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Co-Acte 1st thematic meeting report
Gloucester 20, 21 May 2016

Background and purpose of the meeting

CO-ACTE Project

To think progress in terms of ability to live together on the same planet has become, more than ever in human history, at the same time an evidence and a need. Everywhere in Europe and in the world, initiatives arise to (re)build this ability to live together at the local level, in territories, today and in the future. We can find them in the territories involved in the SPIRAL process and in networks such as the Transition movement, eco-villages, « agendas 21st », plans for social cohesion, the zerowaste movement, decentralized approaches for local development as LEADER and many others. They all start from the local level, inhabitants and local actors to build together, in a spirit of coresponsibility, a society without exclusion where progress for the wellbeing of all and of future generations is perfectly clear for everyone. However, all these initiatives face the need to rephrase public policies and legal frameworks in order to systematize what is acquired and to instill a coresponsibility for the wellbeing of all in the usual functioning of society at each level. To meet this requirement, the CO-ACTE Project launches an important reflection process with citizens, civil society actors and officials in the territories involved in these approaches and other territories as well. The CO-ACTE Project is promoted by TOGETHER, international network for territories of coresponsibility that develop the SPIRAL process. It aims at creating a citizen dynamic that would give birth to proposals of public policies to encourage coresponsibility for the wellbeing of all today and in the future. For this purpose, it uses the knowledge acquired through the SPIRAL process and other processes sharing the same values and goals. Eight european meetings are set between September 2015 and November 2016 to hold this bet. They will result in the Third Meeting of the Territories of Coresponsibility in Braine l’Alleud from November 2016 the 2nd to the 5th, where the conclusions obtained previously will be presented and officials invited to approve them.

How the project went :

After the first kick-off meeting in September 2015, a consultation process was launched with citizens in different territories, a complement to the SPIRAL process, following the same principles of direct democracy: right to speak for all, no intermediary in expression, open questions, inclusive and transparent synthesis built by citizens themselves. A fourth question was added to the three questions of SPIRAL’s second phase or in proposing an evaluation procedure with three questions corresponding to SPIRAL’s 8th phase. An additional question was proposed as well in participative co-evaluation (SPIRAL’s 7th phase). These questions enable the individual and collective definition of the wellbeing of all as an objective for society and progress (first two questions of SPIRAL), what can each one do for his wellbeing and everyone else’s (SPIRAL’s third question) and what would be beneficial at the level of public policies and society in general to reach coresponsibility for the wellbeing of all today and in the future (CO-ACTE: 4th question – or 3rd question if involved in an evaluation procedure). All citizens were able to express themselves freely through an intersubjective process of direct democracy at the same time introspective (SPIRAL’s first two questions) and prospective (SPIRAL’s third question and CO-ACTE’s question) without preconceived ideas and benefited from an equal time to speak. This enabled the emergence of various proposals about major societal issues. They underline the fundamental elements of what would be a coresponsible and solidary society for the wellbeing of all, including generations, elements such as : equity in revenues (basic universal income and limitation), access to resources and common goods, coresponsibility in social inclusion of the most disadvantaged, socialisation and relocation of exchanges, direct and collaborative democracy in addition to a healthy representative democracy (transparent, without corruption, etc), territorial ties, changes in our relationship to nature and to the environment (respect of animals and nature, energy reconversion, fight against waste -zerowaste- and pollutions), reconsidering our relationship to time, peace and stop arms production, etc. See the synthesis of these proposals and actions to take on https://wikispiral.org/tiki-index.php?page=CO-ACTE%20Synth%C3%A8se

Thematic meetings’ purposes:

Such goals demand, besides appropriate political measures, answers to build from experiences of civil society. That is why all civil society initiative-supporting organizations that agree with these goals are invited to participate in the building process of appropriate answers. The main idea is first to think about ways to improve towards these goals, going from existing experiences and spotting their complementarities in relation to these goals. Then one must identify which public policy measures are necessary to express these complementarities, in addition to the citizens’ proposals. Four successive thematic meetings were set:

  • The first thematic meeting was set in Gloucester (United Kingdom) on May the 20th and 21st 2016. Its goal was to think about the building of a coresponsible socioeconomic model for the wellbeing of all today and in the future, especially in analyzing how economic relations can contribute to answer equity in revenues, solidarity for the wellbeing of all without exclusion and the recognition of the role of each and every one of us in society while integrating environmental and social factors in the costs. For this purpose, we used experiences from time banks, additional currencies, network BIEN, sharing of working time, distribution of life time all along life (including the purpose of elderly persons and intergenerational relationships), collaborative redefinition of social roles of companies, of distributive economy and solidarity bonds between territories.
  • A second meeting was set in Viana do Castelo (north of Portugal) on June 22nd and 23rd 2016. Its purpose is to think about how to ensure a coresponsible organization of the territory for the wellbeing of all today and in the future. Citizens propose numerous ideas because this issue is so very important: the wellbeing of all implies having spaces to live, meet, co-produce (shared gardens, repair places), places to exchange, experiment, various forms of social life (sport, culture, knowledge sharing, etc), and spaces to pray and meditate, spaces close to nature (natural parks, tree planting, protection of biodiversity, etc). To organize space is also to guarantee mobility without it being a stress factor or weighing on environment: how to ensure the proximity of facilities and work places from home and avoid daily transport time, how to give priority to low-impact means of transportation (walk, bike, public transports) in a clean environment, how to reduce traffic (free public transports, carpooling). Space organization is directly related to energetic reconversion: develop energy-plus-houses, use of roofs, car parks to capture solar energy, setting of supply infrastructures for electrical vehicles, organize supply networks to avoid supply and demand spikes, etc. Space organization has many issues that can’t be solved separately and they should be addressed with a common strategy meeting everyone’s expectations, motivations and abilities. It implies a knowledge from citizens and actors through participative and collaborative initiatives for space management. Various experiences on this matter exist, such as diagnostic while walking, planning in the field, participative processes in land-use plans, etc.
  • A third meeting is set in Odemira (south of Portugal) on June 27th and 28th 2016. The goal is to see how to, on the base of the first two meetings’ conclusions, provide for basic needs for the wellbeing of all today and in the future through coresponsibility (healthy food, health, basic consumption products) with minimal environmental impact. For this purpose, we will use experiences of mutual engagement between suppliers/producers and consumers/users in sectors such as food (CSA/AMAP), health (medical centers, social pharmacies). We will also use experiences of direct organization to provide for its basic needs (shared gardens, edible credible, etc) and reuse of goods in all forms (second-hand, repairs, recycling). We will highlight those that allow a sustainable approach: precautionary and decentralized approach on health, reuse, including proximity spaces, recycling, etc. We will use as well initiatives that connect these sectors, especially those that provide means, for example health savings for more resources in food production to allow farming without pesticides.
  • In a fourth meeting in Timisoara (Romania) on September the 16th and 17th 2016, the goal would be to determine how to ensure a collaborative democracy and a coresponsible governance of common goods for the wellbeing of all today and in the future. For this purpose, we will use the conclusions made in the first three meetings to ask ourselves the question of flexibility in access to resources, allowing each citizen to participate in the wellbeing of all according to his abilities and aspirations and adapt his life project, ensuring full employment. This flexible conception of access to resources will lead us to address the issue of democracy and management of common goods in a new way, that would involve public, private and community properties, using experiences from all around the world on this theme.

Each meeting will produce conclusions highlighting the complementarities between initiatives and how together they can ensure progress in coresponsibility for the wellbeing of all today and in the future. Public policy measures will also be pushed forward to allow this progress. All these conclusions will be integrated into an operational framework of implementation of the citizens’ proposals. This framework will also be completed by public policy makers who will be able to offer adaptive ways for existing public policies meeting these expectations. These conclusions will be presented and discussed at the Third International Meeting of Territories of Coresponsibility in Braine-l’Alleud (Belgium) from November 2nd to 5th 2016.

Specific purpose of Gloucester’s meeting :

During Gloucester’s meeting, we discussed the socioeconomic organization. On this plan, citizens emphasize equity in revenues (with a basic universal income and the limitation of revenues), in exchanges and access to resources, work sharing to ensure access to work for all, recognition of work including volunteering, the promotion of free exchanges, without currency or with time banks, the end of unbridled consumption and an economy at a human or family scale and relocated. Here is the idea of an economy based on the principle of coresponsibility from the wellbeing of all as a purpose, not an offer of goods and services. An economy that would give every participant natural or legal person a precise function and the recognition of the role played. It goes with the principles of distributive economy, functional economy and cooperation, requirements from citizens for their wellbeing, such as trust, the right to have a place in society, recognition, life meaningful life, equity, no waste, respect of environment, etc. The issue of time management is also addressed. How to allow a use of time that ensures access to wellbeing for all while distributing time proportionally for productive, family, and leisure activities, but also for exchanges, experimentations, creativity, meditation, etc. How to rethink in a global way time management and how to spare time thanks to trustful and coresponsible relationships (for example, replacing bureaucratic control procedures by forms of shared control) and redistributing time where it is necessary (for example for a healthy diet).

