What would a Co-op Coin ICO look like?

An article from one of our CTRLshift partners, The Open Coop.

Co-op coins are not a new concept but the days of trading locally minted coins for a pint of milk or a loaf of bread are long gone. Instead, the rising interest in digital currencies and rapid increase in the number of Initial Coin Offerings looks set to make 2018 “the year of the crypto currency”.

Read full article here: https://open.coop/2018/01/25/co-op-coin-ico-look-like/

The Campaign for Real Farming’s take on the critical need for CTRLshift

Colin Tudge, co-founder of the Campaign for Real Farming and the Oxford Real farming Conference writes about the damaging status quo Britain finds itself in, the need to transfer control from oligarchy to community, and his hopes for ‘a historic meeting’ at the CTRLshift summit.

First published by Colin Tudge here

In Britain, these days, all the essential endeavours that are supposed to promote general wellbeing and what is known as “civilization” are, it is widely agreed, in crisis: the health and social services; housing; education; energy; transport; and of course, though successive governments haven’t taken it seriously, agriculture. Oh yes, and then there’s “the environment” – nothing less than the biosphere; nature; the living world — but commonly thought of these days as real estate or “natural capital” whose job is to provide “ecosystem services”. A third of our native species are in imminent danger of extinction although that, surely, is a very conservative estimate.

Britain is not the worst country in the world. Not by any means. It is, however, the world’s fifth largest economy with all the trappings of riches beyond dreams – all that OTT architecture and those countless coffee bars in the city of London – and so we have less excuse than most. But all that successive governments from all the major parties have offered these past 40 years is more of the same: the same technophilic, mechanistic mindset; the same obsessive pursuit of ever-increasing, quantifiable wealth, without apparent regard to how it’s produced, or what it is used for, or who finishes up with it. It would be good to report that the various religions, as guardians of morality and probity (aren’t they?) are making a difference and pointing the way forward and so, to be fair, they sometimes do. But all are riven by internecine strife and endless, quasi-theological debates that seem to belong to past ages that in some ways were even darker than the present; and in net, alas, their contribution the world over is highly equivocal.

Beyond doubt, billions worldwide are seriously discontented. A survey of Americans in the 1990s showed that most of them wanted their country and the world to be different – less materialistic; focused far more on human values – though most, it turned out, believed that their fellow citizens remained fixated on wealth and “economic growth” and that nothing therefore could be changed. Many millions, though, worldwide, in hundreds of thousands of communities and movements – societies, NGOs, informal gatherings – are trying to change things around, on all fronts; with new ideas and, more to the point, with action: different ways of organizing our lives; different ways of doing things. The tremendous weight, momentum, and general inertia of the status quo is against them – law, bureaucracy, corporate power, and of course successive governments – but the mavericks keep trying and sometimes, to some extent, they succeed.

What’s lacking, though, is coordination; and crucial to this, I suggest, is a coherent philosophy. At present, different groups that in reality want the same things and to a significant extent agree on what should be done nonetheless dress their ambitions in different words and pursue their own agenda.  Our own College for Real Farming and Food Culture is intended to provide the essential, coherent philosophy that’s missing.

Above all, though, we need concerted action. Perhaps most obviously, small farmers need to work together more than they do so that they can market their produce more effectively – and, ideally, coordinate management to some extent so that although each enterprise remains small, together they can operate on a landscape scale. Farmers, growers, and whole communities, rural and urban, need to work more closely together too. Farming, healthcare, social care, education, transport, housing, conservation – all feed into each other and all need to coordinate their efforts far more than they do.

It’s clear, though, for a whole list of reasons, that we cannot afford to leave our affairs and the fate of the world to governments, or rather these days to the oligarchy of governments, corporates, and financiers, supported by compliant academics and other intellectuals. The oligarchy operates de haute en bas and although some of its members are well-meaning their net effect is to perpetuate the hierarchy and the status quo. We, people at large, must take control. The world’s affairs must in practice be organized at all levels from the individual to the United Nations – but, many suggest, the prime focus of action and of change must be the community. Communities can be democratic, as larger gatherings cannot; and they can be effective, as most individuals (all but the obscenely rich) cannot. In short: control should not come from the top down, but neither can it come from the bottom rung of all. It must come from near the bottom. The community must be the epicentre of power.  

Some of those who feel this way, gathered together under the name of CTRLshift, are convening in Wigan on March 27-29 to see what they can do to push things forward and get the world moving on a different tack. It could and should be an historic meeting. To some extent the endeavour is linked to Brexit, which some feel offers an opportunity for Britain to start again on a fresh and more agreeable footing – though a great many people including me regret our departure in the same way that Matthew Arnold, a century and a half ago, regretted the passing of religious faith:

“ … now I only hear its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar, retreating, to the breath of  the night-wind, down the vast edges drear and naked shingles of the world”.  

Why meet in Wigan – and  why the end of March? Because, the CTRLshift organizers say, Wiganers voted emphatically to leave the EU; March 29 is the anniversary of the signing of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which began the formal process of withdrawal; and 2018 is close to the 80th anniversary of George Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier. I’m told that Wigan has brightened up a lot since Orwell described “the monstrous scenery of slag-heaps, chimneys, piled scrap-iron, foul canals, paths of cindery mud criss-crossed by the prints of clogs”. These days it’s nice.

