Asia Solidarity Economy Forum 2012 at Manado, Indonesia

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 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.


Symposium on the New Law on Social Economy (Valencia, Spain)

The Jornada sobre la Nueva Ley de Economía Social (Symposium on the New Law on Social Economy) took place at Salón de Actos, Grupo CRM, Valencia, Spain on 06th October 2011 to evaluate the importance of this law which was approved last March.  Three speakers gave presentations on this sector which plays an important role in the Spanish economy.  You can read the English translation of this law at: .

The first speaker, Dr. Carmen Comos, director of CEPES (Confederación Empresarial Española de la Economía Social), focused on sharing their experience on the elaboration of the law.  As CEPES gathers already between 85 to 90% of the social economy players throughout the country, it was rather easy to convince the legislators that this organisation represented the whole sector and that negotiations should begin to prepare the draft for the law.  CEPES proposed the idea of this law to all the political parties just after the general elections in 2008 while it had internal discussions to reach the consensus that the law should have few articles without getting into details.  In February 2009 the dialogue for this process between CEPES and the Ministry of Labour and Immigration started, which was not always pacific but triggered lots of debates.  She underscored the following points:

  1. Approval of this law by unanimity
  2. Recognition of the social economy’s contribution on churning out jobs and incomes
  3. Establishment of the dialogue channel between the public sector and social economy players
  4. Obligation of the Spanish State and/or Autonomous Communities to promote the social economy
  5. Visualisation of the social economy to the entrepreneurs and to the academic world

There are challenges, however, to accelerate the growth of this sector, such as the edition of statistics and implementation of public policies so that there should not be any more hurdles at all against the social economy’s development.

The second speaker, Dr. Gemma Fajardo of IUDESCOOP (Instituto Universitario de Economía Social y Cooperativa) and from Universitat de València, explained what is defined in the law.   She began by saying that the European Parliament’s Resolution on Social Economy in February 2009  was an important push for this law and pointed out that it is to show different economic activities under the same brand of social economy without changing regulations on each of them (such as non-profits (called in Spain as “asociaciones”) and coops), even she was quite critical on the definition of the players since, as she put it, not economic activities but the way to run them should be taken into account on achieving the social economy’s goals.  She also indicated the contradiction between this law which makes Autonomous Communities to be in charge of this sector and the Article 131 of the Spanish Constitution which determines that it is the State which plans economic activities.  On top of that she questioned the fact that the “voluntary and open membership”, clearly written on the Social Economy Charter, was omitted in the law.

The last speaker, Dr. José Luis Monzón of IUDESCOOP and of Universitat de València, analysed the social economy sector.  He began by underlining that Spain is the first European country to stimulate this law with definitions coming from the European Parliament and from scientific researches, allowing this sector’s representatives to have dialogues with the public sector in order to plan public policies.  He also said that the social economy is responsible for 10% of the national economy, employing more than one million people and showing the size with figures.

There is no doubt at all that the law should constitute an invaluable platform to stimulate the social economy, but it is also true that there is still a lot to do so that this economy should be truly promoted.  Most people in Spain still do not know the social economy as it is and there is an urgent need that Autonomous Communities should start to spread out information, to provide training courses, to organise conferences and/or put into effect different public policies to accelerate the development of coops, non-profits etc. so that such economic activities as a whole should be widely recognised.

Another feature on which I would like to give a comment is that these presentations were quite Eurocentric without mentioning similar movements which are happening in other continents, such as Latin America (especially Brazil where the Secretary of Solidarity Economy, together with Brazilian Solidarity Economy Forum, has been building up this sector), Canada (especially Quebec) and Africa.  Maybe I have such opinions because of my own views with a huge focus in Latin America and I must admit that most international collaborations that Spain has at the governmental level is by way of the European Union, but it would be quite relevant if such Spanish promoters of social economy should start to dialogue with their non-European partners to set up the channels of mutual learning.

A video on solidarity economy (with English subtitle)

I’ve just added the English subtitle to a video produced in 2006 in Brazil about solidarity economy.

