The Portuguese ONGD Instituto Marquês de Valle Flôr (IMVF) welcomed Elisabeth Grimberg and Edlisa Peixoto in Lisbon. The guest speakers of this European Tour (through Portugal, Bulgaria, Slovenia and Croatia) will share their case studies and experiences in Brazil. The main subjects of conversation on the first day of the tour were the recyclable materials collectors cooperatives, as seen by Elisabeth, and SSE initiatives in Ceará, described by Edlisa. The speakers and IMVF’s representatives also compared experiences in SSE in Portugal and Brazil and discussed the different political situations.
Project SSEDAS and the IMVF aim to promote cooperation in development and SSE networks, particularly in the role that another kind of economy may have in the global fight against poverty and towards sustainability. Edlisa and Elisabeth are the first speakers to come from the global South to share their insights. Edlisa Peixoto, director of the “Palmas” documentary and Elizabeth Grimberg, a founding member of the Polis Institute, São Paulo, will be in Portugal from May 20th to 23rd and June 19th to 24th.
This travel diary aims to follow those two periods and to summarize the exchanges between the speakers and the associations and cooperatives that they will come in contact with. In the morning of May 20th, Elisabeth and Edlisa visited IMVF’s headquarters and settled the final details for the European tour. After signing their contracts, the speakers met with Ahmed Zaky, projects coordinator at the institute and talked to some of the team members (Ana Isabel Castanheira, Ana Teresa Santos and Mónica Santos Silva, the Global Citizenship Unit) about social exclusion, policies and Social Economy in Portugal and in Brazil.
Edlisa and Elisabeth were present, during the afternoon, at the Portugal Social Economy Fair (www.portugaleconomiasocial.fil.pt), which took place in Lisbon from the May 19th to 21st, to “show and promote economical and social projects and to foster “joint ventures” for cooperative development”. At IMVF’s stand, they learned about some of the projects that the institute is working on, such as the European “Make Fruit Fair!” campaign and cooperation projects in Portuguese-speaking African countries. Elsiabeth and Edlisa were also interviewed by Nuno Ramos de Almeida, for the widely circulated newspaper “i” (Jornal i), and by Iris Radio (IRIS FM | Uma rádio, uma região!).
Filipa Lacerda and Gustavo Lopes Pereira, from Âmago, as the project’s Portuguese communication team, also recorded interviews with the speakers, dedicated to their expectations for the tour and to the solidarity Economy as “a new vision on how to create wealth, for example, from recyclable materials, integrating socially excluded people” and as “the control over the production chain” by workers and producers, as Elisabeth mentioned.
However, there was still time to visit other social economy agents present at the Fair. The speakers got to know some of the work carried out by the Portuguese Red Cross, the Solidarity Economy Regional Cooperative Cresaçor, Animar – Associação Portuguesa para o Desenvolvimento Local, e and some cultural associations from Santa Maria Maior (Lisbon).
The headquarters of CIDAC – Centro de Intervenção para o Desenvolvimento Amílcar Cabral – and their Fair Trade Shop were the first stop for the tour in Lisbon, where the speakers observed the weekly delivery of vegetables and fruit traded through a Fair Trade proximity circuit, directly from the producers to the consumers. The producers (integrated in PROVE – Promover e Vender) Justina and Judite, as well as CIDAC’s team member Dénia Claudino explained how this scheme works and talked to the speakers about the association’s history and work.
The speakers presented their case studies to an audience at the Fair’s conference space, after an introduction by Professor Rogério Roque Amaro. Elisabeth described the initiatives and public policies related to the Brazilian recyclable materials collectors as a process of “self-inclusion”, while Edlisa addressed Brazil’s first community bank (Instituto Banco Palmas) and the community that created it. Roque Amaro introduced the concepts of social economy and solidarity economy, noting that distinctions have to be made between associations and cooperatives, on one side, and the “social entrepreneurship” companies, on the other. “We are here today to think of SSE as a path”, he added.
Later, in the second pavilion occupied by the Fair, Edlisa and Elisabeth established contacts with initiatives such as Malha de Bronze, Associação Leque, Associação EcoGerminar and Comunidade Vida e Paz.
The speakers’ next visit acquainted them with the rural cooperative Cooperativa Terra Chã, where they were enjoyed a meal at the cooperative’s headquarters and local-based restaurant. Júlio Ricardo, António Frazão and Pedro Mendonça welcomed Elisabeth and Edlisa and showed them around the village Chãos, offering a guided tour through Terra Chã’s social and environmental work over the last 30 years. The speakers were delighted at this experience in direct democracy and held a long and fruitful exchange with the cooperative’s members, offering to keep in touch and aid in sharing contacts and experiences.
From bee keeping to leadership, focusing also traditional knowledge and practices at Chãos, the wide variety of subjects discussed by the guests and Terra Chã lead to a very relaxed yet mutually beneficial exchange of points of view. One example was the remembrance, by António, of how the cooperative was created, by gathering people (mostly young people) after rehearsal at the local folk music group. “That’s what they did, at first, in Conjunto Palmeiras, scheduling assemblies to follow prayer meetings (novenas)”, responded Edlisa. In the afternoon, Elisabeth and Edlisa visited the cooperative’s goat herd and weaving workshop. Networks (such as Projeto ASAS, in which Chãos participates) were also debated.
Edlisa and Elisabeth met with Sandra Monteiro, of COOPERATIVA OUTRO MODO, in the morning, at Praça Intendente. This cultural cooperative is responsible for Le monde Diplomatique’s Portuguese edition, while Elisabeth belongs to LMD’s Brazilian team. Therefore, the talk soon passed form the cooperative’s cultural mission and initiatives to a debate on the role of the media in social change and on alternative media. Elisabeth asked about the Portuguese editorial line and Edlisa and Sandra discussed the Brazilian “mídia ninja”.
As they learned about and shared experiences with different Portuguese groups, the speakers wondered about their perspectives on ESS. Edlisa defended that “Palmas is an example of a critical process, questioning capitalist economy”, while Sandra expressed her concern that recent legislative changes are blurring the distinction between the cooperative and the private sectors.
The meeting with Outro Modo had to be cut short in order to arrive at Renovar a Mouraria headquarters on time for a conversation with Filipa Bolotinha. The association’s member presented their projects, in migrant integration, social support to excluded people from the central neighbourhood in Lisbon, and urban renewal. Filipa highlighted the support that Renovar a Mouraria has had from the City Hall, European projects and projects and partnerships.
In the afternoon, Edlisa and Elisabeth took part in an informal meeting with (masters and PhD) students organized by IMVF and Professor Iva Miranda Pires, at the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities (FCSH/NOVA – Universidade Nova de Lisboa). The students, mostly involved in the “human ecology” masters degree, were well informed on the subject of SSE and curious about specific experiences in the area. As Elisabeth commented, “there is an enormous amount of initiatives which are already the embryos of change”. One of the students had studied waste disposal in Brazil, which lead to an interesting debate on recycling in several countries. “The role of academia in these matters is incredible, but it would be very interesting if the universities could be closer to the people who are creating knowledge in SSE initiatives”, added Edlisa.
This meeting marked the end of the European Tour’s first period, in what was an auspicious beginning for a wider exchange of experiences and opinions.