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Catalyzing worker co-ops & the solidarity economy

Liberation Economist - Part 2

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GEO Original
May 16, 2024
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This is the second of a two-part interview with Euclides André Mance. Read part one here.


Translated by Matt Noyes

Free, libre, and open source software and “Copysol”

The theme of software licensing is very interesting. One time Richard Stallman was in Curitiba and stayed at my house for a week. He and I had many conversations about this and in the end wrote a joint statement on the importance of linking free software and solidarity economy, developing solutions for the solidarity economy that are truly free, libre, etc. But I posed to him an ethical problem: free software, precisely because its license allows for its use for any purpose, can lead to its use for ends that are not liberating, purposes tied to exploitation, domination, ecological degradation, or what have you. To what extent does a totally unlimited freedom, with no ethical parameters, contribute to the real expansion of freedom for all and not just some?

For these reasons, in 1999 I wrote the “Copysol” license, which assures the same rights, let’s put it that way, as a GPL license1 , but with an additional ethical clause and an accompanying right: the software must be used to promote human liberation, not domination or oppression. In the second version of the license, debated within the Solidarius International Network, we use the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the juridical basis for the demarcation between uses of the technology that are permitted by the license and those that are not, the latter being violations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and thus subject to legal action.2

In Version 2 we expanded the license to include not just software but also design and projects, which can be shared on the same terms. Finally, we required the owner or the person who created or wrote the solution to first claim copyright for their work so that they can then make it free under Copysol. This makes it possible to invoke the license to assure that everyone can use the solution while respecting the criteria of the license.

The algorithms I am publishing in Economics of Liberation are protected by the Copysol v2 license, which is published as an appendix in the first volume. I placed it there because it is an important element of economic liberation.

On the theme of hosts and servers, this is a real problem. We in the solidarity economy have not yet found a solution for this. At the moment, we use commercial services that are part of the capitalist economic circuit. One idea Richard and I discussed was the possible use of what was at that time called “Freedom Box,” a device that you could install at home, with a fixed IP address, that would permit you to maintain servers in your own home, so to speak. In fact, in many cases, for processing that does not require greater capacity, that is smaller scale, etc. one could even use a smartphone as a kind of webserver, with a fixed IP address. But, in effect, the theme of hosting remains a problem.

Where are the files and databases for We know the companies with whom we contract for webhosting, but we don’t really know where those files and databases are located. So, it is important to have very clear signed contracts so that if there is a problem you can hold responsible those who are really responsible. But this is most I can say about this subject.

As for the decision-making model for the platform and its development, this involves two issues: the first is the praxis of liberation. It is the praxis of the actors that truly defines which functionalities we have to develop. That is, there are processes underway and people are using the technology to carry out their action. But, if the technology is not well suited to that praxis, because it lacks certain functionalities, then such functionalities need to be developed. They enter into the pattern of development because they are needed.

I discussed this too at length with Richard: what good is it if libre software simply reproduces solutions developed according to the logics of the capitalist market? “Hey! Here’s a popular capitalist solution, let’s make a libre version just like it!” That’s fine. But in the end it can’t be liberatory because the solution has been conceived on the basis of a logic designed to serve an economy that is one not of liberation, but of exploitation. The free version conceived on this basis will serve the same ends.

So we have to innovate in the production of technology, producing software on the basis of the needs that flow from the real praxis of liberatory economics. That’s what the Solidarius platform is. We start from the concrete need and develop the technology, dealing with all the challenges facing people who produce information technologies with slender resources, and, what’s more, not being able to use libre software, because we can’t simply incorporate free software due to license issues. In reality, it is possible to operate with separate modules, in accordance with the various licenses, with the information processed and communicated between them. But our solutions are very complex because they connect many processes, so we have to rewrite. In fact, all of this has been a huge effort, building this platform.

The theme of funds for development is also very serious. We start from the idea that solidarity economy has to meet the needs of the solidarity economy, and that applies to all types of needs, including those that do not yet exist but will in the future.

