customers in a position of dependence on a single service provider with the costs of changing to perhaps more innovative competitors often considered prohibitive. This is the lock in. Another problem with this is that innovation in services only moves as fast at the platform permits. I strongly advise against community based organisations with limited budgets and staffing to invest in these kinds of proprietary services. So what are the alternatives? There are many but it depends on the needs of your organisation. Often free or low cost, Free Software and Open Source tools very often get the job done. For sophisticated customisation of mapping features there are also non-proprietary alternatives available for self-hosting of mapping projects. For example QGIS https://www.qgis.org. The benefits of Free Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) are more than just cost savings. FLOSS development is fundamentally committed to the principle of open licensing and open technical standards such as file formats. This commitment aims to ensure that the technology and licensed works in this case map data are designed to be interoperable across software and platforms. That is they are designed specifically to avoid the kind of limitations on innovation that vendor lock in places on organisations.

When it comes to Irish government data there is some good news and in recent years there has been a shift towards publishing data using Open Data licenses. This does not mean that all data is available and there are still considerable limitations. For example the data of the legacy Galway Green Map is not available for other groups to use without establishing a formal relationship with the council. For the purposes of this tutorial I am glad to report that Galway City and County Council have made some of their mapping data available using Open Data Licenses. In fact this tutorial would not be possible without it. ARCGIS can grant permissions for map data to be Open Data. I would encourage the councils to the extent it is possible to make all it’s map collection Open Data. This enables Open Innovation making it possible for community groups and organisations to interact and make practical and derivative works from the maps. Old maps can find a new lease of life when made available in this way. Rather than each group having to start from scratch each time, the hard work that was put into those maps is available to build upon.

2.Getting Open Data for your map.

 For this tutorial you will combine Open Data from a number of different sources –

3. Local Government Data – Cycle Lanes

Open http://opendata-galwaycity.opendata.arcgis.com/ to gather Open Data.

image24

3.1 Local Government Data – Cycle Lanes

Select “Cycle Lanes in Galway City”

image31

3.2 Local Government Data – Cycle Lanes

You can see in the licensing section of the page that the map is licensed with a Creative Commons License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). If you follow the link you will see that this means you are free to adapt and share the map files on the basis that you attribute the source and that derivative works are available to others under a similar open license. A data commons, a shared resource, like this is made possible when many people share their work and knowledge for mutual benefit. This is Open Data.

On the right you see some options. Select download database, then select API this will give you two further options. Select and copy the link from the GeoJSON box. You will use this to create a Cycle Lane Layer on your map of Galway.

This layer will update automatically on your map any time the city council modifies their original source map. This is a good example of the kind of conveience that Open Data makes possible.

You can open up Word, Notepad or any application where you can paste and keep the lnks for convenience.

I’ll paste it here –

http://opendata-galwaycity.opendata.arcgis.com/datasets/58cc2cef355e41e7840ee903bb783061_0.geojson

image18

4.1 Local Government Data – Arts Centres

Now go through a similar process. This time get map data on ‘Galway City Public Arts Facilties’ which you can find through –

Again you can see that the map is made available with a Creative Commons License.

image32

While the option is to download it is not neccessary and you can simply right click on the ‘download option’ and select to copy the link location the same as in the previous step and paste the GeoJSON somewhere it will be easy to find like a text document. I will paste it here –

http://opendata-galwaycity.opendata.arcgis.com/datasets/e70c45513c564f52be14816a34ce3209_0.geojson

image7

5.1 Community Mapping Data – Space Engagers

This time you will download data from a Community Mapping Project. SpaceEngagers make available the data from community mapping projects they have taken part in. In this case there is no license data on the website. However having spoken with one of the lead software developers from Space Engagers he assured me that the data was Creative Commons Licensed the absence of a notice was a small matter of updating the website. Normally you should assume full copyright but I felt it was important to include some community produced data in the demo.

Go to this link https://app.spaceengagers.org/#/projects/4/ 

Alternatively you can go to the SpaceEngagers.org website and then click on the ‘View Map’ Option.

image12

5.2 Community Mapping Data – Space Engagers

Select a project from the options.

image34

5.3 Community Mapping Data – Space Engagers

I chose the project ‘Space Engagers’ as it has a number of data points in Galway city that might be interesting for our map. On the left of the screen you can see a second menu called ‘Layers Panel’ when you click on this you see an option to ‘Export’ and you can choose the ‘KML’ file option. Save this to your computer.

Now you should have three data sets. In part 2 of the tutorial you will use these to create your own map.

image27

Part 2 – Creating a map with free tools

1.1 Setting up a user account for Open Street Map

Create an account with https://www.openstreetmap.org/. The ‘Sign Up’ option is in the top right. You will use this user account to login to http://umap.openstreetmap.fr

image9

1.2 Setting up a user account for Open Street Map

Go to http://umap.openstreetmap.fr when you click on login the side panel will present you with a number of login options. You can login with your new OpenStreeMap account by clicking on the black magnifying glass. You will momentarily be redirected to the OpenStreetMaps site and asked to login and approve the request. When this is done the UMAP page should refresh and you will see your username beside the login option.

 image1

2.1 Create a map on UMAP

Now select the Create Map option on the top right.

image6

2.2 Create a map on UMAP

When the new map opens one of the first things to do is use the zoom tools to find Galway. Once you have Galway in the frame you can use the ‘Save this centre and zoom’ option. This will mark the city as the center of your map. The button looks like –

image29image5

3.1 Creating your layers.

Next you will want to create some layers for the map. You will then import the data you gathered earlier in Part 1 of the tutorial.

Click the Layers button

image11

A side panel will pop out select the option to ‘Add a layer’

image26

3.2 Creating your layers.

Name your first layer ‘Cycle Lane’ then click ‘Save’. Now repeat the process and create two new layers one called ‘Arts’ and the other you can call ‘SpaceEngagers’.

image4

3.1 Creating your layers.

When ready you will have three layers something like this –

image21

4.1 Importing Open Data to your layers.

Now it’s time to import the data. Let’s start with the ‘Cycle Lanes’.

Remeber earlier you copied the links to the datasets for temporary keeping into a text document. This is good practice when working alone but for convenience I’m including them here. Again copy this link below.

http://opendata-galwaycity.opendata.arcgis.com/datasets/58cc2cef355e41e7840ee903bb783061_0.geojson

4.2 Importing Open Data to your layers.

Now click on the ‘Import Data’ Option.

image10

Paste the link into the box that says ‘Provide an URL here’. *(not my bad grammar)

image13

4.3 Importing Open Data to your layers.

  • Paste the link
  • ‘Choose the format of the data to import’ option ‘geojson’
  • ‘Choose the layer to import in’ which will list the layers you created previously and where you can select ‘Cycle Lanes’.
  • Finally select the ‘Replace layer content’ checkbox
  • Click on the ‘Import’ button at the bottom.

