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SF Bay Area Alternative Economy Forum

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  1. 1. Recent Submissions
Thank you to all 30+ of you who participated in the Saturday, October 11, 2008, exploratory discussion at CounterPULSE about the re-emergence of an Alternative Economy in the Bay Area and beyond. This easy to use website will help us stay connected and allow us to collaborate on projects, particularly in organizing smaller discussion groups on specific topics and organizing the Alternative Economy Festival.


The menu in the left margin ( ← yes, right there) is our attempt to organize the thoughts and ideas voiced at the 10/11 discussion. Click through these to explore.

You can access the documents available here and add your own comments, links and files by registering for a username and password.

If you want a refresher of what we are hoping to stimulate via this group, you can read the introduction to the event we had. A brief report from the 10/11 discussion is available in the “Notes From 10/11” link.

Recent Submissions


Notes from Alternative/Grassroots Economy meeting/ Dec. 13th 2008


General discussion about the next steps.

Specific tasks:

      Research venues for an upcoming fair/festival of the alternative/grassroots economy
      Investigate establishing a website as a resource for the development of the a/g econ.
      And search for these resources in the Bay Area (and beyond).
              Financial resources – eg. credit unions, loan funds
              Real Estate resources – eg. land trusts
              Back Office support – eg. Brass Tacks

Continue further contact with grassroots economic projects.

Develop a public presence. Suggested name -

      Just Alternative Sustainable Economy = JASE /= jazz economy? /= jazzie?



Fair/festival was well received at the Oct. discussion. Agreement that one day Fair on a Sat. Possible dates – last Sat of Sept. or first Sat of Oct.

Agreement that we should search for a venue that has a large room for tables and booths for projects to demonstrate what they do…have space to bring an artifact (s) of their project. That there at least one smaller room for discussion/workshop. Best to have a kitchen. Near public transport.

Berkeley Fellowship at Cedar/Bonita in Berkeley $50/hr for large hall small room $25/hr

Research Noe Valley Ministry (sf.) and Humanist Hall (oak.)

Program: Display area, space for a “farmers market” and space for discussion/presentations. Possible focus for presentations: Food Security issues, Alternative Economy, Coop 101 “How to start a coop.”

- - -

Besides staging the fair/festival we should continue to cultivate a better understanding of the a/g econ., with the goal of expanding it.

- - -

Establishing a website could facilitate both networking the a/g econ and publicizing it. Both aspects offer the possibility of expanding the economy. Specifically and practically what role can we take on.

1) coops have a track record of democratic management which can be shared

2) by making the a/g economy more visible as a whole we raise its public impact

3) possibly we can strengthen the a/g econ. by making it clear where there are “holes” in networks

- - -

NoBAWC has a non-profit arm used for fundraising which we can use to raise funds but we will have to do the fundraising ourselves.


Grassroots Economy and the current crisis of capitalism

It should be clear to all that we are beyond the precipice of a major economic collapse - we are sliding down the slippery slope.

For some of us who have spent a lifetime in opposition to the market society, and its various permutations and contortions over the years, this is not a time of joy. I personally take no satisfaction in seeing this system, as awful and as violent as it is, essentially collapse.

The horror of this collapse will hurt those who are most innocent of their fate. There can be no satisfaction at the prospect of the homeless population increasing; or poverty in the developing world expanding; or, for that matter, the military budget immune from severe cuts.

The economic system has collapsed and though we may rather not rush to its aid, the federal bailouts force our hand. We are in fact conscripted along with future generations, to do just that when vast public funds are dedicated, without democratic process, to propping up the economy

What to do?

Of course if we had a system to put in its place we could now take this opening to promote it and to pressure the oligarchy with mass mobilizations to put it in place. But this is not the 30’s.

We are all capitalists now. Don’t they still report the stock market stats on the news? (I can only hope that the Dow Jones Reports will be “downsized” as too depressing for the TV advertisers to tolerate.)

But is all lost? I am going to make a case for an approach to this “opening” that may seem a bit utopian but which I believe is not total fantasy.