At the moment I am working with organizations in the Dominican Republic which are deploying the Solidarius platform there in order to advance the development of solidarity economy circuits. All development on the platform will be shared. The idea is simple, whoever uses the platform, as an organization, is a co-owner of it. That is, if a solidarity economy circuit somewhere in the U.S., Colombia, Canada, France, South Africa, wherever, uses the platform, in a collaborative way, in accordance with the contract, they will have access to all the possibilities of collaborative work in its development and become co-owners of it. Solidarius, as an organization, is part of that network. It’s job is to preserve the principles and ensure that they are complied with. That is, to ensure that the license is respected. The solutions, then, will be shared alike. But, if an organization stops using it, or doesn’t use it for liberatory ends, they will no longer be co-owners. If they use it, they have the right to make decisions related to it, but not if they don’t.

Any user who registers on the platform, who uses it for one thing or another, can make suggestions for its development. There are mechanisms for suggesting changes or reporting errors, of course, as there should be on any platform. There are also spaces for discussion. But, the user does not have decision-making power regarding the future development of the platform. It is organizations – economic circuits where it is being used in effect, with the economic flows, interchanges, purchases, sales, management of funds, etc. – that have the right to participate in that decision making. This is our current model, which may or may not evolve. In the end the direction we take depends on the network.

A software gene pool

How best to support local or regional platform development processes? This is a question of strategy. In many cases, organizations are not in a position or technically prepared to implement their own solution. Or they may not be able to cover the costs of hosting and the rest. So the Solidarius platform, available through, has users in different countries who are able to use it for different projects in their own regions. But, if an organization wants to install and maintain the software, all they need to do is come to agreement with the network as a whole, because this confers responsibilities and rights.

So the technology is shared and one can develop projects as they wish, sharing the information. That is, within the platform itself new modules can be created, existing modules can be activated or deactivated or one or another structure can be added. But this development will always be shared, such that in the end we can have a nucleus of communication of economic flows, on the one hand, and, on the other, different modules that can be enabled or disabled according the needs of each case, all of which are shared in distinct repositories.

This is more or less how I see it. Today, for example, when making economic feasibility studies, we use what we call “project banks.” If you create a good feasibility study and want to share it, you click and it enters the shared project bank. Why does that matter? Because if a network, made up of various cooperatives, is doing diagnostics for its consolidation and expansion, then the details of all those plans can be analyzed as a whole by means of the algorithm. “What is the total final consumption of this network? Which means of production, in what quantities and qualities, are being obtained? Who is providing them? Where are the clients, what are their needs? Does a given input come from the solidarity economy or from the market?” And so on. It can happen that having analyzed all of this, in a given moment the program comes to the conclusion that there is an expressed demand for X production that is not being met by this network. “Okay, so can we meet that demand in our network?” The program then goes to the projects bank and searches for projects that could possibly meet the demands. If it finds the project that you uploaded, in the form of a feasibility study, and sees that it could meet the need, it if finds that the project is sustainable given the level of demand in the network, what does it do? It generates a report, “Hey, we have found a project that you can create in your network in order to have the capacity to supply this product, increasing internal turnover, reducing the external flows to capitalist market, and generate surpluses for your own economic liberation funds.”

This diagnostic solution has existed since we created Redesol, in 1999. The analysis of economic flows, combining network data with project banks, has been in operation on since the platform was launched. The program learns in this way which users are providing, or have the capacity to provide, various responses, and searches the databases, proposing to a given organization that they might do one or another project, based on the information provided by member organizations and shared with the community of users.

To use a cellular metaphor, the suggested initiatives or modules in the platform which can be enabled or disabled according to each network’s needs form a “gene pool” that is visible or not depending on certain conditions. So, it may be that, given a need in one part of the network, you will find a solution through the diagnostics and the program will present you with an initiative or functionality that might provide the solution. If you don’t have that need, there is no reason for the program to activate that functionality or create that initiative. They important point is that everything is communicating, that one thing can connect with another, such that there can be a harmonious development of these different functionalities by the different groups that are connected in this way, the functionalities go on developing on the basis of the needs arising from the groups’ particular realities. This may give you an idea of how the software is developed. It’s been in place for over twenty years.

