The Social and Solidarity Economy Tour 2016 was a journey that brought Brazil to Europe through the exchange of experiences of Solidarity Economy. It was known the first Communitarian Bank of Brazil, in Ceará – the Banco Palmas – through the point of view of Edlisa Peixoto, and the recognition of recyclable materials collectors cooperatives, promoted by the Instituto Pólis, São Paulo, through the testimony of Elisabeth Grimberg, its co-founder.
20 – 23 may 2016 | 19 – 24 june 2016
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. Elisabeth 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.
The second part of the “Social and Solidarity Economy” tour in Portugal took place between June 20th and 25th. In the meantime, the speakers had been in Bulgaria, Croatia and Slovenia, where they were welcomed by SSEDAS national project partners. On their return to Lisbon, Elisabeth and Edlisa talked about the experiences they had in these countries to the IMVF team.
“Resist and advance” was the motto of the day spent in Évora, a slogan that played well with Cineteatro Grandolense and its photos and memories. The debate “Aternatives in practice – Examples of social economy and solidarity” was presented by Joana Correia, center coordinator for the Open University in Grândola. The viewing of the documentary “Palms” was followed by the intervention of Edlisa Peixoto, who answered a question often heard during the SSEDAS tour: “How is this community today?”. According to the speaker, Palmeiras Set “stayed strong”, with two new challenges, attracting the young to create new leaderships and establishing an international financing facility that strengthens the Banco Palmas and a Solidarity Economy Network in Brazil.
Edlisa also mentioned the “confusion” between the concepts of social economy and solidarity economy. “The social economy helps people,” while “Solidarity Economy works on the empowerment of people,” to which a self-recognition of experience in the collective “is essential”, she said. The speaker stressed that “at this moment, there are several initiatives taking place in Portuguese cities that you need to know about”, to what Joana Correia pointed out that “lack of networking.”
Elisabeth presented the case of recyclable waste pickers in São Paulo, giving rise to a debate on the recycling and on companies such as Green Point and Valor Sul that control this area in Portugal. “As a citizen, I do not know what is the benefit to society” of having a company as the responsible for these tasks, mentioned a member of the public. One of the participants also noted that “some municipalities recycle compost, but there is no outlet”. Elisabeth replied, later, that this compost can be used in urban green spaces and in forests, feeding them and promoting the capture of carbon dioxide. As citizens, we must fight against incineration, said the speaker, that “causes health problems, is harmful to the environment and, moreover, burns raw materials”. One participant, almost at the end of the debate, concluded that “in an integrated view, garbage issues must be associated with water, health, education, …”
In Grândola, the speakers also had the opportunity to talk about this integrated vision with Carina Baptista, councilor in the City Council, and Alcides Bizarro, from the Municipal Team of Strategic Coordination, Development, Institutional Relations, Quality and Innovation.
In Palmela, the speakers were received by the coordinator of ADREPES technical team, Natalia Henriques, who described in detail the projects that this association and “processes intermediate” manages, together with local partners, achieving “more than 100% implementation”. Prove is an example of an application by ADREPES to European funding, initiating a project that had its beginnings in Palmela and Sesimbra and that has since spread throughout the country. However, “the projects’ beneficiaries are more companies than cooperatives, as there is a problem of a lack of associations” in the region, said Natalia Henriques. ADREPES recently launched a project that supports the area’s fishermen, “Cabaz do Peixe”, in collaboration with cooperatives as Artisanal Fisheries and CESIBAL.
The association’s headquarters, venue for this discussion, are located in Fortuna Area – Arts and Crafts, which are also streamlined ceramic tiles and workshops.
In Palmela Library, Edlisa commented that the Solidarity Economy involves “a set of economic activities, organized in self-management and centered on the human being and not the profit.” Corroborating, Elisabeth recalled Brazil’s former Secretary of State for Solidarity Economy Paul Singer, who “spoke of democracy as a form of organization of those excluded by capitalism”. Natalia Henriques added, smiling, that “in Portugal, they would never let a cooperative settle under an overpass,” as did the collectors of Coopamare in São Paulo.