Move the pointer to CC just below the movie and select English to read the subtitle in English.  You’ll see the basic ideas on this alternative economy…

The Asian Social Entrepreneurs Summit 2010 Report

The Asian Social Entrepreneurs Summit 2010 took place on Mon, 29th and Tue, 30th November 2010 at the Hotel Seoul Kyoyuk Munhwa Hoekwan (서울교율문화회관) , Seocho-gu, Seoul, South Korea, with around 300 participants from 15 different Asian countries. This conference was organised by Work Together Foundation (함까 일하는 재단), a foundation with the vision to “build a sustainable society by resolving social polarization and developing an employment-friendly environment”, aims to “create decent jobs through the Third Sector” and to “enhance social cooperative support to improve employment welfare for the most vulnerable in society”, committed to different actions. I appreciate this foundation for all its efforts to organise such a huge conference, especially in that they could provide summaries of all presentations not only in English and Korean but also in Chinese and Japanese languages.

South Korea is one of the few countries in the world with a legal framework to promote social enterprises. The Social Enterprise Promotion Act (사회적기업육성법), implemented on 01st July 2007 (click here to download the official English translation), allows the national and local governments to offer supports, such as information, accounting service, tax cut, financial supports for facility, labour and other costs, prior purchasing at public institutions, to social enterprises, i.e. “organization which is engaged in business activities of producing and selling goods and services while pursuing a social purpose of enhancing the quality of local residents’ life by means of providing social services and creating jobs for the disadvantaged” while the beneficiaries of this system is requested to “make efforts to reinvest profits created by business activities in the maintenance and expansion of social enterprises”. Currently there are more than 300 social enterprises which have been officially recognised by the Korean government, employing around 10,000 people.

This conference began with addresses from Wol-ju, SONG (송월주, chairman of the Work Together Foundation) and from Jae-Wan BAHK (박재완), Minister of Employment and Labor, before the keynote speech by Mr. Antonio MELOTO from Gawad Kalinga, the Philippines. He began his speech by appreciating the Korean influence in his country, in terms not only of the bilateral collaboration but also of the pop culture such as music and TV drama, raising a fundamental question: Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore have gotten rid of the poverty, so why not the Philippines?. He gave an example in which landowners and tenant farmers work together, bringing merits to both of them as the former is happy with the higher value for their land while the latter is happy with the higher yield. This organisation has won investments for 400 communities with which governments are afraid to get involved, leading to their developments, but also showed some challenges such as lack of the Filipino brands to sell its produces at a higher price as well as social innovation. He finished his speech by pointing out that Filipinos in the United States are not poor, encouraging their countrymen in the homeland to have the same spirit to end the poverty.

Then the Plenary Session 1 started under the title of “Innovative Asian Social Entrepreneurs Addressing Asian Poverty.” Philip HUI from the Living Knowledge Education Organization (活知識立群社), Hong Kong mentioned the “New Public Benefit”, an emerging concept in mainland China to combat poverty and inequity, defining social movements as “questioning the nature and exercise of power in society”. He presented his social enterprise to empower rural educators, as the education level gap between the rural and urban areas is one of the most serious problems causing poverty there. Then followed Anshu GUPTA from GOONJ, India who presented his business to leverage second-hand clothes to provide the poor with good dresses and napkins for women on top of other social projects such as building bridges and schools. Masa KOGURE (小暮真久) from TABLE FOR TWO International, Japan presented his business model to charge US$ 0.25 more for each meal at the cafeteria etc. so that another meal can be provided for the poor in Africa. Deshapriya Sam Wijetunge Warnakula Arachchiralalage from the Sri Lanka-United Nations Friendship Organisation (SUNFO), Sri Lanka showed his project to train prisoners so that they can start working artisans once they are released from the gaol. And David POLLACK from Ashoka, United States gave an overview on his project to sponsor social innovators.

The Plenary Session 2 was focused on the role and the challenges of culture & arts. Jin-yi OH (오진이) from the Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture (서울문화재단), Korea presented her projects to financially support those children wishing to be professional artists such as ballet dancer and pianist. Yasuo HARIMA (播磨靖男) from Tampopo no Ie (たんぽぽの家), Japan showed his art gallery where the handicapped can exhibit their works and have the chance to be acknowledged as professional artists. Byung-soo, KIM (김병수) from E-eum (이음), Korea showed his different activities to stimulate the traditional city centre at Jeonju as well as its surrounding rural communities by leveraging local resources and different cultural activities (both traditional and modern ones). And Kenny Low from O-school, Singapore presented his business which promotes young dancers and creates jobs for them, challenging the traditional Singaporean values which despise commercial arts and performances.