Organizing solidarity economic circuits

The organization of economic circuits always starts from what exists, studying what exists and coming to see what can be done better. For example, there is a cooperative in Brazil called, simply, “Coop” that was created in 1954 by workers in a private enterprise who got together to buy basic products for their families.3

In the 1970s the members decided to change the statutes to allow any person in the area to join the cooperative. What happened? Over time, the number of members grew. Today there are one million. One million members, that’s not a small number. It would be interesting to see how they practice self-management at that scale, with various working groups and the rest. The annual sales volume is more that 500 million dollars. In 2022, they made 2.6 billion Brazilian reais.4 So they have millions of dollars a year that they can distribute to members, use to cover discounts, invest in new projects, etc.

Today, they have 30 supermarkets, 82 pharmacies, 3 gas stations and 1 “atacarejo” a store that sells products wholesale and retail, depending on the quantity purchased. So Coop transformed itself into a huge network, within the cooperative framework. What does this mean in practice? That the profits they accumulate not only permit them to expand their activities but also to provide benefits to their members every year. It also allows them to make donations of food and adopt other policies to support organizations in the public interest. This example shows how successful this strategy of organizing Solidarity Economy Circuits can be.

On a local level, in Curitiba, we have a very small Solidarity Economy Circuit that was founded in 2016 and has slowly grown. Today the circuit is based in a small retail store, in an individual home. A circuit can comprise various member enterprises, each of which offers its products or services to the others in the circuit. It’s not a problem if one of the enterprises offers its storefront to the circuit as a whole, as long as the enterprise contributes each month to the fund, as a shop, generating credits corresponding to the purchases made and meeting the ethical criteria that must be met by any member of the circuit, because that’s the only way it can work.

In Cuajimalpa, México, there is a circuit that operates with a local social currency – Cuajisoles – printed on paper, that members can use in their swap meets (ferias de trueque). There are other intercultural Solidarity Economy Circuit initiatives in Latin America. RIPESS Latinoamérica even has an internal commission exclusively dedicated to them.

The Southern Jubilee Network (Red Jubileo Sur) has published a study of “Self-Organized Economic Experiences in Latin American and the Carribean” which emphasizes the role of solidarity economy circuits. The document presents three of the circuits studied, in some detail.5 The study offers concrete information, presenting statistics, values, and strategies used. To date, most of these projects have been demonstration projects, that is, practical tests of the viability of solidarity economic strategies, while developing cooperation among organizations so as to advance together.

Education and Methodology

In courses on Solidarity Economy Circuits we have encountered a certain difficulty in the process of making the circuits concrete. Many graduate students came to participate, seeking to gain knowledge. That’s great, but what interested us was to see the circuits being applied in practice in specific regions or communities. So we created a Solidarity Economy Circuit Incubation Program that only groups of at least five people could join, knowing that they were going to be in an incubation process that would culminate in the organization of a local circuit.

On this basis we incubated some groups. At the end of the 2021 course, for example, with participants from Brazil and Colombia, we had 17 other groups/circuits set up on the platform including: Asociación Probivir, CES Baixada Cuiabana, Gaia Union, Espirales de Vida, MingaNet, Bolicho Solidario, Canastas Verdes, CES Norte del Valle de Aburrá, Coopersol, Redesahora, Circuito Cooperativo Tienda la Ilusión, Circuito Semilla Urbana, Circuito Solidario Coopfep, Mercado para Todos. After the initial incubation process, it is up to the groups to determine how to keep going; that does not depend on us.

Last year we held an incubation course in Ecuador that was a collaboration between Solidarius, Universidad Politécnica Salesiana, and the provincial government of Pichincha. The goal was to train government technicians and directors of initiatives. Forty participants were trained in the methodology of incubation of Solidarity Economy Circuits and six initial circuit projects were designed, in different areas: Circuitos Paquiestancia, Santa Bárbara, Larcachaca, Gastronomía Popular “Los Agachaditos”, Red de Integración Económica de Turismo de la Provincia de Pichincha and Circuito Cascada del Amor. Some projects are more developed, others much less, some needing reformulation.

In this training we use in part a methodology we call Pronices (Programa Nacional de Incubación de Circuitos Económicos Solidarios).6 The final project includes the possibility of creating flexible multi-product factories with the creation and interconnection of various production operations carried out in the same location, operating as a circuit, in the form of a network. So, instead of making an initial investment to create three different plants for three cooperatives, one baking bread, another making pasta, and another making sweets, a single shared facility is created in which the organizations can carry out their production processes. For example, Monday one group produces, Tuesday another, Wednesday the other; the hours are scheduled. This production facility can even have two or three different spaces that are not connected, one for food products, another for cleaning products. So you can produce toothpaste, detergent, soap and many other things while sharing part of the fixed costs for the activities, drastically reducing costs.

