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New economy projects are mostly unconnected, so each one struggles alone rather than supporting each other. One result of this is that awareness remains low. The US Solidarity Economy Network (USSEN) and its international counterpart, RIPESS, are working to change this by implementing a mapping and economic integration tool to connect groups with one another to build a cooperative, just and sustainable economy.
Mapping your community helps demonstrate that “Another World” is not only possible, it already exists. Mapping also can become a community organizing tool – uncovering a reservoir of social assets even in the poorest neighborhoods, which may seed mutual aid and cooperative business ideas – as it did for the Jersey Shore Neighborhood Cooperative. USSEN has a list of communities that have done independent mapping projects, each using its own methodology, criteria, platform and map name.
When developing a map, a challenging question comes up,“who’s in?” Some generally agreed upon principles for solidarity economy (SE) are: solidarity, mutualism, cooperation, equity (race, ethnicity, nationality, class, gender, LGBTQ, ability), social and environmental prioritization, democracy, pluralism, and grassroots driven. Most groups will not meet all these criteria. The line can become fuzzy if you don’t have lots of local entities to choose from to populate the map. These principles leave something to aspire and work towards. You may want to do the mapping with local organizations to get a broader perspective and to encourage participation.
Functions of mapping
- Make projects more visible to each other and the public — free advertising!
- Movement and regional community-building by connecting SE entities, social movements, and activists through social networking for developing mutual support and common infrastructure.
- Facilitate the creation of viable solidarity economy supply chains that link SE producers, distributors, and finance.
- Foundation for research to make the case for allocating resources and policies to support the solidarity economy.
Brazil has an elaborate, government funded Solidarity Economy Map of over 20,000 collectively run enterprises throughout the country, which enables consumers to find SE goods and services and develops SE supply chains. The map’s social networking function is supported by a separate platform called Cirandas where enterprises, organizations, networks and individuals can create their own information page. ZOES is a platform in Italy that links mapping and social networking and allows entities to self-map after being vouched for by someone already in the ZOES network.
Within the US, there are many examples of simple maps, some just beginning:
- W. Massachusetts Solidarity Economy Map
- Solidarity NYC Map
- Philadelphia Solidarity Economy Map
- Boston Area Solidarity Economy Map
- Jersey Shore Neighborhood Cooperative Map
- Ann Arbor Sharing Economy Map
- Detroit Solidarity Economy Map
- Chicago Solidarity Economy Map
- This is What Democracy in Ohio Looks Like: Ohio’s Democratic/Self-Determination “Infrastructure” (a directory not yet in a map format)
How to Make a Map
Sometimes mapping starts with a curious individual. However, it’s best if the map involve the broader community at some point. A community survey can collect information to populate the map in a balanced and diverse way. This may help you figure out what your geographic boundaries are, who to include in the map, as well as what to name it.
There are many tools to choose from if you are tech-savy, like Open Street Map wiki, May First, OpenLayers, or Drupal. If you’re a technological novice like me, I suggest Google Maps – this also allows open, low tech participation, which has it’s own challenge of self-selection. You may be able to interchange this data using its KMXL feature.
If you’ve already got a map for your area, it may be open to collaboration or closed, in which case you will need to contact the map maker to add listings. To make a new Google Map for an unmapped region, follow these instructions:
- Create a map: Log into any Gmail-based account and go to Google Maps. Click on “My Places”, then “Create Map” and enter a title and description for the map. Google will walk you through part of this process in its Interactive Tutorial. When you’re finished, click “Save,” “Done,” then “Edit.” This map will always show up now in My Places.
- Populate the map: Search for an address or organization. When found, click “Save to map” in the left column drop down menu next to the entity or in the pop up box. Search by keywords for entities you don’t already know by name such as: collective, coop, co-op, cooperative, union, social, green, garden, farm, community, cohousing, trust, housing, worker, market, justice, development, coworking, library, share, sharing, free, space, swap, eco, etc. There may already be separate maps for some of these groups, like a map of all community gardens in your area, which you can import to this map. For entities without a public address or a physical address, you may want to enter the address of a meeting or related location, then edit the title with their name, delete the physical address, and add a URL.
- Edit a listing: Click “view map” link on the tan bar at the top of the map or go back to the map link through the My Places tab. On the left hand side you will see a red bar that says “EDIT”, click that and then click on the listing in the left column or the icon on the map. A white space will open up where you can enter the entity name in the title bar and put a URL, contact info or short blurb in the description area below. To make the map more visually organized, click on the blue dot icon in the edit box and it will open a window with new icons to represent sectors.
- Share it! Make sure you mark it Public, not Unlisted. If you want it open to public participation or to add specific collaborators, click on “Collaborate”. Contact the US Solidarity Economy Network to add your map to the US list. Email the link to local organizations, media and friends and post on Shareable’s Facebook page.
Sample types of solidarity economy entities:
Finance: lending circles, microfinance and local investment, community crowdfunding, community supported agriculture, participatory budgeting, community currencies, credit unions, socially responsible investing
Production: energy coops, producer coops, community gardens, coworking, urban farms, open source projects, hacker spaces, maker spaces, art collectives
Land/housing: community land trusts, intentional communities, cohousing, housing coops, open public spaces
Services: worker coops, health care collectives, childcare collectives, timebanks, education co-ops, free skools, community owned media, infoshops, cooperative insurance
Distribution: food co-ops, farmer’s markets, free libraries, lending libraries, barter markets, free cycle, free stores, really really free markets, free food sharing, and pantries
Social and environmental justice organizations: unions, worker support organizations, social justice nonprofits, environmental nonprofits, small business development organizations, triple bottom line and Bcorp businesses.
Let me know in comments if you know of other SE maps or mapping tools. Only one question remains, when are you going to map your community?
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