The Asian Solidarity Economy Forum 2012 took place from Mon, 01st to Wed, 03rd October at International Business Administration (IBA), Sam Ratulangi University, Manado, Northern Sulawesi, Indonesia. Hundreds of people from 17 countries (including Canada and 5 European countries) joined this event to share and learn different experiences that have been happening in different parts of this continent.
The day 1 (Mon, 01st October) began with the opening ceremony with a message from Dr. Sinyo Harry Sarundajang, Governor of North Sulawesi. After four Indonesian researchers commented about their visit to Germany thanks to the invitation from Konrad Adenauer Stiftung to learn how the social market economy is working there, Drs. Bambang Ismawan of Bina Swadaya (Indonesia) presented his perspective on solidarity economy. He mentioned the definition on solidarity economy given by Dr. Benjamin Quiñones Jr. (ASEC’s chairman, to be referred to later) as “economy developed by social enterprise”, showed the 3P (People, Planet and Profit) by Dr. Quiñones and underscored that 99.2% of businesses in Indonesia are small or micro enterprises. He also located the solidarity economy for those “economically active but poor,” excluding who are too old or too young and who are the poorest or feasible as conventional small businesses. After accentuating the importance of microcredit on enabling microenterprises’ existence, he explained that the best form of community institutions is self-reliance with “active membership”, “elected leaders”, “Economic + (social & educational)” activities and “democratically participative.” He said that such institutions are “vehicle for mutual learning and teaching, problem identification, decision-making, resource mobilization and communication with 3rd parties” and pointed out their features as “income generating orientation”, “open mindness” and “democratic”.
Then followed Dr. Benjamin Quiñones, Chairman of Asian Solidarity Economy Council (ASEC) from the Philippines who added further information on his definition of Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE). After defining it as something out of the public and private sector, he underscored “people’s participation in ownership & management of resources” and “profit sharing” as co-owners. He identified “solidarity”, “interdependence” and “people-to-people connectivity” as “edifying values” and showed the framework for evaluating SSE from the viewpoint of governance, ethical values, provided social development services, ecological conservation measures and sustainability. Prof. Dato Mohammad Yusof Kasim from University Utara, Malaysia underscored the importance of coops, Prof. Dr. Denison Jayasooria from University Kebangsaan, Malaysia explained that coops and microcredit are one of the key points on the civil society, along with CSR for sustainable development.
In the afternoon five workshops took place (Economic Security, Socially Responsible Governance, Enhanced Social Wellbeing, Healthy Climate and Environment and Edifying Value). Then another plenary took place and Prof. Dr. Paulus Kindangen from Sam Ratulangi University told that the competition by the capitalism has excluded many people, underscored the importance to empower that impoverished people and defined solidarity economy as “way out from the unfairness economic practice of capitalism” while trying not to abolish capitalism but to coexist with it. He mentioned the Article 33 of the Indonesian Constitution to tell that coops’ role is determined as “very important institution in creating or establishing economic democracy in Indonesia”, presented the word “gotong-royong” or “mapalus” as community mutual help, criticized the political intervention as “among the reasons of the cooperative failure”. Ir. Suhaedi from Bank of Indonesia talked about the financial inclusion as one of the biggest challenges of the Indonesian economy and Ms. Vivi George shared her experience of microcredit for women’s productive activities.
The day 2 (Tue, 02nd Oct) started with the presentation by Reiko Inoue, PARCIC Japan, about the hard task of community rebuilding in those coastline regions severely damaged by the tsunami in March 2011 which killed almost 20,000 people. She underlined social capital, market and management skill as most needed factors to develop solidarity economy. Then followed Prof. Wim Poli, professor at Hasanuddin University, Makassar, Indonesia told the need to go beyond the sympathy on building solidarity economy. Then Mr. Jay Lacsamana from the Foundation for a Sustainable Society (the Philippines) explained about this foundation, created as a result from the debt-for-development swap, arranged between the governments of the Philippines and the Switzerland, and told its commitment to the creation of social enterprises and to the local economy development. Then as a case study Mr. Ari Primatoro shared his experience to stimulate the farming in Punur Watershed, Central Java, explaining three achievements (self-help groups promotion, business development services, and market linkage). Mr. Gian Mansa shared his experience of bamboo handicrafts. And Ms. Jeanne Marie O. Bernardo from On Eagle’s Wings Foundation (the Philippines) narrated how she applied the five dimensions of social solidarity economy, namely “social mission-oriented or socially responsible governance”, “edifying value”, “social development services”, “ecological conservation” and “sustainability” onto the Free Range Chicken Supply Chain.