A similar model is the flexible interchange or circulation space. For example, a store where other commerce activities can also take place. Education is another use case; a shared venue is created with a space for training and workshops, community meetings to learn to run the circuit, a theater, parties, etc.

When a circuit project of this type is organized, it becomes possible to share investment costs, creating production and commercial facilities which are in compliance with regulations, meeting all the criteria that the laws impose. By sharing space, you can generate more initiatives than would be possible acting in isolation.

This methodology applies at every step, starting with consumption (by homes, enterprises, and governments). Starting from real consumption, channeled into the Circuit, the participants design a Store as a sustainable point of encounter of needs and demands. Then, production facilities, processes of circulation, and processes of skill building and capacity development. Finally, a project is designed that includes the total costs of operations and the investment necessary for its creation. Should it be accepted, the final project can then be brought to the government or to the network of circuits itself for funding. (We have created a spreadsheet that facilitates the business projection which will be ported at some point to a new module in the platform.7 )

Here in Brazil, starting from the Curitiba Circuit, we created the Brazil Solidarity Association for Community Self-Management (Associação Solidária de Autogestão Comunitára do Brasil). A national association which is in its initial phase of development, the Association has the objective of organizing nuclei across Brazil to support the organization of regional solidarity economic circuits. If some initiative is organized which still does not have a legal structure, the Association, being national, can provide legal support for certain initial activities. In the next phase, when the group is capable of consolidation, it sets up its own legal identity, thus maintaining its autonomy. At the same time, it continues to be connected to the Association through dialogue and funding decisions, with the economic flows consolidated in the community and connected nationally through the Circuits platform.

For us this is a very important question, because it is about creating a new form of institution that assures that the process of transition to an economy of liberation as a whole can take form on a national level. And we have in this Association the opportunity to debate the larger patterns of public interest in each region because these circuits can not only address the associative needs of the community but also develop actions in the public interest on the regional level. This means that they can provide solutions for childcare, leisure, sports or whatever is decided in that space: addressing themselves to the community in general, to the degree they are able, and not just the members of the Association. This is what we see in Coop, for example, where a part of the value generated is dedicated to public interest initiatives, such as food donations and campaigns against hunger.

We have the idea that it is necessary to connect the different regional actors, from the standpoint of their self-management, debating the needs of the region as a whole and designing public policies for development in their regions. Each member should have a clear understanding of a shared project on the national level and how that can be implemented in each area, by the actors there. And each one should bring these proposals to the area where they are active. It doesn’t matter if one person is associated with political party X, another with party Y, etc. Each one can bring their proposals to the institutional debate, according to the political option of each, with the diversity that democracy should preserve, with total autonomy, freedom of choice for each, but with very clear proposals developed in a collaborative process that corresponds to the real needs of the regions. The question is: what type of development do we want for the country as a whole? For our own regions?

In this way the various solidarity economy circuits are connected in a strategy that combines an economic process and a pedagogical process, but also affirms a new mode of institutionality in which we can consolidate a participatory democracy, with social self-management of community funds, which are converted into a res publica by virtue of being put to public service. That is how we recuperate a notion of social self-management which can permit us to build an alternative system for a new social formation, right? It’s about building a new mode of production, a new system of interchange and credit, but also a new social formation, a new social form, a new solidarity form for organizing society. It is this associative dimension which we want to promote through the Brazil Solidarity Association for Community Self-Management.

Overcoming Resistance

Why is the Solidarius system underutilized? The whole point is that we are working with segments of society that have very specific and particular objectives. So, when we are collaborating with a group of workers who recycle materials that were dumped in the street, they have a very specific objective: to convert that material that they collect into means of subsistence, a means of living. If we are working with a cooperative that has a production structure but is not able to sell its products and is worried about going bankrupt, they have to find a solution, a way to sell their product.