You should see the Cycle Lanes appear on your map.

Congratulations you just imported your first layer of Open Data to your map.

Click ‘Save’. Now rinse and repeat :)

image2

4.4 Importing Open Data to your layers.

Now for ‘Arts’. Simply repeat the same steps previous with ‘Arts’ geojson link but select the ‘Arts’ layer you created.

image17

4.5 Importing Open Data to your layers.

Repeat the previous steps but this time instead of copying the link select the browse option and import the KML file that you downloaded from the SpaceEngagers website. Follow the previous steps for importing and select the ‘Space Engagers’ layer.

The Space Engagers Maps has points on it from different countries including Germany and Africa and when you save your map it may zoom out. Not to worry just zoom in to Galway again using the zoom navigation tools on the left.

5.1 Editing colour, shape and icons for map markers.

You will now see many more points on the map but they are all the same colour so let’s give them their own icons. Go back to the Layers section. It’s the icon that looks like a stack of pancakes. You can see your list of layers.

image33

5.2 Editing colour, shape and icons for map markers.

To edit your layer properties click on the small pencil icon. Then click on ‘Shape properties’ and you will see an option to change the colour of the icons.

image15

5.3 Editing colour, shape and icons for map markers.

There are also options for ‘Icon shape’ I selected the Drop shape and there are a number of standard ‘icon symbols’ you can choose from.

image25

If you would like to use custom icons. You can insert a link to the icon image. In this example for demonstration purposes I incorporated an icon from Green Maps. Under ‘Shape Properties’ you can define the ‘Icon Symbol’ and insert the remote link to the image. (I do not have permission to use the Green Maps icons so I included this for demonstration purposes only and it is removed from the final map.)

image28

5.4 Editing colour, shape and icons for map markers.

You can also edit the ‘interaction options’. Don’t be afraid to experiment with these options. By changing the tags in the ‘Popup content template’ to match the categories in the original file I was able to add greater details for the points. To view your map click ‘Save’ and then ‘Disable Editing’

image16

6.1 Create your own layer and custom map markers.

Adding links to your marker description.

Adding Images to your marker description.

Now to create your own layer and add some custom points to the map.

First as before select the layers option on the right and ‘Add new Layer’. For this example create a layer for places for Tea and Coffee. Fill out the details and select a nice colour and cup for the icon and save.

image23

6.2 Create your own layer and custom map markers.

For this example you will place a marker for ‘The Secret Garden’. The address is ‘4 William Street West, Galway’ you can find these kinds of details from a web search. Find the location on the map and you will see that someone has already put The Secret Garden on Open Street Map base map but you will add a little more detail.

Click on the create marker icon.

image3

When you move over the map the mouse pointer turns to a plus shaped target then click on the place where you want to place the marker. The options for your new point appear on the right. Fill out the name and a short description. If you click on the question mark beside the description you will see a number of options for ‘Text formatting’ you can use these to format text, add images or links to your marker description.

7. Adding links to your marker description.

I added links to the Secret Garden’s website and facebook page by putting the following text in the description box. Simply put your page links in square brackets to create links.

The Secret Garden is a tea shop/cafe/gallery. Inspiring space for art exhibitions, gigs, workshops and more! Exciting tea menu, coffee, treats and Shisha.
[[http://www.secretgardengalway.com/]]
[[https://www.facebook.com/TheSecretGardenGalway/]]

image30

Once you have saved your changes you click ‘disable editing’ and when you select your marker you will see a more detailed description.

image14

8.1 Adding Images to your marker description.

Let’s try another and this time add an image. I am adding the Jungle Cafe on Foster Street. I use the navigation tool to zoom out and in and I can see that someone has already put a coffee cup marker on the OpenStreet Map but of course I want to add some more detail for my own ‘Tea and Coffee’ map layer. Again you can see the options.

To the description box I add the following text.

**A nice cafe with good coffee and a great food menu.**
[[https://www.facebook.com/JungleCafeGalway/]]
{{http://s0.geograph.org.uk/geophotos/04/93/49/4934901_19b7fea6.jpg}}
Image Copyright [[http://www.geograph.ie/profile/3462|Oliver Dixon]] and licensed for [[http://www.geograph.ie/reuse.php?id=4934901|reuse]] under this [[http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/|Creative Commons Licence]].

LINE 1: I add double asterix to make the first line bold.

LINE 2: Again I add square brackets for the link.

LINE 3:  In curly brackets I place a url link to a photo I found online of the Jungle Cafe.

Normally to use an image you will need permissions from the copyright holder. However since the person who took this photo has been so kind as to use a Creative Commons License for the work there is no need to ask since he has in advance granted users the permission to –

  • Share — copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format
  • Adapt — remix, transform, and build upon the material for any purpose, even commercially.
  • On the basis that the author is given attribution.

So to use the image we must include a link that gives attribution to the author and this is what I do in –

LINE 4: This time in the description the links will be hidden and instead there will be clickable text. When you click on a link it will refer you to Oliver Dixons profile page as well as to further details on the Creative Commons License that he used.

Image Copyright [[http://www.geograph.ie/profile/3462|Oliver Dixon]] and licensed for 
[[http://www.geograph.ie/reuse.php?id=4934901|reuse]] under this 
[[http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/|Creative Commons Licence]].

image35

8.2 Adding Images to your marker description.

Save your edits and leave the editing mode by clicking on ‘disable editing’. You can then click on your marker to see the results.

image19

9. Collaborative Mapping

If you want to invite a friends of colleagues to collaborate then click on the small key icon. This will bring you to ‘Map permissions’ under ‘Edit Status’ you can change from ‘only owner can edit’ to ‘only editors can edit’ if you want a friend to join.

image20

10. Sharing your mapping data.

Click on the Share button on the left side panel.

image8

Under this set of options select the ‘Share status’ and decide if you want your map to remain private while you work on it with other editors or if you are ready to make your map public.

You also have the option to download your map data in multiple formats. You have the option to export the whole map or if you prefer you can return to the layers option and hide the layers you do not want to export leaving only the ones you do visible.

11. Embedding your map on a website

Some options will appear on the right. You can choose to use the iframes script to embed the map on your own site.

image22

Some Closing Comments

That is it. This is only meant as a beginners introduction to mapping with UMAP. I hope you found it useful. I would encourage you to explore the various options.

A nice feature of this approach is that multiple organisations can make their own maps on UMAP and each can generate a GeoJSON feed. This means that a third party or a collaboration between organisations can create a map which can easily integrate map layers from partners. I hope this gives you a sense of what becomes possible when organisations whether local government or community groups share their data using open licenses.

