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Catalyzing worker co-ops & the solidarity economy

A Charter for the Social Solidarity Economy

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July 18, 2019
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cross-posted from Guerrilla Translation

This charter was originally published in Spanish as rallying call for Social Solidarity Economy initiatives within the Spanish territory. We have translated it to share its principles with English speaking audiences and Social Solidarity initiatives worldwide. This article complements and is closely tied to our translation to Feminism and the Social Solidarity Economy: a Short Call to Action

The Solidarity Economy is a vision for economic activity that takes people, the environment and sustainable development as its core principles.

Following various methods, the Social and Solidarity Economy (or SSE, also known as the “Solidarity Economy”) is a way of living that protects the integrity of people and subordinates the economy to its true end: to sustainably provide the material bases for the personal, social and environmental development of humanity. 

The Social and Solidarity Economy is based on individuals and communities arising from social initiatives. Material benefits are not the essential building block of its identity. Rather, it defines itself by the quality of life and well-being of its members and the whole of society as a global system.

Transversal values and axes

The Solidarity Economy, in the tradition of the Social Economy, aims to incorporate values that, ideally, should guide societal relations among citizens — equity, justice, economic fraternity, social solidarity and direct democracy — into its economic management practices. Moreover, as a new form of production, consumption and distribution, it presents itself as a viable, sustainable alternative for the satisfaction of individual and global needs, aspiring to consolidate as an instrument of social transformation.

To fulfil our mission, organizations participating in the general Solidarity Economy movement and REAS, Network of Networks 1 in particular, share the following transversal axes:

  • Autonomy as a principle for freedom and the exercise of co-responsibility.
  • Self-management as a process that respects, involves, teaches, equalizes opportunities and  enables empowerment.
  • A culture of liberation as the grounds for creative, scientific and alternative thinking to pursue, research and establish new ways of coexistence, production, enjoyment and consumption to reimagine economics and politics in service to all peoples.
  • Personal development in all human dimensions and capacities: physical, psychological, spiritual, aesthetic, artistic, sensitivity, relational, in harmony with nature, superseding unbalanced models of economic, financial, bellicose, consumerist, transgenic and anomalous growth wrongly justified in the name of ungrounded models of development. 
  • Symbiosis with nature.
  • Human and economic solidarity as a guiding principle for our local, national and international relations.

The 6 principles of the Charter for the Solidarity Economy

Based on our assertions, objectives and values, we have written a Charter of Principles for the Solidarity Economy. We consider this the backbone and identifying element of the Solidarity Economy. Its principles are:

1. Principle of Equity

  • We believe that equity introduces a principle of ethics or justice to equality. As a value, it acknowledges the equal dignity of all people and protects their right to not be subject to relations based on domination, regardless of people’s social condition, gender, age, ethnicity, origin, capacity, etc.
  • A more just society is one where all people recognize each other as equals in rights and possibilities, while also recognizing existing differences between persons and groups. As such, it must equitably satisfy the respective interests of all.
  • Equality is an essential social objective given that its absence invariably leads to a loss of dignity. When joined by acknowledgement and respect toward differences, equality becomes “equity”. 

2. Principle of Work

  • We see work as a key element in the quality of life for individuals and communities, as well as the economic relations between citizens, peoples and states. At REAS we consider work as part of a wider social and institutional context that engages with economies and communities.
  • We advocate for the importance of restoring the human, social, political, economic and cultural dimensions of work which develops people’s capacities, and produces goods and services to satisfy our real needs as individuals and those of our immediate environments and communities. To us, work is much more than a job or occupation.
  • We hold that these activities can be exercised individually as well as collectively, be paid or unpaid (as voluntary work), and that the working person can either be contracted or assume ultimate responsibility for the production of goods and services (freelance/self-employment).
  • Within this social dimension it should be pointed out that without the reproductive or care work mainly performed by women, society would not be able to sustain itself. 
  • This care work is still largely unrecognized by society and remains unequally distributed.

3. Principle of Environmental Sustainability

  • We hold that all our productive and economic activities happen within nature. Our point of departure is to work with nature, not against it, while also recognizing its rights.  
  • We believe that a good relationship with nature is a source of economic wealth and good health for all. This is why environmental sustainability must be an integral part of all our actions, as we assess our environmental impact and ecological footprint for the long run.
  • We aim to significantly reduce the human ecological footprint of all our activities, advancing towards sustainable and equitable ways of producing and consuming while promoting an ethics of sufficiency and austerity.  

4. Principle of Cooperation

  • We favor cooperation over competition within and beyond our organizations and as part of our network, while looking to collaborate with other public and private entities.
  • We aim to build together a model of society grounded on local, harmonious development, fair commercial relations, equality, trust, co-responsibility, transparency and respect.
  • We assert that the Solidarity Economy should be founded on participative and democratic ideals and that it should promote cooperative learning and work between people and organizations by fostering collaborative processes, joint decision making and fair distribution of tasks and responsibilities. To do so, we need to guarantee the highest levels of horizontality while also respecting individual autonomy without generating dependencies.
  • We understand that these cooperative processes should extend to all whether local, regional, autonomic 2, statewide or international. These must be regularly articulated through networks that live by and foster such values.

5. Principle of Non-profit

  • We are pursuing and practicing an economic model geared toward the full, collective and individual development of all people and, as a medium, the efficient management of economically viable, sustainable and wholly gainful projects, where surpluses are reinvested and redistributed.
  • This non-profit orientation is closely tied to our way of measuring overall results. Beyond economic aspects, we also take into account human, social, environmental, cultural and participative processes in ways that are beneficial to all.
  • This means that our activities direct any and all profits toward the improvement or development of the social objectives of our projects, as well as toward supporting other solidarity and general interest initiatives. This is how we are building together a more humane, equitable and solidarity-based social model. 

6. Principle of Territorial Responsibility

  • Our commitment to the environment takes shape through participation in our local, communitarian and sustainable development contexts.
  • Our organizations are fully integrated in the territory and social context where they develop their activities. This demands active participation in and cooperation with other organizations involved in the local economic and social fabric.
  • We see this collaboration as a journey where positive experiences of solidarity can generate a transformative process to overcome structures of inequality, domination and exclusion.
  • Our commitment to the local dimension propels us in the search for more globally-oriented solutions, continually moving back and forth between the micro and macro, local and global.



1. [REAS Network of Networks is our translation of the Spanish original “REAS, red de redes”, the umbrella name used Spain’s Social Solidarity Network. You can visit their website here.]

2. [Spain is divided into 17 autonomous communities. These are first-level political and administrative divisions and would be a rough counterpart to federated states in the US, or regions in the UK. Meanwhile, “regional” refers to provinces, the second-level administrative division, which would correspond to counties in the US or UK.]


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REAS, Network of Networks for the Alternative and Solidarity Economy, is a group of more than 500 entities from smaller territorial and sectoral networks within the Spanish State. REAS was created to offer alternatives to the dehumanization of the economy, the degradation of the environment, and the loss of social values. The increase in poverty and social inequality, social and economic exclusion, unemployment and precarious work are problems that pose challenges and demand responses. This is why REAS promotes the Solidarity Economy, their instrument for creating a more just, solidarity-based, sustainable and engaged society. REAS’ main goal is to enable another way to focus and manage the economy. REAS believes that it is time to stop suffering from decisions taken by others and to rise up and put humanity at the core of our economies. Find out more about REAS on their website.

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