Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Developing an alternative economy >>> 'stimulated by a climate of changing technology and increasing individual power'

The events in Greece have generated lots of comment:
Futures Forum: Transitioning to an economy based on sharing information

A provocative comment - with an alternative take on the way ahead - is here:
The clubof.info Blog: Greece (and humanity's) alternatives
Center for a Stateless Society » An Open Letter to the Greek People

But it actually offers a lot of interesting ideas for the transition movement:

Make-It-Yourself: The rise of the micro-manufacturers

The next industrial revolution is under way - make-it-yourself.

Thanks to state-of-the-art design software and the latest computer-controlled laser cutters, 3D printers and other manufacturing hardware, designers and inventors are turning their ideas into reality and getting them to market far more quickly and cheaply than they ever could before.

Digital designs sent online to micro-factories situated locally or abroad are reducing costs, waste and supply chains. And the objects being made are not just your traditional arts-and-crafts fare in plastic and wood, but high-tech gadgets and inventions that have gone on to sell millions - and make millions - around the world.

For example, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey is the man behind another highly successful company, Square, which makes mini payment card readers that can plug into your smartphone or tablet The company has taken on the US merchant banking industry and is already worth $3.2bn (£2bn) after just two and a half years.

Founded in 2006 using money raised from amateur investors and passionate makers, TechShop has six centres in the US, each with around 1,000 members. But the company has just announced its intention to raise $60m from corporate and private investors to fund its expansion. Using 3D design software from the likes of Autodesk, says Mr Hatch: "You can do all your modelling in the virtual world and then make them real."

Software then converts the design into instructions for the specific machine the designer wants to use.

Mr Hatch rattles off a number of other TechShop success stories, including Type A Machines, a 3D printer manufacturer; Clustered Systems, which makes lower-energy cooling systems for data centres; and Lightning Motorcycles, creator of the world's fastest electric motorbike.

"These stunning innovations coming out of the maker movement are beating some of the biggest companies in the world," says Mr Hatch. 
"It's the democratisation of the industrial revolution."

Move Your Money (to a Mutual)

One way to chip away at the power and influence of the big banks is to simply withdraw your financial support. Move your money to a bank that has a better business model or ethics. But to whom?

The ideal option would be a true full-reserve banking: a bank that doesn’t promise you instant access to your money even though it’s lent it to somebody in sub-prime America, and one that doesn’t use fractional-reserve banking to devalue the currency and pile excessive debt upon the public. Unfortunately, until later in 2011 (more later), there is no UK bank that operates on this principle.

However, there are 49 ‘mutuals’, or building societies in the UK. Unlike normal high-street banks, mutuals redistribute their profits to members – members being the savers and borrowers. So rather than the interest you pay going towards the £7billion bonus round, or to the Qatari royal family (in the case of Barclays), it’ll be going back to other members of the public who share your bank.

Even better, building societies are prohibited by law from engaging in commodities or foreign exchange trading. So if you give your money to Nationwide or Coventry Building Society, they won’t use it to push up the price of food to the point where people in developing countries starve. That’s a nice thought!

Building societies must also make sure that at least 75% of their lending goes into residential property (i.e. mortgages), so you’re far less likely to find that that your bank has exploded due to some toxic investments.

Do trees grow on money? Photo: Tax Credits via Flickr (CC BY).

There are alternatives - lots of them!

In Brazil there has been a revolution in community banking with the creation of the Banco Palmas in Fortaleza that has been issuing interest free microloans in a local currency call the Palmas since 2000. The objective of these loans was to enable more local production, through the creation and expansion of small and family owned businesses as well as to encourage people to spend their money with local businesses. Because the currency was only accepted in local shops the money circulates solely within the community, thereby promoting local commerce, increasing the circulation of wealth within the community, and generating both employment and income.

In Sardinia, Italy, there is a new currency, the Sardex, which is helping to regenerate local small and medium sized businesses in the region, without needing to go into more debt. Sardex.net is a business to business clearing system. Launched in 2009, it uses the Sardex as a complementary currency for transactions. This is an example of trade, or barter, exchange, where businesses within the network can trade with each other without using the Euro. In this system every enrolled business determines, on a yearly basis, the amount of goods or services they want to make available to the exchange network.

When they need goods or services, firms can contact each other directly via the online marketplace or discuss the trade opportunities with a broker. After a transaction has taken place, the online account of the seller receives the Sardex corresponding to whatever was agreed with the buyer for the good or service exchanged. The main aim of the currency system is to revitalise the local economy during the financial crisis. Sardex.net was introduced as a means to facilitate economic transactions and create new economic opportunities between local enterprises that were heavily affected by the financial crisis. In practice it offers new ways to increase a business turnover as well as save Euros.