Last but not least when publishing your map publicly online it is important to follow the agreement of the Open Data licenses and give attribution to the people who provided you with the source data.

Here again is the link to the demo map.

http://umap.openstreetmap.fr/en/map/galway-demo-map_200689

Other Resources:

UMAP Video Tutorial

https://youtu.be/l7BLwz9ioGA

The following article shows how to create a GeoJSON link from your UMAP.

http://www.linux-magazine.com/Issues/2017/200/uMap

Shareable Guide to Mapping

https://www.shareable.net/blog/the-complete-guide-to-hosting-a-mapjam-in-your-city

Workshop Design for Mapping the Circular Economy

https://community.oscedays.org/t/action-in-development-mapping-circular-organisations-mapjam/5953

All Ireland Mapping Resources

AIRO the All-Island Research Observatory has mapped extensive census data.

All-Island Research Observatory

http://airo.maynoothuniversity.ie/

All-Island Research Observatory – Galway City

http://airo.maynoothuniversity.ie/mapping-resources/primary-mapping-tools/local-authority-modules/galway-city

All-Island Research Observatory – Galway County

http://airo.maynoothuniversity.ie/mapping-resources/primary-mapping-tools/local-authority-modules/galway-county

Pobal Maps – (Of particular interest for community organisations in the city)

Childcare service / Deprivation Index / General Data / Geoprofiling

https://maps.pobal.ie/

https://www.pobal.ie/

Data.Gov – An excellent source of Irish Open Data

https://data.gov.ie

Data.Gov – National Biodiversity Centre

https://data.gov.ie/publisher/national-biodiversity-data-centre

Space Engagers – Irish Community Mapping Project

https://spaceengagers.org/

Galway Mapping Resources

Local government mapping data was generally difficult to find through the city council website. If the public can’t find the maps they can’t use them.

Galway City Council Map Gallery

http://galwaycity.maps.arcgis.com/apps/PublicGallery/index.html?appid=3853b01e8241421999b9b933265ea4ec&group=fb38dabbbc074c99a251fc18e3f1b97c

Legacy Galway Green Map

http://www.arcgis.com/home/item.html?id=41663142d79947979da5831d6b84084e

Galway City Council Open Data

http://opendata-galwaycity.opendata.arcgis.com/

Galway County Council Open Data

http://data-galwaycoco.opendata.arcgis.com/

Data.Gov – Galway City Public Arts Facilities (Not all Council data is on the one site)

https://data.gov.ie/dataset/galway-city-public-arts-facilitiesa2717

Data.Gov (NUI Galway)

https://data.gov.ie/publisher/nui-galway

Data.Gov (Marine Institute Galway)

https://data.gov.ie/publisher/marine-institute

Data.Gov – An Atlas of Breeding Birds of the Burren and Aran Islands 1993 – 1996

https://data.gov.ie/dataset/an-atlas-of-breeding-birds-of-the-burren-and-aran-islands-1993-1996

 

Green Maps

Examples of NYC Green Maps

http://www.greenmap.org/greenhouse/en/node/132

Mapping Our Common Ground

“This booklet is a guide to community and Green Mapping. It is based primarily on the experiences of the Common Ground Community Mapping project (now network), the University of Victoria Community Mapping Collaboratory in Canada, and the worldwide Green Map System.”

http://www.mapping.uvic.ca/project-name/mapping-our-common-ground-booklet

Green Maps and the Sustainable Development Goals

http://www.greenmap.org/greenhouse/en/node/26529

 

 

Proposals for the Galway City and County Cultural Strategy and Culture 21 Pilot Cities program

Macnas Parade 2013

The hare a great symbol of fertility during the Macnas Parade in Galway. CC photo by https://www.flickr.com/photos/ebby/

In January 2016 I prepared and submitted the following proposals to Eithne Verling who is developing the Galway City and County Cultural Strategy and coordinating Galway city’s participation in the Culture 21 Pilot Cities program. I am posting the proposals here to share with the artists, activists, community and cultural workers in Galway.

To be clear I am still waiting on feedback so I cannot say if any of these proposals have been adopted or included in the strategy.

Any feedback is welcome

I hope you find it of interest

Kevin


Proposals for the Galway City and County Cultural Strategy and Culture 21 Pilot Cities

Submission by Kevin Flanagan

Collaborative Ways Forward (http://collaborativewaysforward.com/)

P2P Foundation Ireland (http://p2pfoundation.net)

Introduction

I submit here a number of proposals to compliment the development of the Galway City and County Cultural Strategy and to contribute to a sustainable vision for Galway as a Culture 21 Pilot City. First I will outline a broad vision with some international examples and then a specific project to support initiatives locally.

I fully endorse the broader definition of culture in the Culture 21 declaration on values. In particular the declaration’s recognition of the cultural rights of all members of the community to participate in cultural life.

4.Cultural rights guarantee that everyone can access the resources they need to freely pursue their process of cultural identifi cation throughout their life, as well as to actively participate in, and reshape, existing cultures. Cultural citizenship implies rights, freedoms and responsibilities. Lifelong access to, and participation in, cultural and symbolic universes are essential factors for the development of the capacities of sensitivity, expression, choice, and critical thinking, which allow the construction of citizenship and peace in our societies.” – http://www.agenda21culture.net/images/a21c/nueva-A21C/C21A/C21_015_en.pdf

The Galway 2020 bid, Cultural Strategy and Pilot Cities present an opportunity for Galway to celebrate these values, to learn from the experience of other cities, to experiment and embrace innovative cultural practices. These local government initiatives can be important catalysts for addressing long term challenges for culture and community in the west.

As a Galway native I have been active in the arts and community for most of my adult life and recognise that there are recurring challenges. I have also had the opportunity to travel abroad and have seen inspiring examples of how other communities often in partnership with local governments have responded to similar challenges. Some of these examples inform my proposal. I hope that they will be as much a source of inspiration for you as they have been for me.

A Note on current barriers to sustainable Arts and Culture in Galway

Every year a significant number of arts students graduate in the city however there are limited supports and opportunities in Galway for these graduates, making it difficult to pursue their profession and faced with few options many are forced to leave or emigrate. This is a great loss to a city that prides itself on being a city of culture. Artists that do stay in Galway face further barriers. There is limited access to safe secure work space and studios as well as to exhibition space in the city. Artists have worked together to overcome these difficulties by forming artist collectives and artist run spaces and studios. These spaces have little funding and run on minimal budgets, surviving largely through the support of unpaid volunteer labour. These precarious circumstances mean that many artists and arts initiatives have difficulties in sustaining their activities and are highly vulnerable when faced with operational and financial problems which often force groups to discontinue cultural projects. The highest overheads these cultural initiatives face in the city are rents. Those that contribute so much to the cultural life of the city are effectively being squeezed out and forced out by high rents and a lack of opportunities and supports.