Partners in this initial meeting include The Alternative UK; Co-ops UK; Forum for the Future; People’s Food Policy; Shared Assets; Permaculture Association; Solidarity Economy Association; Social Enterprise UK; Stir Magazine; Unltd; Totnes REconomy project; Transition Network; Shared Future CIC; Coop Business Consultants; The Low Impact Living Initiative; Counter Coin; Quantum Communications; and indeed the Real Farming Trust, of which the Campaign for Real Farming (including this website), the College for Real Farming and Food Culture, and the Oxford Real Farming Conference are projects.  Indeed, there’s a lot going on.

Further information from http://www.ctrlshiftsummit.org.uk

Towards A Solidarity Economy – by Kat Darling

Original published in STIR magazine’s Winter issue, now available here.

Kat Darling of the Solidarity Economy Association introduces the concept at the heart of her organisation, highlights its crucial role in this time of change, and explains how the CTRLshift summit can push forward this progressive agenda.


The past year has shown us – aggressively and repeatedly – why we need now, more than ever, to step up and address our society’s problems together. Trump’s inauguration at the start of 2016 in many ways set the tone for the year: the growth in populism, the sense of democratic powerlessness over the UK’s EU referendum result and the triggering of Article 50, the devastating storms around the world and subsequent lack of support given to communities like those in Puerto Rico, for whom the conversation about international aid quickly became about the scale of their national debt.

Whilst many Stir readers are becoming more familiar with the theory behind solidarity economics (see issue 18), it’s clear that it’s time to refocus on the practical things we can do in the UK,  following in the footsteps of our international counterparts to accelerate the transition to a solidarity economy.

What is the solidarity economy? A recap.

The solidarity economy is fundamentally about values. It’s a form of economic activity that embodies true democracy, participation, co-operation, ecological sustainability, and justice for everyone, particularly those marginalised by society. It’s an approach that recognises everything we do to meet our needs – from feeding and housing ourselves to gardening and exercising – is all connected economic activity. This interdependence is important as it is through taking responsibility for how we meet our needs and its impact on others, that we can start to act in solidarity with, rather than in competition against, each other.

The fact that these fundamental values are missing from our current dominant economic system is obvious. If our public institutions truly valued people, would, for example, the decision have been made to ‘economise’  fireproof cladding for the homes where hundreds of residents live? Records even show that Kensington Council made more money from the sale of two houses than they budgeted for cladding on Grenfell Tower.

Solidarity economics also provides us with a framework for approaching transition. In his comprehensive article for this magazine’s January Solidarity Economics issue, Canadian community activist Mike Lewis explained how the solidarity economy approach interacts with  three economic systems — private, public and social — and describes it as a  ‘relatively small circle cutting across all three systems.’ Forging allies across these three systems is vital if solidarity economics is going to be transformational, joining up global actors and movements to shift the economic paradigm.

It’s time for us to recognise the collective power of our movements and collaborate to bring about meaningful change. As author and activist Naomi Klein said in her speech to October’s Labour Party conference, there’s a very clear call to action to see ourselves not as individual organisations or causes, but as a movement of movements, and to collaborate across sectors on an unprecedented scale.

But how can we actually do this?

  • Identify our allies – across sectors, within movements, organisations, and authorities.
  • Appeal to our shared motivations – clearly demonstrate how cross-sector collaboration could help us to meet all our goals together.
  • Show how it can be done – provide practical examples of where shared vision has been achieved through collaboration.
  • Facilitate networks, coalitions, and movements – with a shared agenda and greater capacity for bringing about change.
  • Prepare ourselves for confronting different forms of power, and ‘contest’ each other’s solutions.

This is beginning to happen in some exciting areas, notably on an event to be held in Wigan early next year.  Activists, organisers, commoners, and entrepreneurs will meet at the CTRL-Shift event to develop a shared agenda to shift power over our democracy, economy and environment, from Westminster and multinational corporations, to people and communities across Britain.

There is another important element to consider, though. A lot of the information that exists about the solidarity economy is predominantly aimed at those of us already working in this area, written by and largely for academics, activists, or researchers. It uses language and draws parallels that are meaningful for us, but are often not understood by people who are not engaged in this type of activity.

As a movement we need to be thinking more about how we reach a wider audience, not just in the language we use and the way we frame our arguments, but in the ways we actually do cross-sector collaboration, rooting it in grassroots activity. A great example of this is the website belonging to Solidarity Economy St Louis, a network of individuals and organisations working together under the shared values of a solidarity economy for the city. They share practical examples from their members, like profiling specific food producers, to encourage others to support them. But they clearly show how these individual producers fit within the wider context of their food justice work, and show how an entire network of producers, consumers, educators, organisers and others are creating an alternative food system, which, in turn, is part of a much wider framework for an alternative economic system for the city.

As Mike Lewis points out, solidarity is much more than a concept; in the context of solidarity economics, it is ‘a framework for the co-production of strategies that strengthen the resilience of communities, regions and societies; it is a call to advance the common good together, rather than alone’. This means that if we are truly going to co-create strategies, from the community level to the global, then we need to find ways of communicating the solidarity economy to a broader audience, and to empower everyone across educational boundaries.  

Truly collaborating across movements will not be easy. We all prioritise political and economic causes, and have limited resources, and even sometimes conflicting motivations. But we do have a responsibility to address the things that are holding us back and to show how, by playing an active role in creating a solidarity economy, we have the power as citizens, workers, consumers, and as human beings to create a viable and just alternative.



Read about our partners here