Then another session on finance started. Magnus Young from Impact Investment Exchange Asia (Singapore) explained the social investment opportunities in Asia, followed by this blogger (Miguel Yasuyuki Hirota, expert on social and complementary currencies)’s presentation on social and complementary currencies. Then three case studies were given: Bank Negara Indonesia and PNPM in Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian language), and the rice and onion supply chain APPEND, which improved farmers’ access to loans in better conditions. In the afternoon the ASEF market was held and different businesses, such as bioethanol, houses, handicrafts and tourism services, were shown, and two more cases were shown, namely an organic rice farming in North Sulawesi presented by Ir. Rachmat Mokodongan and an IT centre at Manado called Manadokota by Piet Hein Pusung, in both of which the importance of mapalus was highlighted. Last but not least, Hasan Tjandra from Sigma Global gave a short overview on the hardship in getting credits from the businessman’s viewpoint.
The last day (Wed, 03rd) began with three presentations on the concepts of solidarity economy: Herman Karamoy and Jullie J. Sondakh from the Sam Ratulangi university showed the definition of social enterprises as “one of the nonprofit organizations” and “a branch of non-profit-organization which mainly deliver goods and services mostly through charity funding and voluntarism” (Kam, 2010) and “the organization that apply business methods and practices in providing and improving benefit or value to the society”, locating them between charities and traditional businesses and underlining the importance of social enterprises’ accountability. Yvon Poirier from CCEDNET explained different, although similar, concepts in relation to solidarity economy, such as social economy, social enterprises and third sector, telling that such a diversity in so many parts of the world is a strength while putting such efforts together is a huge challenge. Shomi Kim from British Council in Korea shared the Global Changemaker, a project to involve the youth to the social change. Then professors at IBA shared their teaching experiences and another community training centre ILMU.
And in the final plenary four presentations were given: Benito Lopulalan and Dewi Hutabarat from AKSI-UI Foundation (Indonesia) presented some cases in which Indonesians are already collaborating with Malaysians or Timorese. Olivier Endelin and Florence Valle from Ekovivo (France) showed their project to help social enterprises get access to microcredits by increasing their visibility on the web. Ricarte B. Abejuela and Monique Sengkey pointed out the important fact that the agreement valid for the border islands between Indonesia and the Philippines is rather a hurdle than an incentive to stimulate the solidarity economy in this region as it limits international trades between these two countries. And finally Ibana The from IBA showed their website www.asefonlinemall.com as a portal site to sell goods made by solidarity economy players in Asia. And on the closing ceremony some IBA students were rewarded for their excellent social enterprise projects.
As this forum was hosted by a business school, it has its own advantages and disadvantages. As advantage I should underline their expertise in business management, marketing and other related skills. And honestly speaking, I was highly impressed by IBA students’ high English proficiency, something quite uncommon in Indonesia.
But at the same time this forum showed some challenges for the future of solidarity economy in Asia, especially in the host country Indonesia: first of all, this forum was rather centred on social enterprises while not enough attention was paid to cooperativism, self-management and these businesses’ relationship with social movements. From my viewpoint, quite influenced by Latin American experiences, the middle class’ role in the solidarity economy, especially in terms of poverty reduction, would be rather to help the poor set up and manage their own coops than set up social enterprises, but it is also important that Asia has complete different historic precedents and, given the fact that many social enterprises have evolved from what used to be charity projects, it’s necessary to respect all the achievements Asians have done so far.
Another point is the limited use of Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian language) in the conference, which should have kept a huge number of ordinary Indonesians away from this precious event. As solidarity economy is for ordinary people, it’s essential that it should be given in a way ordinary people can understand, and it would be helpful if simultaneous interpretation between English and Bahasa were available.