The community and social sectors face similar challenges, dependent on small grants, donations and the support of volunteers, they struggle to meet the social needs of the cities most vulnerable citizens.

This is unsustainable and deeply damaging to communities and the cultural life that the city prides itself on. The rights of citizens to the means for a healthy and sustainable cultural life must be supported.

Nobody would argue that the arts, culture and community sectors are not active or that they are unproductive or that they do not contribute in important and valuable ways to the welfare of society and to Galway’s reputation as a city of culture. Yet because the value they generate is typically intangible, social and reputational, making it difficult to quantify, these sectors are undervalued and marginalised by policy and planning focused only on monetary measures of value such as economic growth as a measure of social progress. For example the recent “White Paper on Innovation” Galway City and County Councils Industry and Economic Baseline Study makes no mention of the importance of Social Innovation. As a regional strategy for development it completely overlooks the value of social innovation be it cultural or community driven, not for profits or social enterprise. These are innovative and productive sectors that contribute to the well being of citizens they need adequate recognition and support.

http://galwaydashboard.ie

http://galwaydashboard.ie/publications/white-paper-innovation-2015.pdf

http://www.nesta.org.uk/publications/open-book-social-innovation

The enthusiasm and initiative of artists in the cultural sector, community activists and social entrepreneurship in the social sector should be valued, celebrated and supported just as much as the entrepreneurialism and initiative of the business sector is celebrated.

In the following proposals I will provide some brief examples for your consideration of how culture and community could be supported and celebrated in Galway city and county.

I present these examples in 3 parts, Access to Space , Access to and Sharing of Resources, Participatory Democracy. You will see that these different approaches can work together to be self-reinforcing and enable social innovation and empower communities.

Access to Space (City as a Commons)

Repeatedly we hear that there is a need for affordable space in the city. Spaces for artists, community group, social entrepreneurs. Creative people find themselves without support in the city and without those supports they are inclined to bring their talents elsewhere. Galway city council needs to support creatives and community activists to stay and to support them in contributing to the social and cultural welfare of the region.

city.JPG
Civic partnerships, Bologna Regulation

Collaborative City, City as a Commons

The Italian city of Bologna recently adopted the Bologna “Regulation on Collaboration Between Citizens and the City for the care and regeneration of urban commons. The Bologna Regulation as it is otherwise known is a formal legal agreement and partnership involving local government, local institutions, Universities, Social Innovators, Cultural and Community Groups. The success of the framework is leading to it’s adoption in a number of Italian cities. The city of Mantova, north of Bologna provides an example of how the process was facilitated.

CO-Mantova is a prototype of an institutionalizing process to run the city as a collaborative commons, (see Jeremy Rifkin‘s definition) i.e. a “co-city.” A co-city should be based on collaborative governance of the commons (inspired by Elinor Ostrom‘s work) whereby urban, environmental, cultural, knowledge and digital commons are co-managed by the five actors of the collaborative/polycentric governance—social innovators (i.e. active citizens, makers, digital innovators, urban regenerators, rurban innovators, etc.), public authorities, businesses, civil society organizations, knowledge institutions (i.e. schools, universities, cultural academies, etc.)—through an institutionalized public-private-citizen partnership. This partnership will give birth to a local peer-to-peer physical, digital and institutional platform with three main aims: living together (collaborative services), growing together (co-ventures), making together (co-production).”

Mantova provides an example of the methodological process which was initiated in four phases. – http://www.labgov.it/governancelabs/mantovalab/

1) A public call for ideas on the theme of “Culture as a Commons”

2) Co-design Lab “Entrepreneurs for the Commons” where seven projects from the call were cultivated and synergies created between projects and with the city.

The Mantova Lab’s goal is the development of innovative solutions for the shared management of cultural commons, supported by the use of ICT. The digitalization of cultural heritage is crucial for the development of cultural economy. The fab labs are the incubators of the third industrial revolution, training for social innovation. The Laboratory applies the method of co-design, participatory design, collaborative communication and aims at prototyping and testing practices of shared care of cultural commons (i.e. project activities require testing of a living lab and Fab Lab, the creation of an incubator for cultural and creative enterprises and cooperative placemaking) aiming at promoting the cooperation and collaboration among civil society, co-operatives, local enterprises and businesses and public institutions in the care and regeneration of the common cultural heritage of Mantova can be cultivated, improved and finally become the engine of a “collaborative cultural and creative community interest enterprise””

3) “Governance camp, a collaborative governance prototyping aimed at creating a long-term, sustainable form of governance of the commons, which gave birth to CO-Mantova and led to the drafting of the CO-Mantova Collaborative Governance Pact, the Collaboration Toolkit and the Sustainability Plan.”

4) “Governance testing and modeling through the launch of a public consultation in the city on the text of the Pact and a roadshow generating interest in CO-Mantova among possible signatories belonging to the five categories of collaborative governance actors.”

Further details – http://www.labgov.it/governancelabs/mantovalab/

http://co-mantova.it/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/CO-Mantova_Pact.pdf

These kinds of initiative provide access to unused or under-used resources and in particular to provide access to space for groups to work and run projects and events. Institutional partners provide support in the form of space, public liability insurance, training in health and safety standards and training for those that wish to start social and community enterprise. Independence and autonomy of community and cultural initiatives is essential to encouraging people to use the spaces. However some spaces are provided on different terms with different tenure for different uses. Some of which could allign to meet with the strategic needs of local government, such as to meet social and environmental targets in Agenda 21.

The creation of local government policy to priviledge “public social parterships” when tendering would support the growth of social benefit, social enterprise, social cooperatives. Reducing the startup cost on such enterprises by providing spaces can help this sector grow. This will be explored in more detail further in the section on Solidarity Economy.

LabGov web page on the Bologna Regulation – http://www.labgov.it/bologna-regulation-on-public-collaboration/

Bologna Regulation (English Translation) – http://www.comune.bologna.it/media/files/bolognaregulation.pdf

Slide Presentation – http://prezi.com/2c1dwbhwfnkv/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy&rc=ex0share

For an indepth legal and policy background on the concept I highly recommend reading ‘City as a Commons’ by Sheila Foster and Christian Iaione. – http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2653084

There are many spaces in Galway in public ownership but left empty. Nama holds a significant property portfolio. Speculative investors have left numerous buildings sitting vacant throughout the city and county. There are many empty hotels such as the Corrib Great Southern falling apart contributing to urban blight. One of the simplest ways that local government could encourage property owners to make properties available for community and cultural purposes would be to apply different rates. Empty and unused properties would pay the highest rates. Properties in use for commercial purposes pay standard rates. Properties that are made available for community and cultural purposes would pay no rates at all or else very low rates. In addition occupancy of vacant building can support their maintenance and reduce potential future costs of renovation. What is needed to make this happen is a locally supported legal framework for such arrangements that protects the health and safety of occupants and respects the rights of the property owner.

