Mapping the US Solidarity City

Mapping the US Solidarity Economy

In the second keynote at the online CERN Liviana conference, Maliha Safri discussed her recent research on social and solidarity economies, describing these economies as “examples of postcapitalist practices in action.”

Safri started her keynote, entitled ‘Mapping the US Solidarity City: Spatializing Diversity, Difference and Social Justice,’ by outlining the participatory action research project she ran in Asbury Park in New Jersey with people of colour, including ex-prisoners and Spanish-speaking undocumented workers.

This project identified the extent to which these groups are subject to exploitative economic practices such as wage theft, slavery and feudalism. But through interviews with existing social and solidarity economy initiatives in the Asbury Park area (such as Redeem Her) participants became aware of how more just economic practices are possible and took steps towards forming the area’s first worker cooperative, La Cooperativa de las Trabajadores de las Americas (American Workers Cooperative) (so named by the undocumented workers involved to emphasise that they are American workers, irrespective of citizenship status).

Although the cooperative ran up against significant start-up costs, the research resulted in two important findings: that there is enormous potential to build supply chains that link non-capitalist economic enterprises; and that it is crucial that nascent social and solidarity economy initiatives have supportive conditions and institutions to help them to actualise their potential.

Safri outlined how the Asbury Park project led into a larger collaborative project, a National Science Foundation-funded project that was awarded to Craig Borowiak, Emily Kawano, Stephen Healy, Marianna Pavlovskaya and Maliha Safri.

The first activity in this project was the mapping of social and solidarity economy initiatives in the US with the intention to better link these initiatives with each other and to help strengthen supply chains between them.

Currently, there are around 30,000 social and solidarity economy initiatives on the map, and these include worker coops, community land trusts, community gardens, social currencies, credit unions and community banks.

Safri discussed the more detailed mapping work that this project has undertaken in New York City, and outlined how this component of the research is showing how social and solidarity economy initiatives are concentrated in areas of the city where poor, Latino and Black populations live.

She described how these parts of the city are characterised by a strong desire for solidarity and community, and how social and solidarity economy initiatives play a role in helping residents fights against pressures that are pushing them out of these neighbourhoods.

Safri concluded by discussing how her research is now looking at that connection between rage and hope both to fight against social and economic injustices and to transform urban environments.

The full playlist of sessions from LIVIANA 2021 can be accessed by clicking here.

Maliha Safri’s keynote can be accessed by clicking here.

The first opening keynote by Kevin St Martin can be accessed by clicking here; and a news story about his keynote is available by clicking here.


Jenny Cameron