Everyone is in the same situation, wrapped up in their own problems and searching for solutions. But what happens is that they search for a solution within the logic of the market, which, at the end of the day is not going to lead them to a real solution, because they are small and isolated, swimming among the sharks of big capital. So what’s the problem? The problem is that the solution that would enable them to resolve their problems and create a new way is not so obvious. The case of Coop is very clear because if you say, “look, Coop exists” people reply “true, it exists, but just because it worked there doesn’t mean it will work here.”

So there is a cultural resistance: “we don’t know how to do it and if we try we will screw it up.” Or, “this won’t work, if we succeed and grow to the point where we have a million dollars, what will we get? Corruption! Self-management is not possible… If you can’t even come to agreement in one household, how are you going to do it with so many people who all think differently? Not to mention finding agreement on the ecological problem…” And so on.

It’s a cultural resistance, reproduced by the culture of domination and seeded in the oppressed, from which the oppressed are not able to escape. It is also a failure of strategic vision. It’s as if you told someone about an apparatus where you can have access to your bank account, make phone calls, take photos, listen to music, watch videos and have maps of the entire planet and all its cities, and a navigator that tells you when to turn in order to avoid a traffic jam, and they said, “Oh! That’s never going to happen. It’s impossible. Something like that will never exist.” But it does exist, it’s a smartphone, and you have it.

So there is a resistance from people who say that it is not possible, that it won’t work, that we can’t. When we created the first solutions – electronic processes, interchanges, credits – people saw them and said, “but what’s the point? Why are you making a credit system that allows someone in Brazil to buy things from Italy without their money leaving the country? That can’t work. The logistical cost is too much, how will the product be sent? What about taxes? It won’t work.”

So you create a platform that enables people to do it and the people say it won’t work. And later you find the same people who tell you it won’t work on a platform run by a huge capitalist company, buying products, keeping the economic circuit of capital moving. The same people who told you that creating solidarity economic circuit was impossible are now doing on a capitalist platform what they could be doing on a solidarity platform! But they didn’t do that and they don’t now. Why? Because they didn’t believe it was possible and don’t believe it now. So the solution is not developed because we fail to mobilize the necessary participation and resources.

When you speak to people involved in public policy, as I did when I worked on contracts for UNESCO and the FAO in the Zero Hunger program in Brasilia, you run into very strong resistance from government leaders and technicians, who change the final proposals of the program to suit their particular understanding. In the end, there was no more talk of economic liberation, just reproduction of the hegemonic economy, presented as if it were a viable alternative for development.

It’s very difficult to confront this cultural domination. It is partly formed in the universities which reproduce the dominant culture as if it were universal. It is as if you have a solution and you present it to people who can’t imagine having the problem it solves. “Check out this solution!” Yes, nice, but I don’t have that problem. My problems are different and this doesn’t help. Why are you proposing this if my problem is different?” This despite the fact that the problem is not really different, that their problem can in fact be resolved by this solution. The problem is that they don’t perceive their problem with sufficient complexity, their understanding is too immediate and they don’t have a vision of the totality of what is a rapidly changing reality.

For example, how do we solve the problem of global warming? “My house is very hot. I need an air conditioner.” That is a solution that addresses the immediate effects, but doesn’t address the complexity of the elements that are causing fires, floods, and other climate catastrophes which can’t be solved at the level of their immediate consequences, with practices that sometimes make the problem even worse. This failure to go to the roots is found even in many solidarity economy organizations.

There is another difficulty, this time in the academy. It arises when we are with researchers, with professors, with people who have already found their trajectory, people who have their projects and publications… When you come to then with an approach that says, “look, we can replace the principle of scarcity with the principle of abundance,” the answer is, “that’s not possible! If money were abundant, it would have no exchange value, it would be totally devalued, there would be inflation. It has to be scarce, because, if not, the economy would completely come apart.” So the definition of the concepts is already an obstacle. They confuse abundance with excess.

Nor is there, in academic spaces, with a few exceptions, an opening for bringing in a different vision that would permit one to consolidate a world of research in another perspective and aim for a process of structural change in the hegemonic economy that is destroying the planet because of its principle of reproducing scarcity to assure the continuous realization of profits.

So we face a very difficult situation. We have already developed technology which, with a few adjustments, improvements and updates, could serve as the basis for multiple solutions in many locations, but it underutilized because it is unknown. On the other hand, we have a world of already systematized understandings from the scientific point of view that also languish without sufficient debate and diffusion in the academic space.