It is conceivable that an independent but representative body could be established to manage the process and provide a website where citizens can find guidelines and a list of available spaces with various tenure options that support everything from one off meetings, hot-desks, co-working, cultural events, community festivals to start up social cooperatives and social enterprise.

 

Access to and Sharing of Resources (Sharing Cities, Solidarity Economy)

The aim here is to further reduce barriers for cultural creatives and community/citizens initiatives by supporting access to shared resources and the mutualisation of existing resources. There are 2 aspects to this which can be mutually beneficial –

1.Collaborative or Sharing Economy / 2. Solidarity Economy

Collaborative and Sharing Economy

When people think of the Sharing Economy they often think of Uber and AirBnB to be clear about definitions there is nothing shared by these businesses they are simply a new form of rental economy. When did renting become sharing? This is nothing more than branding and astroturfing. The real sharing and collaborative economy is huge and transforming the way people connect in their communities. Sharing initiatives are taking off in many major cities.

This recent article in the Irish Times highlights what is happening in Berlinhttp://www.irishtimes.com/news/consumer/berlin-s-sharing-economy-a-glimpse-of-the-future-1.2475033

Barcelona Fab Cities – Barcelona is one of the leader cities in the Culture 21 program and the city has many excellent initiatives. The city is at the cutting edge of innovation in new modes of digital fabrication and manufacturing such as 3D printing. Barcelona Fab Cities challenges us to imagine a second renaissance based on the democratisation of access to low cost fabrication methods in Fab Labs, Maker Spaces and flexible manufacturing hubs where designers and entrepreneurs can experiment, collaborate, share ideas, learn and develop new products and businesses.

http://w2.bcn.cat/bcnmetropolis/en/dossier/dels-fab-labs-a-les-fab-cities/

Local initiatives in Galway such as 091 Labs Makerspace http://091labs.com/ have the technical know how, the skills and the talent but as a volunteer run initiative run entirely on membership fees they have had ongoing challenges to make the initiative sustainable. Access to affordable space has been an ongoing problem and the group have moved at least 4 times in the last 5 years. They are a social space for the Galway tech community and provide informal education on many aspects of digital innovation from web and app design, to 3d printing. Galway could have a public Fab Lab such as http://fablab.saul.ie/ or work with http://www.wecreate.ie/ on a fab lab for green technologies. These kinds of initiatives need more concrete support.

Seoul Sharing Cities offers many examples as to how a city government can support citizens initiatives through the sharing economy. From neighbourhood tools libraries to car sharing. Again access to space is supported in a variety of ways.

See a list here – http://english.sharehub.kr/services/

Seoul Sharing Cities has a partnership with Creative Commons Korea. Could Galway develop a similar partnership with Creative Commons Ireland and encourage open access and engagement with our shared cultural heritage? http://www.creativecommonsireland.org/

There are already many examples in Galway of the sharing and collaborative economy such as community gardens, mens sheds, but what about shared tool libraries? There is a mobile public library. Why not a mobile makerspace? There are many examples of how public libraries are also becoming sites for the sharing economy.

Commons Libraries is just such a project in the UK http://commonlibraries.cc/

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What is the Social Solidarity Economy?

The term social and solidarity economy (SSE) is increasingly being used to refer to a broad range of organizations that are distinguished from conventional for-profit enterprise, entrepreneurship and informal economy by two core features. First, they have explicit economic AND social (and often environmental) objectives. Second, they involve varying forms of co-operative, associative and solidarity relations. They include, for example, cooperatives, mutual associations, NGOs engaged in income generating activities, women’s self-help groups, community forestry and other organizations, associations of informal sector workers, social enterprise and fair trade organizations and networks”

https://oxfamblogs.org/fp2p/beyond-the-fringe-realizing-the-potential-of-social-and-solidarity-economy/

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Sample Typology of Solidarity Economy Organisations

Many Collaborative and Sharing Economy initiatives relate closely and can be considered part of Solidarity Economy. However Solidarity Economy is also ecompasses a broader variety of more traditional community organisations and initiatives. A key feature of Social and Solidarity Economy is clustering of organisations for mutual coordination and benefit. This is done by mapping SSE organisations and doing a critical analysis of organisations needs and how they can work together to meet those needs.

There is a stigma that the not for profit and charitable sectors are entirely grant dependent and always looking for handouts. The SSE involves a shift from this view. SSE acknowledges the social value and contribution that these organisations make to society and seeks to build greater independence for the sector by supporting self financing initiatives such as the creation of social enterprise. One example would be a Not for Profit Cooperative Cafe dedicated to providing employment to socially marginalised groups. Any return made over costs is reinvested into social causes. In this sense the SSE is seen as a productive social force rather than entirely dependent on grants.

An excellent example of a social cooperative is the Aran Islands community owned Energy Coop which has initiated a plan to make Aran carbon neutral by 2022. How could Galway city and county work with citizens to meet their international commitments to reduce carbon emmisions? Development of community owned energy coops are a unique opportunity with returns providing communities with an independent source of revenue for community development. http://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/aran-islands-could-be-carbon-neutral-by-2022-1.2301379

Kieran Cunane of Transition Galway and Martina Finn of Third Space and Collaborative Ways Forward currently have plans to create a Centre for Sustainable Living in Galway as an incubator for community owned energy initiatives but also offering training and workshops on a broad range of sustainable practices.

Again Pilot Cities offers an opportunity to build learning partnerships. Montreal, Canada is leading the way in the development of Solidarity Economy with the support of excellent organisations such as the Chantier de l’économie sociale. Montreal is a Culture 21 leading city. http://www.chantier.qc.ca/?module=document&uid=867

For a detailed report on the Social Economy in British Columbia, Canada see

Defining the Social Economy by John Restakis

http://www.msvu.ca/socialeconomyatlantic/pdfs/DefiningSocialEconomy_FnlJan1906.pdf

Restakis has also written a report on the Social Cooperatives in the Emilia Romagna Italy

http://www.bcca.coop/sites/bcca.coop/files/u2/ER-ProfileofCoop.pdf

Participatory Democracy (Participatory Budgeting)

Participatory Budgeting provides a means for citizens to become active in the decision making as to how public money is spent. PB has been done in a number of the Culture 21 cities and both Pilot cities Lodz and Lisbon have also done this recently. This would be a great opportunity to engage citizens in democratic life of their city. The local government makes a certain portion of the city budget available for PB and citizens can propose and ultimately vote on projects. Project call can be categorised to align and meet the needs of local government such as environmental projects or those that promote social inclusion. I also recently attended a conference that had examples of youth participation in PB where young people in schools where given a real budget and the support to design and develop their own community initiatives. This is a great way of encouraging active citizenship.