Whilst this may seem alien to the idea of flourishing, a vibrant local business sector is vital, because without it comes a stagnant economy, unemployment and a lack a disposable income to spend. This is especially true of small and medium businesses as they account for the majority of employment and economic activity in most countries and regions.

Reinventing money for a green and flourishing future - The Ecologist
Reinventing Money | Demystifying Money and Liberating Exchange
Permaculture Association

The open source revolution is coming 

Kropotkin was much like William Morris in his affection for the free towns of the High Middle Ages, and all the horizontally organized fraternal associations for mutual aid and solidarity within them. Like Morris, much of his fondness was purely aesthetic – for the beauty and craftsmanship that surrounded most townspeople’s lives – not to mention a material standard of living, in terms of the purchasing power of labor, that would not be reached again in the modern age for over four hundred years. His faith in the human capacity for mutual aid and cooperation, and in the ability of ordinary, face-to-face groupings of people on the spot to develop workable arrangements among themselves, was coupled with a love for all the unique and quaint things buried in the nooks and crannies of history: folkmotes, nineteenth century mutuals and friendly societies, and the open-field villages that survived into modern times in some parts of Europe. This reverence both for the positive side of human nature and for the infinite variety of its flesh-and-blood expressions could not be reduced to any ideological formulation or “ism.”

Os bens comuns modelo de gestão dos recursos naturais

Over the course of history, societies have developed specific ways to manage natural resources collectively, so as to ensure their prosperity and continuity. This most often took place on a local scale. 
These are the “commons”. 
In some cases, resources were managed as commons because of their relative scarcity, as a way to prevent any conflict that might result from competition to access it. 
Often, opting to manage a resource as a commons was just seen as the best way to derive the most benefits from the resource for the most people, while making sure that there would still be enough for future generations – thus, a way to make sure that the communities in question would be able to perpetuate and renew themselves over time.


P2P is a specific form of relational dynamic, based on the assumed equipotency of its participants, organized through the free cooperation of equals in view of the performance of a common task, for the creation of a common good, with forms of decision making and autonomy that are widely distributed throughout the network.

There are several fundamental aspects of social P2P processes:

peer production - the collaborative production of use value is open to participation and use to the widest possible number (as defined by Yochai Benkler, in his essay Coase's Penguin);[1]
> peer governance - production or project is governed by the community of producers themselves, not by market allocation or corporate hierarchy;
> peer property - the use-value of property is freely accessible on a universal basis; peer services and products are distributed through new modes of property, which are not exclusive, though recognize individual authorship (i.e. the GNU General Public License or the Creative Commons licenses).

Peer production does not produce commodities for exchange value, and does not use theprice mechanism or corporate hierarchy to determine the allocation of resources. It must therefore be distinguished from both the capitalist market (though it can be linked and embedded in the broader market) and from production through state and corporate planning; as a mode of governance it differs from traditional linear hierarchies; and as a mode of property it differs from both traditional private property and state-based collective public property; it is rather the common property of its producers and users and the whole of humankind. Unlike private property, peer property is inclusive rather than exclusive — its nature is to share ownership as widely, rather than as narrowly, as possible.

Social peer-to-peer processes - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Homebrew Industrial Revolution, Chapter Seven: The Alternative Economy As a Singularity | P2P Foundation

See also:
Alternative economy in Greece : Grow Permaculture
The alternative to the Greek privatisation plan - Agenda - The World Economic Forum
The parallel economic revolution in Greece | UndercoverInfo
Greek Economic Crisis: Is A 'Parallel' Currency The Answer?
In Greece, Barter Networks Surge - The New York Times
“Alternative Networks of Collectivities” and “Solidarity -Cooperative Economy” in Greek cities: Exploring their theoretical origins | Chryssanthi Petropoulou - Academia.edu
The Greeks Must Build An Alternative Economy - The Latest News


Mixed fortunes as solidarity economy takes root in Greece

Time banks, farmer-to-buyer sales groups and alternative currencies springing up but expansion has not been steady or easy

A bartering bazaar in Volos, where tem currency coupons are exchanged for products or services. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Emma Graham-Harrison in Athens

Friday 17 July 2015 12.36 BST

As money has become tighter in Greece, an alternative “solidarity economy” has sprung up providing everything from food and medical care to hairdressing and language classes to thousands – without a euro changing hands.