So, what I believe to be an urgent necessity in order to make progress in all of this, from the standpoint of the work I am doing, is to translate the materials we have, books, workshops, incubation courses, pedagogical materials and more, into English, which is the principal means of communication today.

If we had all of this translated, we could make connections with groups in Asia, Africa, Europe and the United States, as well. Connections could spring up that would enable us to move forward effectively in the joint development of all this. Many people don’t believe it is possible to develop along this path because they don’t have enough information. But when you tell people that this is not a matter of some distant future but of processes that already exist, that it’s already being done, that it has be created, they are surprised that they didn’t know about it. So I believe that finding a way to communicate all of this accumulated knowledge and practice is very important. Today, with AI technology, it is not so hard to make translations. What we need is to find a strategy suited to the diffusion of these materials so that they can take the form of a language adequate to the groups who need the solutions, who can benefit from these technologies, methodologies, etc.

Next Steps

I believe if we had groups of programmers interested in developing code, collaboratively, under the Copysol license, seeking to advance in the development of solutions it would be extremely helpful, because you know these technologies develop at a dizzying speed. Improving the platform, making it easier to use, would make it easier to spread. Here too cooperatives could make important contributions, establishing agreements with Solidarius to develop the platform based on their needs and sharing the solutions generated among the circuits in the network.

Where will we be in a year? I imagine that, with the publication of the first translated volumes of Economia de Libertação , we will be in a position to advance in the consolidation of an important theoretical-practical movement. To the degree that universities and governments of a popular character become interested in developing this theme, as we are already seeing, with a solid theoretical-practical foundation, this will advance more rapidly.

On the other hand, the liberation economy algorithms which are published in these books, particularly in Volume 2, and which can be combined with artificial intelligence, can serve to reinforce the network revolution. In Volume 2, which is dedicated to the production of economic value and the liberation of productive forces, I used the story of the development of Coop as a reference and built an algorithm that can be used not only to simulate its growth, but also to project economic circuits integrating various enterprises, considering their economic flows. With one click the program designs the path for creating the circuit, in such a way that you can design any circuit as if it were a building, as if it were a construction project where you have every parameter for the floors, foundations, roof, etc. designed so that you can see that the project will be competed, and will not fall apart.

In this case, economic science permits us to design sustainable solutions that can be realized with security, considering the different realities. So I imagine that once all this is published, and has become part of academic debate and the practices of building solidarity economy circuits, we will have a stronger movement of propagation than we have now. So, I imagine that a year from now we will have organized various core groups of community association and self-management, connected in a network, with a theoretical foundation that lends them consistency and enables debate on this project in a more consolidated manner.

I also believe that in this period some dissertations or masters theses will come out, along with other academic works drawing on them. This is a bit of what I see. We are walking slowly but taking very sure, consistent steps.

For example Volume 1 of Economy of Liberation, which is a general introduction to the theme, is already translated into Italian and will be published in Italy in the next few months. In Itally this will surely have an impact, based on the reception of other books, like the Network Revolution. In Italy there are Solidarity Acquisition Groups (GAS) which have been very successful with more than 900 groups and a membership that grew to 800 thousand participants from 2018 to 2020.8 And now they can take a step forward in the logic of circuits. In Italy they have also organized Solidarity Economy Districts and other strategies that have been consolidated over the years. So I see a very promising situation there and am very happy to be able to participate in this process in this form, producing, systematizing and publishing these materials.

Proceeding at the Speed of Trust

Paulo Freire makes a distinction between trust and faith. (“Whereas faith in humankind is an a priori requirement for dialogue, trust is established by dialogue.”9 ) Education, he writes, requires four things: faith, trust, humility, and love. These are important elements of an education of liberation. And he distinguishes between faith and trust: we have faith in humanity, that each person can change, advance in their being-more; that the oppressed can liberate themselves and the oppressors stop being oppressors. We never lose this faith in each person. But trust is another story. Trust in the other is built step by step as we walk the path, knowing who we can count on and who we have to struggle against. Thus, when we make an agreement about doing something together and what we do matches what we agreed to do, trust is built. We take a step forward. And if, at the next step we set a larger goal and make progress towards it, then trust gets stronger, through our history of walking the path together. It’s not enough to believe in each other, but to build in communion the liberation of all, step by step, in the path we make together.