Then three group discussions took place in parallel. I was at the first session “Social Enterprise based on solidarity economy” where five speakers gave their presentations. It began with Benjamin QUIÑONES from CSRSME Asia, the Philippines who talked about NEGOSENTRO, his own supply chain network composed of different social enterprises and mentioning three Ps (Profit, Planet and People) as their priorities. Then followed Bambang ISMAWAN from Bina Swadaya, Indonesia, telling about his organisation which works for community-based development, self-help institution promotion and development as well as microcredit projects based on income generation, open-mindedness and democracy, empowering local people. Reiko INOUE (井上礼子) from PARCIC (パルシック), Japan showed her experience of fair trade coffee from East Timor, telling us the hardship and importance to teach basic skills such as accounting to the Timorese partners. Young-Geun KWON (권영근) from the Korean Society for Research on Sustainable Agriculture, Food and Environment (한국농어촌사회연구소) shared with us his experience to create a self-sufficient-style community at Heongsung, Gangwon Province by circulating resources and empowering villages, showing the case of Korean beef production. And finally, Denison JAYASOORIA from Binary University College, Malaysia told the perspective for solidarity economy in his country, especially in the realms of elderly care, tuition centre and early learning, on top of promoting the 3rd Asian Forum for Solidarity Economy that he will organise from the 01st to 04th November 2011.

At the same time, four speakers showed their projects at “Social Enterprise as Social Innovator” (Joel SADLER from Re:Motion Designs, India which provides artificial prosthetic knee joints for amputees at a low price, Deepak GADHIA from Gadhia Solar, India who works for solar energy systems, Byeong-Eun AHN (안병은) from WooriDongne (우리동네), Korea who runs a café and other businesses for the mentally handicapped at Suwon and Durreen SHAHNAZ from Asiaiix, Singapore which runs an investment agency to finance social enterprises) and other four were at the “Review of Asian Cases and the main Issues of Social Service Providing Social Enterprises” (Junghee, PARK (박정희) from Dasomi Foundation (다솜이재단), Korea who creates jobs for single mothers and provides free care services to low-income patients, Ting Yu (Catherine) CHOU from Eden Social Welfare Foundation (伊甸社會福利基金會), Taiwan presented a gas station run mainly by handicapped staff, Harue ISHIKAWA (石川治江) from Care Centre Yawaragi (ケア・センターやわらぎ), Japan about her 24-hours-a-day care service for the elderly and the handicapped and Wing Sai Jessica Tam from Hong Kong Council of Social Service (香港社會服務聯會), Hong Kong about her social impact assessment tool).

The day 2 started with 6 simultaneous group discussions: 1) Culture & Art, 2) Green Technology, 3) Rural Economy, 4) Social Venture Incubating, 5) Fair Trade and 6) Responsible Tourism. Then the Plenary Session 3) dealt with the social finance in which four speakers gave their presentations. Randall KEMPNER from Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs, United States underscored the importance to invest for small and growing businesses (SGB). Richard ROQUE from SA Capital, Hong Kong presented key ideas that social entrepreneurs should know to get funds from investors. Sweta POKHAREL from E+Co, Thailand shared the overview on the investment for social ventures in clean technology for which she has been working. Finally Chull-Young LEE (이철영) from the Social Enterprise Network (서시얼엔터프라이즈네트워크), Korea explained the role of the financial sector for further development of the social enterprises in his country.

This conference has shown the continuous growth of social enterprises in Asia, especially in the host country South Korea where the Social Enterprise Promotion Act has been nurturing hundreds of such entities, creating jobs for thousands of disadvantaged people there. Also the diversity of social enterprises was obvious at this conference, such as farming, fair trade, medical care, renewable energy, cultural activities and sustainable tourism, ensuring that this economy will penetrate into different sectors of these Asian countries.

