There's One Thing More Valuable Than Profit In This Game-Changing Economy

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Chief among the criticisms of today’s business environment is that too many organizations focus on profit and growth at the expense of the wellbeing of people and the planet itself. This has resulted in the rise of what is known as the “solidarity economy” — or a system where economic activities are focused on achieving social good rather than profits alone.

While the exact nature of how the solidarity economy takes shape can vary across different places and cultures, this movement has proven its potential to create a positive impact on the world at large.

1. Greater involvement for excluded disadvantaged groups

An analysis from “The Review of Black Political Economy” highlights that quite often, the solidarity economy is primarily focused on lifting those who have been systematically excluded from traditional economic systems, with limited opportunities for achievement and economic advancement.

With that in mind, solidarity systems create a place where members of excluded groups can make their voices heard and counteract exclusionary systems to ensure their needs are met. For excluded groups, solidarity economics extends beyond the traditional ways of doing business to encompass activities like worker cooperatives, community gardens and family and friends so everyone’s needs are met.

2. Ensuring protections for workers

Business enterprises often pursue profit at the expense of the people who help them generate that profit in the first place. The start of 2023 saw many profitable companies like Microsoft, Google and Amazon lay off thousands of workers despite being profitable — all in an effort to counter slowed revenue growth.

Workers are even more at risk in other parts of the globe due to informal employment structures that result in unreliable work. Unsurprisingly, trade unions are generally considered an essential element of the solidarity economy because of their efforts to improve working conditions for their members and their basis in solidarity between the members of the organization.

Indeed, by October 2023, it was estimated that 453,000 workers had gone on strike in industries ranging from entertainment to healthcare in an effort to win higher pay and better working conditions. These solidarity efforts often have a very real impact on their members, especially in helping them address issues such as inflation.

Related: Widespread Strikes Resulted In 4.1 Million Missed Days of Work In 2023 (So Far)

3. Filling needs unmet by the government

In many countries, the government doesn’t provide an adequate safety net to address the needs of the most vulnerable members of its population. For example, as a report from The Solidarity Directory highlights, 77% of the working population in Lebanon is under an informal employment structure that results in unsafe and unstable working conditions that are prone to disruption from a variety of crises. At the same time, the government lacks sufficient social safety systems to address the needs of these groups.

As the report highlights, the solidarity economy has enlisted community groups, nonprofit organizations and others to address different concerns while simultaneously empowering aid recipients. Examples include groups to help people repair homes from structural damage, providing free online consultancies and even helping empower people to plant their own food at home.

4. Worker co-ops empower workers

Another proven example of the solidarity economy empowering workers comes in the form of worker co-ops. Rather than a single owner capturing all of the business’s profit, businesses are instead owned and managed by the workers. Decisions regarding how to use profits lie in the hands of the workers, such as reinvesting, allocating to community profits, or sharing.

The Democracy at Work Institute cites several examples of successful worker co-ops as well as businesses that restructured into worker co-ops, such as Equal Exchange, a distributor of fair trade organic goods with over 100 workers of its own that also sources its goods from farmer cooperatives from around the globe.

Related: 7 Ways To Create A Healthy and Balanced Work Environment

5. Strengthening communities

Many solidarity economy activities take place on a neighborhood or community level, encouraging families and individuals to become more self-reliant as they contribute to the greater good of their community as a whole. Activities like community gardens, swap meets, and skill-share groups help provide access to needed resources, particularly during periods of economic uncertainty.

For example, the Unity Gardens in South Bend, Indiana, supports a network of local community gardens that rely on volunteer work and donated supplies. The gardens don’t sell their produce; instead, they allow anyone to pick the food they need for free. The Unity Garden has further expanded its solidarity economy efforts with events such as free haircuts and meals.

These and other community garden efforts help promote healthy eating and physical activity while also improving community access to quality food, particularly during times of need.

Creating a better world

As these examples reveal, while there is much work to be done, the solidarity economy model can have a very real impact on bettering the lives of individuals across the globe. When businesses and other organizations consider how they can be a force for good (and not just a system for maximizing profits), they can help create a better world for everyone.

Don’t be afraid to look for opportunities to participate in the solidarity economy. Your efforts to lift your community will create a far more meaningful impact than focusing on your bottom line ever could.

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