The Athens Time Bank, for example, allows members to collect credits by offering an hour of their time to someone who needs their services. The bank boasts doctors, dentists, electricians, yoga teachers and plumbers among its ranks, but the most popular service on offer is psychotherapy – highlighting how years of austerity have eaten away at more than just savings and living standards. “These are the seeds, we are still in the beginning,” said member Christine Papadopoulou, who is also one of the coordinators of an annual “festival of solidarity” that brings together thousands of people for discussions, concerts and workshops each autumn. The network is made up of a diverse patchwork of groups. Some have rejected money entirely, like the time bank and the Helleniki clinic, a centre in Athens that serves more than 100 people a day entirely on donations of supplies and time while discouraging cash contributions.

Others have experimented with alternative currencies that can be used alongside shrinking euro income, while some initiatives are commercial enterprises that reject the pursuit of profit, such as communes and direct farmer-to-buyer sales groups.

Most had their roots in anti-austerity protests and demonstrations in 2011, when the government unveiled a sweeping set of tax increases and benefit cuts meant to tackle the debt problems, and years of mass unemployment and failing services began.

“There were a lot of ideas circulating before, but in the context of the crisis there was an incentive to put them into action. The other part was need, you had a lot of people who had lost their jobs,” said Ilias Ziogas, of the Syn Allios (Together with Others) cooperative, set up in 2011 to sell fair-trade goods. It has managed to increase sales as regular shops have failed, something Ziogas puts down to the desire for different ways of living. “Its not a huge movement, let’s not exaggerate, but it’s something that has grown in the last few years,” he said.

The expansion has not been steady, or easy. The sprolonged financial crises that hollowed out the conventional economy has also taken out many of the radical alternatives, often small, fragile systems vulnerable to fatigue or infighting. There are many projects whose obsolete websites stand as the only memorials to their founders’ dreams, ranging from a project for unemployed young people in Athens to the votsalo (pebble) currency.

Of all the “solidarity economy” projects, alternative currencies have drawn perhaps the most media attention amid questions about what Greece will do if it runs out of euros or decides to leave the shared currency. But running a currency is complex and demanding, and most have been short-lived. “When the [votsalo] project started in 2012, the aim was to cover our basic needs, to stop thinking as a consumer, start thinking as a human being. [To prove] that we can live without money,” said Margarita Kiriakou, one of the founders, who now thinks it was a mistake to dabble in an alternative form of money.

Some members were overwhelmed by demand and could not spend what they earned, while others saw it simply as free cash. “The dentists, one of the most popular services, couldn’t get rid of their votsalos, and others took a lot without providing services.” That was also a problem for Greece’s most successful alternative currency, the tem, said Ioanna Kostopolis, daughter of one of the original founders. It owes its durability in part to a programmer who spent time in San Francisco and set up a very robust software base for the currency, but they still had to deal with human challenges.

“In the beginning we gave 300 tem to anyone who registered, so they could start spending, but many saw it basically as a giveaway of €300, spent it and never came back,” she said from the northern port of Volos. “After we saw what was going on, it went down to 50 or then 20.” They also had problems with people using the network to tout for work, then demanding payments in euros instead of tem. Each one has to be cautioned and then thrown out at public meetings, a laborious process, but the group has since settled down. “It’s good to have just a few hundred people, then you know each other and trust each other and have solidarity like we do,” said Kostopolis. “Otherwise it’s an open market like anyone else, you don’t know who will rip you off.” She cannot imagine the currency spreading outside Volos because of this, but said its founders were looking at other ways to organise nationwide exchanges of goods and services that might bypass conventional cash.

Thousands of Greeks are benefiting from perhaps the simplest of the “solidarity economy” projects nationwide, a movement that links buyers directly to the people who produce their food, detergent and other essentials, undercutting supermarkets. Most take orders before a monthly meeting when cash and goods are handed over. In a country with a notorious parallel market, even the government wins, because all transactions are recorded, said 38-year-old teacher Dimitris Tsilogiannis.

“We have had a great response from the public, all we do is totally legal and most importantly all sellers give receipts,” he said during an evening spent manning phones to answer queries and help buyers unable to use the internet. In the office with him were a soldier, an unemployed friend and an office worker, all of them volunteers. Their local group has coordinated the sale of 1,500 tonnes of potatoes, olive oil, rice, flour, fruits, honey, cheese, pulses and other products at prices around a third to half of supermarket levels. “It needs time, hard work and a lot of effort from its members,” Tsilogiannis said. “But we have a result that’s very inspiring and we feel that people respond to our purpose.”

With further sweeping cuts agreed this week, the need for the alternative sector is only likely to grow, drawing in new members and inspiring others to try again. Those who have stumbled say their dreams are more robust than their organisations. “Now the crisis has grown I think something will happen,” said Kiriakou, one of the founders of a failed currency. “Maybe we will organise again with different people.”

Mixed fortunes as solidarity economy takes root in Greece | World news | The Guardian

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