It is also true, however, that this conference has made clear the challenges that Asians should take into account on really promoting such economic activities. Very few (if any) were questioning the status quo of the capitalism as the principal cause of the poverty with which hundreds of millions of Asians are still afflicted. Though it is true that many Asian countries are still in the honeymoon with the bustling capitalism as their economy is still growing, more severe criticisms should be given to the very structure of capitalism which unavoidably triggers social and environmental externalities. Also, the importance of self-managed economic entities such as workers’ cooperatives and non-profits was overlooked during this two-day summit. And last but not least, there was a lack of a holistic horizon which can encompass not only social enterprises but also microcredit, fair trade, non-profits, foundations and other players. The solidarity economy movement, already quite strong in other continents but not yet in Asia, could play a relevant role in putting together all those above-mentioned efforts and to bring them into a higher level.

Commitments by the president-elect of Brazil for solidarity economy

Dilma Rouseff was elected on 31st Oct as next president of Brazil (term: from 1st Jan 2011 to 31st Dec 2014) and she has done the following 13 commitments (click here for the original version in Portuguese).  She has also said that she will approve the Solidarity Economy Act.

  1. Consolidate the integration of the National Policy of Solidarity Economy with the country’s sustainable development strategies.
  2. Constitute the Sistema Nacional de Economia Solidária (National System of Solidarity Economy, SINAES) to stimulate the strengthening of the solidarity economy and to enable the articulation among different levels of the government.
  3. Ensure resources for financing programmes and actions to solidarity-based enterprises.
  4. Complete legal instruments which make solidarity economy enterprises feasible and facilitate their formalisation.
  5. Promote an institutional atmosphere favourable for the development of solidarity economy, completing the procedure to access to public resources, credit and formalisation of enterprises.
  6. Complete the access to the knowledge and to the technology:
    Nurture technology and innovation targeted for the solidarity economy, underlining social technology projects;
    Promote policies of training, technical assessment and professional qualification which are adequate to the solidarity economy enterprises;
    Broaden the access to the education, at all the levels, of the workers of solidarity-based enterprises.
  7. Develop and nurture mechanisms of solidarity finance which are adequate to the financing of working capital, of costs and for the purchase of equips and infrastructure of solidarity-based enterprises.
  8. Nurture initiatives of solidarity-based commercialisation and strengthen mechanisms which facilitate the access to the public purchases of goods and services.
  9. Develop the solidarity economy as policy for productive inclusion, economic emancipation and generation of work and income targeted to the public benefitting from social programmes.
  10. Recognise and nurture the solidarity economy in the strategies of international integration, especially in Latin America (Mercosur and Unasur) and Africa.
  11. Strengthen the interdisciplinarity of public policies of the solidarity economy in articulation with the different sectors and policies of the government;
  12. Give continuity to the completion of government policies for the solidarity economy, warranting resources and investing in the capacity for the elaboration, management and execution of public policies for this sector.
  13. Strengthen the National Council of Solidarity Economy as promoter of the National Conferences of Solidarity Economy and of the participation, of the social control and accompanying of policies and programmes of solidarity economy.

Don’t forget to keep an eye on Brazil…

Social Enterprises or Solidarity Economy?

As I’ve been trying to link East Asian players of solidarity economy with their counterparts in the rest of the world, recently I’ve come across quite a few people who work for social enterprises and I realised that this term is much more popular here (in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and recently in China too) than solidarity economy.  These two movements seem to pursue similar goals but I’d like to make clear the fundamental difference between these two concepts.

It’s quite important to remember the fact that the first initiative of social enterprise emerged in United Kingdom and that this spread into other countries, especially other English-speaking ones.   On the other hand, the use of the word “solidarity economy” is quite common in those countries where one of Romance languages is spoken, such as France, Italy, Spain, Canada (especially Québec), Latin America and Senegal.  And this explains why the term “solidarity economy” remains almost unknown in Asia, as nowadays the use of French, Spanish and Portuguese is very rare, if any, in this continent.

The key concept of social entrepreneurship is that you run a business with social and/or eco-friendly goals, such as creating jobs for the handicapped and providing microcredit to financially-excluded poor communities, not necessarily challenging the conventional capitalism.  That is why thousands of private-owned corporations with some social goals are also regarded as social enterprises, which is little plausible in case of solidarity economy.  And I found a conference on social entrepreneurship with HSBC as sponsor, but I can’t imagine this multinational financial institution working together solidarity economy.  Maybe they’re concerned rather about building a sustainable capitalism than about achieving social justice.