There is a lot of excellent information about PB available online –

There are some nice videos and resources

http://www.participatorybudgeting.org/about-participatory-budgeting/what-is-pb/

The ECAS report “Co-deciding with Citizens: Towards Digital Democracy at EU Level” offers a good overview of different approaches and the experience of different cities.

http://ecas.org/digitaldemocracystudy/

Paris recently announced the biggest Participatory Budget ever.

http://www.newcitiesfoundation.org/why-paris-is-building-the-worlds-biggest-participatory-budget/

An Initial Proposal

What kind of project could facilitate, enable and turn some of the ideas I have proposed here into actions?

The idea is simple, to build mutual awareness between community and cultural initiatives and to develop and incubate collaborative projects and cooperative social enterprise that support the development of a Collaborative and Social Solidarity Economy in the region. There are a few phases to my project proposal.

1)Mapping

The initial phase of the project will involve a comprehensive mapping and typology of community and cultural initiatives in Galway city and county. A lot of work has already been done by various organisations in the city and county and so I would begin with a consultation process with organisations such as the Galway City Community Forum and the County Community Forum. The Community Knowledge Initiative at NUIG has also done some mapping work. However the aim here is not simply to map organisations by geography but to map their organisational needs and having identified common challenges match skills and expertise for collaborative initiatives to bring organisations together for mutual and community benefit. Collaborative initiatives are not part of the initial mapping phase but start later in the project when relationships between organisations are better established. There are also number of international mapping initiatives which I already have contact with such as Shareable’s Sharing Cities and Transformap. Lisbon another Pilot City is listed as a Sharing City, Puerto Alegre in Brazil is also listed and is a Culture 21 leader city. Depending on the nature of the collaborative projects it would be great to organise international exchanges with initiatives from other cities. http://www.shareable.net/sharing-cities

The mapping project will also provide community initiatives with a platform for public engagement and visibility online through open street map and participation in

http://transformap.co/

2)Data and Metrics by the Community for the Community

How do we measure community well being and development in the transition to more sustainable way of living?

As I mentioned earlier metrics that focus on monetary measures of value and targets overlook a lot of the value that community initiatives create. However shared data can offer deep insights into the impacts and inform strategic development for this sector. This phase of the project would initiate a dialogue with groups and organisations in the sector who identify with these needs through the initial mapping phase. The project will analyse current practices and standards within organisations through a process of peer review, offer advice and explore the potential for alternative shared metrics while at the same time respecting personal privacy of clients and service users. This could lead to the creation of a community owned data cooperative that can harness the insights of shared data for peer development, to identify areas of social need and possibly initiate collaborative projects and social enterprise to meet those needs.

The inspiration for this phase of the project is http://ourdata.coop/

http://commonfutures.eu/developing-data-coops-for-community-benefit/

However I would go further by asking how can Galway’s cultural and community sector take a leading role in responding to the challenge of climate change?

Shared metrics can also be used for benchmarking and strategic planning what if this could be put to use as part of a plan to reduce carbon emmisions and waste in Galway?

The data initiative could partner with Transition Galway to develop a community led transition plan for the city and county. Members of the data coop initiative would participate in a peer to peer eco-audit such as the Economy for the Common Good – https://www.ecogood.org/en/ecg-balance-sheet/what-common-good-balance-sheet

I have also spoken with Niall O Brolchain at the NUIG Insight centre about the potential for including community driven metrics for development on the Galway Dashboard. http://galwaydashboard.ie/

For further information on digital cooperative read –

David Bollier on The Promise of “Open Co-operativism”

http://bollier.org/blog/promise-%E2%80%9Copen-co-operativism%E2%80%9D

Trebor Scholz on Platform Coops

http://www.rosalux-nyc.org/wp-content/files_mf/scholz_platformcooperativism_2016.pdf

3) Collaborative Initiatives and Social Cooperatives

The third phase of the project involves a call for projects to build on partnerships forged through the mapping and data phases. The final outputs being community owned social enterprise for the common good. Initiatives that create employment and tangible social cultural benefit both for communities and organisations in the region.

A data cooperative could be one example but there are also many possibilities, an Eco Fab Lab, participatory budgetting initiatives for schools and communities, community owned energy, sharing networks, skill sharing, timebanks and even mutual credit systems as an alternative community currency for Galway to support local projects. Another social enterprise I particularly like is http://santropolroulant.org/ in Montreal which brings together young people to provide meals on wheels for the elderly in their communities. Meals are prepared with food donated by local organic producers and community gardens.

http://communitycurrenciesinaction.eu/

http://www.cyclos.org/governments

These initiatives would need startup support both through peer mentoring and financing. Perhaps this could be done in partnership with organisations like SCCUL Enterprises. http://www.sccul.com/

Final Note

This project could be considered as representing initial steps towards a broader and longer term Commons Transition plan for Galway City and County. http://commonstransition.org/

Through my work with the P2P Foundation I had the opportunity to meet with many of the people working on the projects that I have mentioned. (http://p2pfoundation.net/images/255426317-What-Does-the-P2P-Foundation-Do-2015.pdf)

I hope to have the opportunity to work with you and to draw on that network of expertise and to contribute to the development of Galway as a dynamic cultural centre and leader in sustainable living.

I will be available from late April but if you wish to speak to any of my colleagues from Collaborative Ways Forward in the mean time you can contact –

Martina Finn(Third Space)

Kieran Cunnane (Transition Galway)

Regards

Kevin Flanagan

 

Europe in Crisis and in Transition

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Last October I participated in the The European Civic Forums Civic Day and I was subsequently invited to write an article for their magazine ‘Activizenship’ which has just been published. I include the article below, it’s a bit of a rant but little has changed since the time of writing, if anything we continue to see the rise of right wing populism across Europe. The magazine tackles this issue head on with leading articles on the rise of Illiberal Democracy so labelled by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. While I offer a few examples of how citizens initiatives in France, Italy and Spain are challenging neoliberalism and austerity at the regional level the lack of alternative left opposition to austerity and neoliberal policies at the European level remains.