The debate that started after the presentations by Natalia Henriques and two speakers, with a question from the audience: “how does one go from words to action” in the Solidarity Economy? Edlisa replied that “some mapping [of initiatives already in action] would be necessary, for example, in the area of Food Sovereignty” and she also feels “the need for a common agenda.” A member of the Rede Convergir, who was present in the debate, commented, however, that a map can be found on this network’s site.
Elisabeth added that “the Solidarity Economy is made not only of productive initiatives, but also political changes”, prompting one participant to praise the speakers who “are not afraid of words like capitalism or self-management”. Natalia Henriques also answered the initial question, stating that ADREPES acts by building “a process with producers, from a diagnosis and looking for solutions”.
On June 23rd, IMVF team and Elisabeth Grimberg visited Valor Sul’s waste collection and sorting facilities, where Judite Leal, Communication and Image, guided the SSEDAS Tour through Greater Lisbon area and West Region waste management. This “Ecocenter” serves 9 municipalities – which produce around 900,000 tonnes of waste per year -, separating plastics and packaging into seven different recyclable materials.
“Why is there no collection door to door of organic waste?”, asked Elisabeth, who was curious about this system. Judite Leal noted that Valor Sul’s digester (a “biodigestor”) is powered by “major producers”, such as restaurants and canteens, but “only four municipalities (Lisbon, Loures, Odivelas and Vila Franca de Xira) collect organic waste” and yet, “the capacity of the treatment plant and enhancement is exhausted”. Another topic discussed were the shareholders of South Value (Mota Engil Group bought this company in 2015, in consortium with SUMA and Spanish Urbacer). Judite Leal described the incineration and “energy recovery” facility in São João da Talha as a result of “a strategic and political decision in a very specific context”.
The visit to the Ecocentro facilities was followed by an afternoon at Renovar a Mouraria, the site chosen by Filipa Lacerda and Gustavo Lopes Pereira to film new video interviews with the speakers.
Marta Alter, ONGD MONTE (organization for Sustainable Integrated Development) technical director, Jorge Coelho, Aliende (Association for Local Development) president and Inácia Rebocho, guided the discussion in Évora on Social and Solidarity Economy. Elisabeth Grimberg broke the origins of Solidarity Economy in Brazil, in the 1990s, to draw parallels with recent policy lines of the Ministry of Environment, as “the composting program that includes a grant for low-income communities”. According to Elisabeth, “the guarantee of decent work has as to be a condition for guaranteeing environmental conditions”.
Edlisa Peixoto, in turn, presented the Institute Banco Palmas with special emphasis on its “hybridization economies” and the “next step: to create a Global Fund” to promote the Solidarity Economy. To Inácia Rebocho, “these testimonies show the diversity with which we work”.
One of the challenges posed by several people present was in how to come up with strategies to create “self-esteem” in people subject to “social intervention” in these associations, such as young people with disabilities or unemployed, including those that a member of the public called “unemployment professionals with tenures, who not leave [the Social Integration Income] because they do not want to leave”.
Ana Castanheira, from IMVF, stressed that one of the activities planned under the SSEDAS project is the organization of “workshops and decentralized training for associations and organizations to present these challenges and, collectively, find solutions”, citing the Cooperative Meeting “Ritmos de Mudança 2016” in Abrantes, from 1 to 3 July, which is held the first of these actions.
The debate in Évora and the Tour ended with this sharing of experiences and two interviews (soon to be published in Solidarity Economy website), where speakers had the opportunity to make a brief summary of their experiences in Portugal, Bulgaria, Croatia and Slovenia and their key ideas on the Solidarity Economy.
More about the project: https://pt.solidarityeconomy.eu/
Facebook (PT): Economia Social e Solidária – Portugal
International Facebook: SuSy
Photos and Videos posted on Facebook by: ÂMAGO – Multimédia para organizações dos setores sociais e desenvolvimento