Solidarity economy, on the contrary, has been promoted as an alternative to the neoliberal globalisation, especially at World Social Forum, the counterforum for World Economic Forum, and players see any sort of capitalism as exploitative.  So workers’ coops and other sorts of cooperatives are the main players of this economy, although some social enterprises can fit into this category too.

I don’t think it’s a mere coincidence that these two different cultures have promoted different terms as these two are based on different socioeconomic values.  Nobody doubts that capitalism has been developed at best in Anglo-Saxon countries, and social entrepreneurship is much more convenient than solidarity economy for, at least, some people there since this will keep the very structure of capitalism intact while those with Latin passion tend to question it.  And in this sense Asia is so Anglo-Saxonised that the élites find it much easier to deal with social enterprises than solidarity-based cooperatives, also with the aim to preserve the capitalist principles.

Maybe I’m biased, but for me this is one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever faced with as promoter of solidarity economy, as Asians tend to prefer English-speaking world to the Latin world.  What can we do to trigger a paradigm shift here?

Shiga Prefecture, Japan will work for new complementary currency initiatives to save its ecosystem and potentially to create new jobs

A conference took place at Ôtsu, Shiga on Wed, 07th April 2010 on a potential introduction of complementary currency systems to promote the environmental preservation as well as to churn out more jobs in Shiga, Japan.

Shiga Prefecture, located next to Kyôto Prefecture(*), is home to Japan’s largest lake, called Lake Biwa, which provides fresh water to residents and industries not only in Shiga but also in Kyôto, Ôsaka and Hyôgo (capital: Kôbe) Prefectures.  People’s concern to keep the water quality in the lake promoted ecological movements and gave birth to a female ecologist governor Yukiko Kada in July 2006.  Bernard Lietaer, a Belgian specialist on complementary currencies, was invited to Japan to give some hints to the prefecture and met the governor to give the outline on the potential of this tool to promote eco-friendly policies in the prefecture.

Term: Japan is composed of 47 prefectures which are usually called as “ken” (such as Hiroshima-ken and Nagasaki-ken), except “to” for Tôkyô (Tôkyô-to), “fu” for Kyôto and Ôsaka (Kyôto-fu and Ôsaka-fu) and “dô” for Hokkaidô (well, in case of Hokkaidô it isn’t called as Hokkaidô-dô but simply Hokkaidô).

He began his lecture by referring to the fact that our large scale systems, designed for the industrial age, are in crisis as we face with post-industrial realities, showing that currency systems are, contrary to people’s common belief, not “value neutral” and that different monetary systems are needed to achieve different socioeconomic goals, especially given that the current national currency has too much yang (male) feature, undermining our society’s balance, requiring us to have other currencies to strengthen yin (female) features.

Lietaer’s proposal is to introduce two different sorts of complementary currencies to deal with different issues with which Shiga Prefecture is facing: the first one is to charge an ecological local tax which is only payable in a new complementary currency to be called as “Biwa” and the lecturer told that four European cities (Bristol, Brussels, Liverpool and Luxembourg) are considering the introduction of a similar scheme.  Residents in Shiga will be asked to earn some Biwa either by doing some voluntary activities to improve the local environment or by purchasing such amount of Biwa from somebody else, similar to what happens in terms of CO2 emission.  The second one is to introduce a B2B currency, similar to the one practiced in Uruguay and Brazil, to boost trades among corporations in Shiga so that more jobs can be created.

It seems that Shiga pays more attention to environmental aspects than socioeconomic ones of complementary currencies as the audience at the lecture were asking questions almost exclusively on Biwa while they seemed to be little concerned about the worsening labour conditions.  It is worth remembering, though, that Shiga is also home to thousands of Brazilian immigrants who are suffering from the layoffs as the manufacturing sector in this country is facing with some hardships, making it urgent to create jobs to save them out of misery, and it would be highly recommended that Shiga also should start studying the model of Banco Palmas, Fortaleza, Brazil, which has managed to churn out a number of jobs in an improverished neighbourhood, if it really finds it important to create new job opportunities both for Brazilians and the Japanese.