Europe in Crisis and in Transition

Europe is in crisis. It is a crisis of identity. Earlier this year the Eurogroup of finance ministers threatened the Greek people with economic collapse. They refused to negotiate with Syriza on debt and forced the Greek people to accept further austerity. This mockery of democracy and national sovereignty revealed the emptiness of any rhetoric of European solidarity and the true allegiance of Europe’s political elite.
In their action and inaction, again and again politicians tell us that these faceless ‘markets’ are our masters now. They invoke ‘markets’ as if calling on some mystical force, they tell us to ‘tighten our belts’ that we must offer sacrifice to inspire ‘confidence’ in the hope that we might receive blessings in the form of improved credit ratings. You know that you are dealing with ideology when it’s logics (free markets = free people) are blindly assumed as norms. The markets cannot fail. This belief that there are no market failures, only human failures, and that the only solution to human failures are market solutions is the dead end of the Neo-Liberal imaginary.
It was neo-liberal ideology of deregulation that led to the economic crisis but for Europe’s political elite to accept responsibility for their role in the crisis would mean admitting they were wrong. Those in power cannot accept they were wrong for to do so could be perceived as a sign of weakness. So they reject this interpretation of events and work twice as hard to convince themselves and their peers that they were right all along by forcing more and more of their neoliberal fantasies on the rest of us.
Debt, debt and more debt. In this Debt-tatorship, Democracy is only tolerated as long as it doesn’t interfere with hegemony of the markets. When ideology failed to produce results, as it has, the so called ‘centrist’ parties sought to distract people from the economy by blaming social ills on those least able to defend themselves. Politicians talk tough and play a dangerous game of divide and rule. Pitching struggling unemployed and working class people against minorities, migrants and refugees, ruling parties pandered to the sentiments of far right nationalists in turn giving legitimacy to their hateful narrative. The far right thrive on fear and uncertainty and depend on this to secure their path to power. As long as traditional establishment parties stay in power and continue to serve up more of the same zombie ideology Europeans will continue to live with uncertainty.

It seems that there is little today that inspires confidence in European democracy. Given the scale of the crisis it is understandable that many feel a deep cynicism about the capacity of government to contribute anything more than tokenistic gestures of support for greater democratic participation, social justice or care for the environment. The lack of political imagination on the part of the establishment has contributed to a weakening of democracy. However, flawed as it may be, if representative democracy is rejected by social movements the seats of power will continue to be occupied by the forces of tedium. There is one simple solution to a democratic deficit and that is more democracy, not less.

I admit I too have been cynical but I have probably paid too much attention to mainstream news media. If there is anything that the past year tells us it is that for better or worse political culture can change. We may not hear about it in the national and international news but at local, municipal and regional levels things are changing, citizens are organising and taking action, building inspiring alternatives, putting radical participatory democracy into practice and making politics and economy work for their communities. There are many examples but I share here just a few that I have found personally inspiring in 2015.

Participatory Democracy

To our collective detriment the electoral cycle keeps politicians minds focused on short term gains and quick wins. One size fits all government schemes almost inevitably run into conflicts. To overcome this it makes sense that the people most affected by decisions should have a say in the decision making process. Participatory Democracy aims to give citizens a greater say in decision making, it recognises the importance of the principle subsidiarity that nothing should be done by a large organization that can be done as well or better by a smaller and simpler organization. Putting legal mechanisms and structures in place that bridge this knowledge gap between citizens and government enables and empowers citizens to take a more active role in civic life. These efforts foster a culture of participation where citizens feel they have an impact and see the results in their communities. This is why participatory democracy is so important.
One of the most well known mechanisms is participatory budgeting and it is being adopted in many places from small rural municipalities to major cities.  In 2014 the Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo committed 5% of the city’s budget an estimated €426 million over 5 years to participatory budgeting. This is the largest amount that any government has committed to participatory budgeting in history. Citizens initiatives that received support include community gardens, coworking space, composting and recycling initiatives, and more.

How can active citizenship be enabled and supported?

‘The Bologna Regulation for the Urban Commons’ is an inspiring document. It’s full title is the “Regulation on Collaboration between Citizens and the City for the Care and Regeneration of the Urban Commons”. Re-imagining the city as a Commons the document outlines how the city of Bologna provides a platform that enables and supports active citizenship, citizen driven social innovation and vibrant creative cultural life.
What is it that citizens need for an active civic life? First of all the regulation provides a framework enabling local government, civic and cultural institutions and citizens to collaborate and work together. Through these partnerships structural support is provided to citizens initiatives this includes access to work spaces, covering the costs of insurance, technical and administrative support, training and more. Neighbourhoods and citizens develop proposals for community and cultural initiatives or respond to tenders from local government to co-govern and co-manage community assets, such as public spaces and amenities. Citizens are not solely consumers of public services, when they participate in the decision making and management they inform the provision of those services in way that responds much more effectively to local needs. In this vision Citizens are co-creators. The Civic space is a Commons.

Municipal Movements

Few could have predicted that a housing activist could become the Mayor of Barcelona and yet this is what Ada Calou and Barcelona en Comun have done. Barcelona En Comun are deeply committed to radical democracy this is most evident in their non-traditional party structure which includes a federation of neighbourhood assemblies. It was through participation in these assemblies that activist won the respect and confidence of citizens and it was this popular support that enabled them to win the election. During their short time in government Barcelona en Comun have made big changes in the provision of social housing and introduced protections for residents threatened with eviction by the banks. They also introduced legislation that makes unused properties in the city available to citizens initiatives. Their achievements expand the horizons of the political imaginary and open the possibility for a transformative participatory politics in Catalunya. A politics that places the welfare of all citizens above narrow interests that serve only private profit and rent seeking. Barcelona En Comun are are joined across Spain by parties such as Podemos that share a vision for a new kind of politics. With national elections these parties aim to transform politics in Spain for the better.

It is vital to recognise and show solidarity with all those that dare to challenge the cynicism of our times. Each of these examples offers a different approach, but all represent important steps towards a more inclusive politics and offer a glimpse of what democracy in Europe can be. In learning and sharing in each others experience we can translate inspiration into action wherever we live.

Further Reading –

http://www.comune.bologna.it/media/files/bolognaregulation.pdf

https://roarmag.org/essays/barcelona-en-comu-guanyem/

The challenges of building alternatives that scale

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Alternative currencies should be considered an essential part of every communities tool kit for discovering and declaring a greater degree of economic sovereignty over their lives but are localised alternative currencies enough to challenge the power of a financial system that is global in its reach? Can the lessons learned in these communities be taken from the local to the global?

When we use local alternative currencies we place our trust in the community, as well as supporting the local economy personal relationships are reinforced through the use of the currency and it is these relationships of trust that essentially ground and back the value of the currency. Issues arise when alternative currency systems scale. The more people that use the currency the more difficult it is to maintain the kind of face to face relationships that secure trust in local communities. The state offers a solution to this issue of scale by providing currencies that are guaranteed through legal means. Trust moves from the community to the state.