Participants :

The meeting has been especially productive thanks to the diversity of participants and types of initiatives. These were present:

  • Time banks’ and SELs’ representatives (Fair Share Network in the United Kingdom with various members of the network, SELs from Belgium)
  • Representatives from BIEN Network (Basic Income Earth Network)
  • Experts on local currencies
  • Representatives from Network Tempo territorial, addressing the issue of time at a local level, including in public local policies, with an official and a researcher.
  • Representative from Atemis on functional and coresponsible economy.
  • An example of intergenerational initiative on time use
  • Other guests could not participate but sent contributions, concerning especially the distributive economy.

(see in annex 2 the precise list of participants).

How the meeting went

Gloucester’s meeting was held in 4 sessions:

Session 1: Update on the CO-ACTE project and objectives of the meeting: this session allowed all participants to know each other and learn about the CO-ACTE project and its first results, and fully understand the meeting’s problematic.

Session 2: From field practices to the realization of a socio-economic model: this session is organized into 5 parts (fair income, fair trade, mutualization of needs and role distribution, coresponsibility and life cycles, synthesis) and enabled progress on the building of a socio-economic model of coresponsibility for the wellbeing of all from the experiences of these different initiatives.

Session 3: From the model to the need of public policies: two working groups were created for the identification of public policies (see conclusions below)

Session 4 : project follow-up and functioning of thematic subnets : this session led to a number of decisions concerning the meeting’s follow-up (see below).

Conclusions and actions to take

The building of a socioeconomic model of co-responsibility for the wellbeing of all

Many important ideas came out of the reunion for the building of a coresponsible socioeconomic model for the wellbeing of all. They are all moving towards this decision to rebuild economic relations on a base of coresponsibility for the wellbeing of all and not on market relations based on the balance between supply and demand.

      • At the heart of the model : the issue of time

First of all, the issue of time is at the heart of the problematic of such a model for several reasons:

  • Exchanges with time is itself supporting equity in revenues if we apply the principle used in time banks. According to this principle, the time has the same value for everyone (one hour for an engineer has the same value for a worker). Everyone on Earth has a time for himself.
  • The exchange with time introduces a transparency that doesn’t exist with the usual currency because it is based on a real cost, not a cost disconnected from reality.
  • This transparency is a factor of interaction, coresponsibility and bonds of solidarity between economic actors. Various examples were given in this direction. Examples: work on Sunday, relationships between prisoners and elderly persons, payment of taxes with time (introducing a coresponsibility in public service, etc). In many of these examples, time is not considered only an exchange value but also as a donation. It represents the taking into account of other factors in decisions (for example, accept that people need more time without excluding what they are making).
  • The issue of coresponsibility is quite clear with time: everyone has a given time for himself depending on the age, for which he is responsible, in respect to himself and society.
  • In the macroeconomic area, to think in terms of time dedicated to one activity or another is also a necessary source of rebalance. For example, between industry and craft, health and food production and food foe a healthy lifestyle (this issue will be discussed during the 3rd meeting).
  • Apart from being an important exchange currency, time implies a dialogue on how to organize schedules and activities. Here is a close link with space management, an issue that will be discussed in Viana do Castelo (see examples given by Tempo).
      • Disconnection between revenues and work: basic universal income

From the 1970s, Network BIEN has been promoting the idea of a basic universal income with these 3 characteristics:

  • Universality: right of every human being, whoever he is.
  • Non-conditionality: unalienable right
  • Sufficiency for basic needs

These three characteristics result in a disconnection between work and revenue: one doesn’t work only for money but for other reasons, such as the meaning one gives to its work and the work of others. Work is not the same as suffering, and some even say we should use another word. This doesn’t mean that hard work disappears, even if mechanization and automatization reduces it, but it is shared fairly after a dialogue depending on everyone’s real abilities and work doesn’t rhyme with suffering anymore.

      • Dialogue on needs and responsibilities/functions

We are already seeing that such a model is based on the meaning of what we do in relation to the needs. This dialogue can only be led with everyone involved, and will address the needs and the sharing of responsibilities. It is easier to have this debate at a local scale but it implies precise rules at superior scales. A dialogue can be led on the distribution of responsibilities and functions: children education, food production, health, etc. These functions can be carried out by individuals, but in general they are carried out by groups created for this purpose (companies, schools, etc). As an example we can quote Medical Centers in Belgium where a medical team carries out the « health » function of a neighborhood in coresponsibility with its residents.

      • Relations of functionality and cooperation

Such a distribution of the functions implies new radical relationships between suppliers and users, based on coresponsibility and not on the power relation between supply and demand. Experiences like this exist (see examples presented by Atemis).

      • Life courses

The socioeconomic model of coresponsibility for the wellbeing of all provides great flexibility and decisional autonomy for every citizen on his personal development and life course in relation to the rest of society. Each can participate in one function or another and then change if the others agree. Time for training, transition, family life, rest, travel, etc, is distributed individually and collectively according to the needs and possibilities. There are still issues to address: autonomy for everyone to decide, collective decision-making processes.