Since this crisis began as a financial one, let’s note first the financial sector that remained immune from the debacle – the credit unions. Of course as the erosion of the economy continues, and unemployment increases, even the credit unions may face insolvency despite their very conservative lending practices. My only point is that a local, judicious and community-serving institution proved its worth. The values endorsed by these practices are exemplary. They are sustainable.

The grassroots economy, more to the point, while still embryonic, but developing all around us, can serve as more than a vision of a different economy. In its daily practices, it’s proven results, its dynamism we have something tangible to offer as an economic alternative. Nonetheless it can be too easily dismissed as a life-style choice. A fringe affair.

We need to “scale up.”

In some ways the “scaling up” has already begun. We can see this underway with the growth of alternatives to mass-market food choices. This movement spans the spectrum from the Slow Food aficionados to activists working on issues of food security, from organic produce in Whole Foods to the pirate patch in an empty lot. The Bay Area has a density of rural/urban agriculture projects that seem ripe for “scaling up.”

Major funding to grow this movement is necessary, it may not be the only need and it may not even be the prime one. From what little I know of this movement, for instance, there is only ad hoc networking. And there is almost no consistent outreach beyond one’s given constituency.

Nevertheless, to even get simple communications going, funding is necessary. Groups like the Northern California Community Loan Fund, The Santa Cruz Community Credit Union, Tides and similar economic development institutions actively service this sector. But again how knowledgeable are the funders of related projects? Are there duplications of projects? Are there synergies untapped?

Is this food movement large enough to support its own dedicated source of funds? The model of financing from loan funds based on individual deposits accruing low interest is a proven success. This is a model of a civic financial institution that benefits the community. But even here, this needs to be “scaled up.” What we need are public benefit funding agencies as public utilities. Based on a regional or city-wide area, to be close to its beneficiaries, such a publicly financed entity could spur economic development of a qualitative nature since it would be premised on community needs not capital accumulation.

As I said this may be utopian, but what’s the alternative?

Dec. 3 2008


"In 1997, President Bill Clinton vowed to start building "a bridge" to the 21st century. President Bush's White House, however, has moved backwards in time, operating on a 20th century model.

"Yesterday, the Center for American Progress Action Fund (CAPAF), with the New Democracy Project, released a new book called Change for America: A Progressive Blueprint for the 44th President. The book outlines new ideas for governing in the 21st century, updating the White House to reflect this century's priorities."

...a summary from that book below on a topic we should be aware of. -b.

SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP: At the start of his campaign, Obama pledged to create "a new Social Entrepreneur Agency to make sure that small non-profits have the same kind of support that we give small businesses." He has promised to expand programs like AmeriCorps and Peace Corps and to create a new Classroom Corps, Health Corps, Clean Energy Corps, and Veterans Corps. Michele Jolin, a CAP Senior Fellow and the former Chief of Staff of the Council of Economic Advisers, advises the 44th president to create a new White House Office of Social Entrepreneurship to spur "greater innovation, creativity, and success in the non-profit sector." The "non-profit sector can be a source of innovation and experimentation," a testing ground for new government solutions. Jolin warns against creating a bulky bureaucracy or picking specific "winners"; instead, the government should "invest in a range of solutions designed to meet national goals." "In short, the new president needs to focus on creating a policy environment that...fosters new entrepreneurship, improves nonprofits' access to growth capital, and removes outdates tax and regulatory barriers to innovation." The new White House office should create an annual multimillion dollar prize "for developing the most creative, sustainable, and high-impact solution to a defined social challenge," Jolin suggests.



It's a Tsunami

By Grace Lee Boggs

Michigan Citizen, Nov, 2-8, 2008

I have been searching for an image powerful enough to convey the historic significance of today's economic meltdown and replace the misleading "not since the Great Depression of the 1930" cliche. With the help of Scott Kurashige, I found it on "Clusterfuck Nation," the weekly blog of author and social critic James Howard Kunstler.

"We are witnessing the two stages of a tsunami," writes Kunstler. "The current disappearance of wealth in the form of debts repudiated, bets welshed on, contracts canceled, and Lehman Brothers-style sob stories played out is like the withdrawal of the sea. Read more.


For more material visit the Alt. Archive Page.

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Thanks for the great content Bernard. We need to stay on top of these changing times.
Posted 21:08, 14 Nov 2008
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