You might ask doesn’t money issued by the state also support exchange that can foster trust and relationship building in the community? Well yes it does to a degree but this is secondary to the function of the currency as an instrument of speculation that puts communities in a vulnerable position to the dictates of financial powers who control the levers of the money supply. There are cases where local government issue complementary currencies and there are movements for positive money to take control of money creation away from private banks, but in the absence of enlightened politicians and effective change at the level of the state what more can we do?

Love it or hate it Bitcoin has had a huge impact in terms of challenging conventions and introducing a generation to new thinking about money. It’s important to distinguish between Bitcoin as a currency and Bitcoin as a technology. The Bitcoin technology as it has been implemented as a currency has a number of problems that will be addressed later. For now I will focus on Bitcoin as a technology to highlight two of its key innovations.

Bitcoin is the first successful implementation of a peer-to-peer currency. As software it is a purely technical currency solution and it enables people to make direct transfers without the need for a trusted third party such as a bank to manage the transaction. In this sense Bitcoin can be considered as a kind of trust-less system. Instead of placing trust in financial institutions or the state, trust is placed in the technical implementation of the algorithm—an open source code that is available for rigorous scrutiny and testing by the bitcoin user community to insure that it operates in a secure and transparent fashion.

The blockchain is a central component of bitcoin. It is essentially a distributed database that acts as an accounting system to publicly record all exchanges using Bitcoin. As the blockchain is distributed across the computer network of bitcoin users, the accounting system can’t be interfered with or corrupted by any one powerful user. In this way the Blockchain offers a reliable and secure technology for transactions. As Bitcoin is software this means anyone, anywhere on the planet with a computer or smartphone can use it. Clearly bitcoin has shown it has the capacity to scale globally and since information is borderless it represents a very real and public challenge to traditional finance and the state as it’s very difficult if not impossible to regulate.

To give a sense of the scale of the Bitcoin economy according to Blockchain.info the current market value, as of June 2015, is over 3 Billion Dollars—that’s more than 2 Billion Pound Sterling (down from a peak of almost 13 Billion in 2014.) This brings us to the big flaw in how Bitcoin has been implemented as a currency as it is clearly not immune to speculative bubbles. The currency has proved to be highly volatile and, while it has overcome many of the trappings of conventional fiat money, it also reproduces the speculative culture typical of capitalist currencies. Some have also argued that the distribution of Bitcoin—with over 30% of the currency being held in as few as 100 wallets—not only mirrors the extremes of inequality that we see in fiat currencies but is in fact much worse. Recent efforts to estimate the Gini coefficient, a statistical measure of inequality based on income distribution, placed Bitcoin at 0.88—comparable to the extreme inequality in countries such as North Korea.

So returning to my earlier question, could the lessons learned from the experience of local alternative currency communities be taken from the local to the global to really challenge financial power? Now consider this. What if the technology of bitcoin could be implemented in such a way so as to support the scale required while at the same time placing human relationships at its core thus bringing together the best of both worlds. This is exactly what FairCoop have set out to do.

FairCoop describe themselves as the Earth Coop for a Fair Economy (https://fair.coop). Its name is clearly inspired by the Fair Trade movement and is an indicator of how it sees itself. FairCoin is FairCoop’s implementation of Bitcoin technology and while it is a core component, it is but one part grounded by an ecosystem of tools, services and, most importantly, a community aimed at bringing about an Integral Revolution—the construction of an alternative economy networked at the global level.

The founder of FairCoop is Enric Duran infamous in his home of Catalunya, Spain as the Robin Hood who borrowed around 500,000 Euros from the banks at the height of the bubble and donated it to social movements in the region in what he declared a public act of civil and economic disobedience. Duran is now in exile and pursued by the Spanish state for refusing to pay back the banks. His actions are a direct provocation aimed at exposing the hypocrisy inherent in a system that confers the privilege to create money on private banks to the benefit of wealthy propertied elites whose speculation has subsequently been paid for at the expense and impoverishment of ordinary working Spainish people who suffered disproportionately the results of the economic crisis.

FairCoop builds on Duran’s experience as one of the founders of the Cooperativa Integral de Catalan (CIC). The CIC represented the first steps in what Duran calls the Integral Revolution. “In Spanish, “integral” means holistic, complete. That is to say, it concerns every single facet of life, and that’s what it means to us. The CIC’s objective is to generate a self-managed free society outside law, State control, and the rules of the capitalist market.” – Enric Duran

FairCoop’s approach is not simply a technical fix, as a democratically structured and open cooperative organisation, they reintroduce the human element that puts Faircoin at the service of the common good.

Anyone can buy and sell FairCoin, it is not exclusive to the members of FairCoop. However being bought and sold on the open market exposes Faircoin to speculative traders. FairCoop recognise this and take a number of steps to bring greater stability to the currency. The most significant is that FairCoop and its supporters hold a controlling stake in the currency, perhaps 40% or more of all FairCoins. FairCoop members are encouraged to save and with a large enough group this counters the negative impacts of speculation. Instead of spending FairCoins members of FairCoop will soon have the option to use FairCredit, a mutual credit system. Both FairCredit and FairCoin can be used to buy and sell goods and services through the coops online FairMarket which aims to be a kind of ethical ebay.

FairCoop is more than simply a means by which communities can buy and sell. One of the greatest barriers to the development of ethical projects that serve the Commons and the Cooperative Economy is access to finance. Venture capital demands that start ups conform to the conventional shareholder model with control of copyrights and patents part of the deal. Finance and investing in projects that further the construction of an alternative economy are a core part of FairCoop’s mission. They have created the Commons Fund and the Global South fund specifically for for this purpose.

Alternative currencies are nothing without a community who accept and trust them. It is the human element and the power of a community committed to principles of solidarity and cooperation that FairCoop brings to FairCoin. This is the strength of FairCoop and what makes it stand out as a grand experiment pioneering and challenging thinking about how we organise and construct much needed alternatives to capitalist economy.

https://fair.coop/

This article was first published in the Summer issue of STIR magazine you can order it here – http://stirtoaction.com/stir-summer-issue10-pre-order-discount/

Dada Maheshvarananda on Cooperation the Commons and Life After Capitalism

Back in February of this year I had the pleasure of attending a presentation by Dada Maheshvarananda who was visiting Ireland to promote his new book After Capitalism Economic Democracy in Action I took the opportunity to interview Dada to learn more about his views on Cooperativism, the Commons and the place of spirituality in movements for social change. Dada is an advocate of PROUT the Progressive Utilisation Theory an economic alternative to both capitalism and state socialism based on the principles of cooperation.

Special Thanks to Dada and to AFRI who hosted the event.

For More Information visit http://proutaftercapitalism.blogspot.ie/