by Lee Van Ham
The paradox of our times is that global change is required but— because the top down, institutional system of meeting basic needs is no longer working — that change can only happen locally! —The Symbiotic Culture Lab
Six of us from the U.S. have just returned from a week in two locations in Mexico where we experienced first-hand the power of local economies at work. The contexts vary considerably in these two locations. San Cristobal, Chiapas, is more urban, attracts tourists, and is a center for Mayan culture. San Mateo, Puebla, is a much smaller town in an agricultural area. Both need a local economy that works for everyone because the global economy marginalizes thousands to the point of exclusion.
The OneEarth Jubilee Circles, working in their local contexts, are working with people to create a local economy from the bottom up. People told us about how they have found that together can be agents of change when they work together and create groups in solidarity for OneEarth structures. Their excitement is palpable as they testified to us of the changes in their own lives and taught us how they were doing it. Their capacities to innovate are boundless. Their social analysis of their reality liberates them from its clutches. Freed from victimhood, they are liberated to innovate what works. They show convincingly that as they come into their God-given human power together they can create the structures that work for them. Indeed, they could work for all. Quite conscious of what they are doing, they call it social economy, solidarity economy, or jubilee economy. Convincingly, they show that another world is not only possible but is underway.
We visited over a dozen projects where people with little economic or social status were in solidarity creating economic-social structures that serve them. Here are two examples.
Here is an example from San Cristobal, Chiapas.
- Calling themselves Women of the Earth, women (and some men) form groups that develop “savings boxes.” Participants have never had a bank account, nor do bank practices work for them. The amounts of savings ($2.75 every two weeks), small loans, interest, and repayment are too small for banks; nor are banks able to respond immediately when a small loan is needed … now! These groups never exceed 20 people. This assures that everyone knows one another—essential for community building and accountability. They make decisions together and build strong relationships of solidarity. They testify, “Saving is transforming for me.” Small loans get them over a tight spot and they repay with interest by the end of a cycle (6-12 months). There are currently three “savings boxes.”
Here is an example from San Mateo, Puebla.
- In the U.S. we know through experience that preschool, child tax credits, and parenting training make a huge difference. When funding drops, our children and parents suffer. In San Mateo such funding is not available at all. The OneEarth Jubilee Circle there offers bi-weekly parent-child experiences in their Dan Swanson Cultural Center. Those of us on the trip saw about 20 mothers with their preschoolers and heard story after story from mothers of the huge behavioral and learning differences they saw in their children from participating in this group. Plus, they vulnerably told of how, through the facilitation of Anna Maria, director of the program, they are addressing the issues in their own lives so that they can fulfill their desire to be healthy people and moms who are good for their children. This program for parents (dads come occasionally) would not be available to them otherwise. But at the Cultural Center such obstacles as lack of money, social status, personal self-image, or the experience of abuse melt in the solidarity between mothers and their children. Love rises like plants in a garden as they share from dark places of their lives.
These two examples of OneEarth Jubilee at work in Mexico Circles stir in me and bring changes in my life. When these two examples are combined with the many other activities successfully undertaken in San Cristobal and San Mateo Circles, they have a transforming cumulative effect. They show convincingly that another paradigm of living is now, not a future dream.
Photo by Kindel Media