      • Conclusion

To conclude, the socioeconomic model of coresponsibility for the wellbeing of all is far from complete. Various points need to be explained and it will be done after the meeting. The problem of its operationalization also needs to be addressed. However, essential paths have been highlighted during the meeting. Progresses in its realization will depend on the possibilities to build bridges between the existing initiatives and public policies of support.

Public policies to promote

The first policy to promote is the one that opens the way to new forms of democracy and concertation. This goes with the citizens’ recommendations that came out of the CO-ACT project, especially regarding the collaborative democracy. Furthermore, proposals have been given by two groups. Here are the first group’s proposals:

  • Guide policies to local initiatives. It’s important to reach statesmen with data and insights to show one has studied the matter. For example, look into policies that don’t work well and update them to improve society.
  • Recruit people in local government institutions. In particular, have people who deal with relevant committees and mobilize them to obtain the necessary information.
  • Present information and ideas in various forms and many times, to be sure people are impacted.
  • Know better the statesmen to know more about their procedure. Understand what are national, regional and local policies, how the system works etc…
  • Promote ways to involve people (citizens)
  • Promote time banks in business, in addition to practices designed to improve health, confidence, abilities related to work.
  • In schools and universities, education programs should teach the basics on human values.
  • Collect data and analyze in detail what happens at the local level –social mapping- to present concrete and true information to statesmen.
  • Identify the “small changes” that can be performed immediately, perform them to implement them in more traditional policies.
  • Set up different rules for taxes, (not from work but from other sources) as taxes on CO2 emissions, environmental impact, financial transactions, luxury goods… For example, in the agricultural sector, where labor is heavily taxed, chemical fertilizers are not. This creates unfair taxes on organic agriculture and we must change that. Another idea of change: exempt from taxes people who receive refugees instead of building hundreds of houses for them.
  • While we are working at the local level, it’s important to keep an eye on the upper level to be ready to make the change.
  • It’s important to send a clear signal to people about what we want to implement.
  • Identify the way citizens spend their money inside the community and how they commit personally to this community.

Do not forget the elderly persons in the process (ex: thanks to time banks, municipal initiatives, physical activities etc…). Usually, they are not considered “activists” or “leftists” etc… as young people are often seen.

  • Use the current legislation and communicate with the appropriate language depending of whom we speak to. (ex: the term “profit” must not be forgotten when talking to a businessman)
  • Contacts must be as personal as possible. Do not send mass emails, we really need to speak to people directly. Otherwise, we run the risk that our information are put in the spam folder, because organizations are often drowned with mails.

The second working group summarized the recommendations in a general scheme as follows: -Scheme to come- To conclude, there is still a formalization to do, especially to precise the complementarities with the citizens’ proposals.

Decisions made

  • Put in place a network of initiatives that will produce public policies in Braine l’Alleud.
  • Pooling of the notes taken and creation of a report with everybody before the next meeting.
  • Reshape the synthesis to present it according to a more comprehensive model.
  • Indirah is putting into place a database of all existing initiatives to create a network phenomenon. *After these two days, think about what we saw and what changes can be made, what can be proposed, share ideas on the debate space set for this purpose on the website wikispiral.
  • Creation of a core (core group) of 4 people to ensure the process’ continuity: Philippe, Reyaz, Indirah, Samuel

Annexe 1 : Summary of presentations and debates

- Will be translated-

Annexe 2 : List of participants

      • Belgium
  • André DESMET : Network TOGETHER
  • Christine WELCHE : Interpreter
  • Marc MAURISSEN : Waterloo’s SEL
  • Indirah OSUMBA : Association PLOUF, Network TOGETHER
      • England
  • Christine GENT : World Fair Trade Organization
  • Jen COTHIER : Fairshare
  • Jessica JOHNSTONE : Interpretor
  • Jez SPENCER : Fairshare
  • Kate DAVIS : Interpretor
  • Louise HAAGH : Network BIEN
  • Philippe GRANGER : Rushey Green Timebank
  • Reyaz LIMAIA : Fairshare
  • Sara BIRD : Timebanking UK
  • Tam CASSIDY : Timebanking Scotland
      • France
  • Cyril KRETZSCHMAR : Ex- Régional advisor in Rhone Alpes on local currency
  • Eric SCHULTZ Deputy mayor in Strasbourg, Tempo Territorial
  • Jean-Yves BOULIN : Tempo Territorial
  • Manon BRUNOT : Intern Network Together
  • Samuel THIRION : Network TOGETHER
      • Greece
      • Portugal
  • André COELHO : Network BIEN
  • Manuela COUTINHO : Network TOGETHER
  • Pedro BEZZERA PhD in exercise physiology

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