2013-10-08

Co.Exist

Mapping The New "Solidarity Economy" Of New York City

An offshoot of Occupy Wall Street is helping people to tap services that run on "mutualism," like community gardens, CSAs, credit unions, and healthcare providers with sliding scales.

The heyday of Zuccotti Park may be two years gone, and the Occupy Wall Street movement a faint reminder of what it once was, but that doesn't mean all that agitating was for naught. A spinoff of one of Zuccotti Park's working groups has spent the past year and a half envisioning a "solidarity economy" for New York City. Through a steady compilation of data on existing communal resources, they've begun to map what it looks like.

Regardless of political persuasion, it's for anyone and everyone to use. The Solidarity NYC map pinpoints services that run on mutualism, explains map coordinator Lauren Hudson, a cooperative finance leader at Bethex, a federal credit union in the Bronx. The project includes community gardens, CSAs, co-ops, credit unions, and healthcare providers with sliding scales.

"If you’re a consumer, a lot of the time [your] choices are made for you. Knowing where things came from, or knowing the people who produced it own the means of production, it really knits us together in a great way," Hudson explains. "This is sort of a community agreement to take care of ourselves and each other."

If you're wondering how a solidarity economy differs from the so-called sharing economy, "that's the million dollar question," concedes Hudson. The Solidarity NYC collective, which consists of roughly 10 students, activists, and organizers, meets at least once a month to go over these questions in typical Occupy, non-hierarchical fashion. They've struggled with the precise definition of a solidarity economy, but believe it's perhaps more political than the term "sharing" implies.

Solidarity economies also pre-date Occupy. "Communities of mutualism have always existed to support each other when resources are limited or it’s the nature of that community," Hudson says. Solidarity economists have documented these resources in Ann Arbor, Philadelphia, Boston, and a slew of other American cities on Google Maps, and both Brazil and Germany boast thriving solidarity economy movements, too.

In some ways, New York's solidarity map resembles Bitcoinkiez, a Berlin neighborhood in which several businesses have decided to accept the bitcoin as a form of payment. By opting into an alternative financial model, the sponsors of Bitcoinkiez believe consumers will be able to "take part in the creation and development of a new and disruptive technology which has the potential to fundamentally improve our economic relations and personal freedoms." Anyone can head to the Bitcoinkiez map and see where these businesses are.

The Solidarity NYC collective's plan over the next several months is not only to expand the map, but also to provide better context. Entries for solidarity organizations, events, or spaces are user-submitted, and so far, exist only in blurb-form under a simple categorizing system. Solidarity NYC wants to create an interactive glossary that provides more depth for the site. They'll also continue to eke out the edges of what and what not to include.

"I think that really the crux of this map and the crux of this collective is to promote this: You don’t have to subsist on all these resources, but isn’t it wonderful that you have an option?" Hudson asks. "I think that’s so important when you live in New York too, because you often feel disconnected from processes that affect your life in one way or in another."

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2 Comments

  • SydBrownstone

     Short term growth isn't the only thing that makes a healthy economy. I'd argue that community healthcare, shelter, and subsistence projects pave the way for long-term sustainability and resilience against financial and ecological disaster.

  • Jess Helmke

    IDK. How does this help our fiscal economy? Is it just a stepping stone, or are you advocating? And I get it's "keep what you sow" but we still need business to "reap what you sow as well."