Saturday, January 19, 2008

Can you say Si se puede in Portuguese?

Source: Inter Press Service, “DEVELOPMENT BRAZIL: Solidarity Economy Combats Exclusion

In Brazil, a company called Catende-Harmonia provides a model for economic projects that are driven by people, not profits. Originally a typical private enterprise focused on sugar production, the company began to experience financial difficulties in 1995. The workers’ union approached management and negotiated a deal wherein the company declared bankruptcy and was taken over by the workers. Now known as Catende-Harmonia, it maintains its sugar operations and has diversified to include other commodities through “a family farming system based on agricultural cooperatives.”

Now the largest worker-run company in Brazil, Catende-Harmonia is part of a growing trend that has been dubbed the “solidarity economy.” It has been successful and popular enough to merit government attention and support through the creation of Brazil’s National Secretariat for the Solidarity Economy and the Brazilian Solidarity Economy Forum (FBES) in 2003.

Experts assert that the support for a solidarity economy in Brazil stems from the struggle against unemployment in that country and the drive for a model of economic inclusion. The FBES states that one of the goals of the solidarity economic model is to make “human beings the active agents and the final purpose of economic activity, instead of private accumulation of wealth.”


Do you think innovations like the solidarity economic model in Brazil and microcredit in Bangladesh are stepping stones on the way to more traditional (read U.S.-style) economic systems or do you believe that these trends could be harbingers of a new approach to economics that could spread to developed nations?

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