The importance of grassroots exchanges

I had the great fortune to be able to visit so many places in Latin America, Europe and Africa. These exchanges are very rich for everyone involved, because you learn much by being present in the location. It is incredible to see how human beings find solutions to their needs, when there is solidarity to promote alternatives that assure food, health, education, for the good-living (bem-viver) of people in the face of conditions that are, at times extremely precarious, collective strategies for confronting these situations.10 It’s very interesting because you learn a lot and can also share what you know. And one thing that is fundamental in order for this to happen in a liberatory mode is the dialogic form of sharing knowledge starting from a problematization of reality, such that there can be a feedback process, with the reflection of all, that leads to the transformation of reality itself.

So, for example, social currency groups in Argentina and microcredit groups in Brazil had problems because social currencies can be issued in great quantities, but in the end many of the things they needed – machinery, tools, etc. – couldn’t be purchased with social currency. At the same time, there were microcredit systems with the potential to buy these means of production but they were always restricted to the volume of resources that they possessed, which were very limited. So, what to do? Bring them together. Create a social currency backed by a fund, duplicating in this way the total amount in circulation. That’s how the community bank arose, which makes it possible to offer microcredit in money form to buy tools and other means of production. On the other hand, backed by the value of the fund, they could issue social currency that enables the circulation of products in the interchange among participants. In this way, once someone had enough social currency to buy a machine or tool, they could do this through the community bank.

In this way solutions are created that unite characteristics that before were separate practices. This arises from the theoretical effort to create dialogue between different practices, problematizing their strengths and weaknesses and generating innovations that result in practical processes, which later are consolidated.

Today we have a national network of community banks. In Brazil there are more than 150 of these banks, operating with their own currencies. In some places, they operate as mediators of public policies for income transfer. Instead of the government transferring money directly to individuals, the money goes to a community fund. This has the effect of increasing the circulating funds of the community bank where the community funds are deposited. At the same time, the community bank transfers the value of the government funds to each person in the form of social currency, so the beneficiaries can buy what they need in stores that are part of a local network. They can also use social currency to pay bills that require standard currency, through the community bank.

As you can see, these innovations create mechanisms that permit one to take greater advantage of the resources available and promote local development. On the other hand, often these community banks do not function as solidarity economic circuits because the person with social currency can go to a normal store and buy a product. Later, the owner of the store goes to the community bank with a bill to be paid to their supplier, pays with social currency, and, in the end makes a profit on their own commercial capital using the social currency of the community bank. This is important to understand. You come up with a solution but even if the solution has many positive aspects it also has its problems. So, what to do? Finding the solution requires theoretical work, reflection on praxis, identifying strengths and uniting them, discovering limitations and correcting them, in order to strengthen the praxis of the economy of liberation.

The Economy of Liberation

The first volume came out at the end of 2023. The second will appear soon. I am finishing up the final revision. I am a perfectionist with some things and I believe you have to be, because if there is an error in the book, no matter how irrelevant, people opposed to liberatory approaches to economics could take that as proof of some kind of fatal flaw in the work. So, I hope to send Volume 2 to the publisher soon.


  • 1The GPL or Gnu General Public License, created by Richard Stallman in 1989, is a software license under which users have the right to run, study, share, and modify the software code.
  • 2See
  • 3See
  • 4See
  • 5See
  • 6See
  • 7See
  • 8See
  • 9Pedagogy of the Oppressed, p91 Continuum 2005
  • 10Introduced by Mance in 1998, bem-viver, combining the philosophical concepts of “good” and “life”, predates the more widely used category of buen vivir which incorporates indigenous concepts like sumak kawsay, (see Eduardo Gudynas, Today’s Tomorrow,

Euclides André Mance, Matt Noyes (2024).  Liberation Economist - Part 2.  Grassroots Economic Organizing (GEO).


Steven Dworkin

Is there anyone in the US already working with the Solidarius software or concept?

Matt Noyes

Not that I am aware of. The software platform is available for use: but the key is actually to organize groups of cooperatives who can make use of it. To that end, organizing courses on the solidarity economy circuits approach would be the way to begin, I think.

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What does the G in GEO stand for?