1. Who they are

The Solidarity Economy Network in Hungary was established in March 2018 by seven cooperatives working on different fields, like housing, agricultural production, education and in the service sector. The goal of the network was to create cooperation of organizations in which everyday politics of self-management, sustainability, democratic decision making can be practised. In these political and economic institutions gender, class, ethnicity, race or sexual orientation, among others, cannot become decisive in participation. In this way, one can engage with politics and can transform relations of production in real-time. Such material stability based on an alternative economic sphere is the basis of any successful and sustainable social movement: since then the number of members grew to twenty-two and most of the existing member organization could report growth in terms of size and impact.

2. What they did

The first plenary was about mapping the possible legal and institutional framework for the cooperation of cooperatives in Hungary (which happened in the form of a plenary meeting with members), and the second aiming to establish tighter cooperation with trade unions. Based on these meetings they (1) managed to identify main topical foci in line with which we are going to organize our work and cooperation with existing and new member organizations and (2) planned the future activities of the organization.

Plenary meeting with member organizations about the institutional framework for cooperation. Seventeen organizations participated on the plenary (from organizations engaged with research or green politics, to service cooperatives and community places, and cooperatives engaged with social reproduction, childcare and education, or a community ran news site). The organized the next year planning and envisioned how their – until then – an informal network of solidarity economy could be formalized and stabilized. As a result, the network supported the establishment of a cooperative development agency and settled on basic rules and values of the network.

Workshop 1: Union-coop collaboration

This meeting – organized with trade unions – identified two main directions of the possible extension of the solidarity economy network and ways unions can profit from such a network: childcare and housing. As a result of these inputs, two pilot projects were outlined to develop local institutions of childcare ran by unions and housing solutions within the trade union for their members based on the broad approach of housing cooperatives. These pilot projects will be launched in 2020.

Workshop2: Sustainable agriculture and cooperativism

Based on the plenary meeting a workshop was organized to map the possibilities of establishing rural cooperative centres. Their goal is to establish a cooperative centre in the countryside which helps in storing and transferring goods, managing common tools for production and buying seeds and other necessary products for the reproduction of production

3. Why is this relevant for the FundAction community?

Based on the workshops organized with the support of the Rethink grant between March and September 2019, that acted as key stepping-stones, The Solidarity Economy Network was able to solidify their activities and make new contacts to enlarge the solidarity economy network they are building.