A friend of mine went to the CommonBound conference recently and discovered there is a lot of work being done here in the US as well as in other parts of the world to create a new type of economy that serves everyone rather than just the 1%. The movement is known by a few different names such as “New Economy”, “Solidarity Economy”, and “Just Transition Economy”. She held an initial meeting to share information and get things rolling and the room was packed!
The basic gist is that people working together cooperatively can accomplish great things. The focal points of community action are often organizations such as worker and consumer cooperative corporations (co-ops) as well as other types of non-profits, land trusts, community finance, time banking, and more.
It’s about supporting the local economy and producing things locally. It’s about many small donations and investments joined together to create organizations with enough financial clout that they get a seat at the negotiating table when there are big decisions to be made in your neighborhood, city, or state.
It’s the power of the people being exercised in a very intelligent way. Rather than waiting for the changes we envision to come from within the existing economic system from the top down, we build the solutions we need from the grassroots up! Communities that have invested in themselves in this way over time end up more resilient during difficult economic times.
Here are a number of examples and resources to learn more. There is a group forming in town to look into connecting up with existing efforts and exploring how we might put some of these ideas into action in Eugene. If you are interested send me an email and I will get you more information.
Posted By: Joshua Kielas, 08.05.2018
I had a chance to drop by the new Emerald Village development during a recent open house. Somehow the folks at the non-profit Square One Villages managed to orchestrate a low income tiny house neighborhood and spawn a new community. What an impressive accomplishment!
These are the same folks who created Opportunity Village, which has helped many folks get off the streets and find a place to stabilize and get their lives turned around. But Emerald Village takes their work to the next level! The huge list of architects and developers who contributed time, energy, and designs to the project is a testament to how people can come together for the benefit of those in need. I bet they had a small army of volunteers.
Even though all the houses are not yet completed, the village is officially open and I met a few of the folks who have already moved into their new homes. Everyone seemed quite satisfied with their tiny houses, which often have less than 250 square feet of space inside. I was impressed by many of the innovative designs that combined space saving features to create surprisingly livable homes in such small spaces.
Residents of Emerald Village are members of a housing cooperative and buy a share in the village which enables them to create an asset that can be cashed out when they choose to move out. They have a community agreement which outlines the basic code of conduct that all residents agree to, and requires that each resident participate in helping to manage the village. Residents pay $250 – $350 per month, which covers all maintenance and operating costs. Very cool!
I hope we are exiting the era where state and local governments are in the thrall of developers looking to turn a quick profit rather than be more socially responsible. It is nice to see grassroots efforts solving affordable housing issues today, and it would be great to see more of a movement at the city, county, and state levels to support these kinds of innovative projects. The greed of society has left many people out in the cold and it is time to find our hearts and mend our ways so that nobody has to worry about basic necessities, such as shelter and food, which many of us take for granted.
Posted By: Joshua Kielas, 07.19.2018
Conestoga huts at the Vet’s Camp
Helping the unhoused get out of the elements and into a safe place where they can gain stability, build community, and begin to rebuild their lives is no easy task. Doing it with care and on a limited budget is harder still. Yet that is what a dedicated group of folks have been doing over the last few years through an innovative nonprofit organization in town called Community Supported Shelters (CSS). And the idea is spreading…
If you have seen one of the now iconic Conestoga Huts around town, with their pioneer wagon style roofs, then you have seen the inventive handiwork of CSS co-founder Erik de Buhr. Along with his wife and co-executive director Fay de Buhr, they are leading the charge to revolutionize the way municipalities are dealing with some of the most vulnerable citizens among us, who for one reason or another have fallen through the cracks.
Founders Fay and Erik de Buhr present at fundraiser
To help solve this challenging societal issue they have implemented a number of what are called “Safe Spots” or “Rest Stops”, which are a type of camp where 20 or so people live in a gated community filled with tents on platforms and Conestoga Huts. Safe Spots help residents stabilize their lives and form the bonds of community with other residents. CSS also provides case workers who regularly check in with residents to help them navigate the system as they work to rebuild and move on to something better by the time their allotted 10 months in camp have passed.
Safe Spot residents load firewood at a work party
The organization raises most of its funds through individual donations from folks like you and me. I recently had the opportunity to attend this year’s big annual fundraiser. There I heard testimonials from folks the program has helped and inspired, including people from other cities and other states that are excited about Conestoga Huts and the Safe Spot model, and are working to implement them in their localities. I learned that outcomes have been extremely promising for camp residents with around 60% moving on to something better after their stay. And I really felt excited to be a part of this innovative group.
Posted by: Joshua Kielas, 04.05.2018
Have you ever read a book that blew your mind? Sacred Economics by Charles Eisenstein was just such a book for me. If you ever wanted to deepen your understanding of the concept of money and the influence it has on our society, this is the book to read. If you have heard people talk about a gift or steady-state economy and wondered how any such things could be implemented, this is the book to read. If you are tired of reading books that identify society’s problems without laying out potential solutions, this is the book to read.
The concepts explored in Sacred Economics are deeper than capitalism vs. socialism vs. communism. It dives down to analyze how we use money, and explores how society could be reshaped, and many of the issues we struggle with today solved, if we were to change the way money works in some fundamental ways. After examining the history of money and how it has shaped our society the book begins to look at thought provoking ways we could change the system so the economy would grow smaller in a way that doesn’t crash everything, and ultimately reach a steady-state.
Some of the interesting concepts explored include using negative interest rates to shrink the economy and grow the commons, using local currencies to empower and strengthen local economies, backing money with resources that are owned by everyone to make them precious, paying a social dividend to help support people in an economy that has eliminated unnecessary jobs, and more.
The book doesn’t read like a novel. It has a decidedly academic tone (with footnotes) and is more like studying at times than reading for pleasure, but it’s worth the effort. And the best part is that the author has made it available for free in HTML and PDF formats on the website!
Posted by: Joshua Kielas, 03.09.2018