Think Global, Portsmouth, and the Social and Solidarity Economy

At the end of September, education charity Think Global brought together a range of organisations based in Portsmouth and beyond, to discuss the potential of ‘social and solidarity economy’ for transforming local communities around the world. Think Global’s Programme Manager, Catherine Richardson, reports.

Think Global is an education charity promoting ‘global learning’. We help people to understand complex global issues like poverty, conflict and migration, so they are able to decide what action they can and should take to make the world fairer, and more sustainable. We do this by helping teachers to teach young people about global issues, publishing resources and research, and carrying out awareness raising campaigns. This is where Susy, and our recent workshop in Portsmouth, comes in!

Susy is a 3 year, Europe-wide project all about strengthening, and raising awareness of ‘social and solidarity economy’ (SSE) as an alternative economic model that can alleviate poverty, and promote sustainable ways of living. It may sound a daunting term, but SSE essentially describes initiatives that put positive social outcomes and working together at the forefront of what they do. Imagine it as an umbrella term for initiatives as varied as social enterprises, fair trade organisations and co-operatives.

Year 1 of the Susy project was all about researching and mapping the local and global impact of SSE, and identifying examples of best practice in London and the South East. Check out the work of Zaytoun, a community interest company supporting farming communities in Palestine by creating a market for their fair trade goods in the UK. Also, take a look at Portsmouth’s very own Cathedral Innovation Centre, now a national movement which provides office space and support to encourage innovation and enterprise that meets local needs.

Our research demonstrated the sheer scale of activity in the SSE space, with ripples of change being felt both within, and beyond the UK. The workshops in London and Portsmouth were a chance for us to highlight some of this impact, by bringing together a range of organisations working within this area to network and share ideas for future collaboration. In Portsmouth, Francis Davis from the Cathedral Innovation Centre and John Merritt from Social Enterprise Link shared their perspectives of community empowerment through social enterprise, with Terri Harris from Global One putting this in a global context and describing how entrepreneurship is central to the NGO’s view of sustainable development.

Workshop participants then heard about the two social enterprises working in international development. Nick Andreou from Balloon Ventures, and Steve Bedford from Wessex Social Ventures spoke of the potential of innovation and entrepreneurship to advance the long-term wellbeing of communities. Though the examples shared were international, the relevance of these activities to UK-based initiatives was clear in that they share the same guiding principles – of activities rooted local empowerment, where communities have a voice in the decisions that affect their lives. In a time when news is often negative, it was inspiring to hear these positive stories of grassroots change.

The Portsmouth workshop was not the end of Susy’s engagement with the South East – far from it! We will be back in February when we will be welcoming guests from India and Palestine to speak at a range of events for Fairtrade Fortnight, and give their own perspectives on working in the social and solidarity economy. We’ll keep you with news and events on the Think Global website. For more examples of SSE initiatives across Europe and the globe, check out the Susy project YouTube page and follow the project on Facebook and Twitter (@SUSY_project).

Finally, there are number of campaigns which encourage supporting local initiatives, social enterprises and sustainable supply chains – do check them out and see how you can make a change!