activist notes


4 Equinomics

Equinomics’s visioning meeting was held May 16-17th at the University of Ottawa. Agenda of the meeting. Notes from the meeting.

Equinomics is a new organization for building solidarity and facilitating communication between groups advocating alternatives for a more just and sustainable economic order.

Catalysts: Patrick Clark patrickclark[AT]trentu.ca, Ian Hussey ihussey[AT]yorku.ca, Amanda Wilson amanda.divito.wilson[AT]gmail.com

The Idea: Movements for trade justice usually work within institutionally defined boundaries, such as: Fair Trade, labour, cooperative, and local. Too often these “movements” work in isolation from one another. Equinomics seeks to act as a medium between “movements,” and unite various people and groups around the idea of a larger solidarity economy.

Purpose: Build a network which unites existing efforts to develop concrete alternatives for a more just and sustinable economic order.

For instance, we’d like to see every union in Canada supporting fair, local, cooperative, and otherwise sustainable businesses whenever possible, and building linkages with First Peoples. And, we’d like to see every Fair Trade, locally- and cooperatively-owned and operated, and otherwise “ethical” business supporting unions whenever possible. We realize this seems like a massive undertaking, but it is our vision, not where we will begin.

Short-term Objectives

– Work with existing Fair Trade and anti-sweatshop student networks to build a united movement and single organization.

– Use Activist Notes (activistnotes.wordpress.com), as a forum to build the Equinomics network and foster grassroots participation.

– Organize a founding meeting for Equinomics, October 10 – 12th, 2008 in Toronto to develop our structure, campaigns and finances.

Long-Term Objectives

– Organize an annual Activist School to build and foster links between student groups and community groups.

– Contribute to and develop discourses critical of systems of oppression, particularly economic oppression, which will serve to ground our organizing and movement building and ensure a continual process of learning and growth.

– Develop a comparative report card on ethical procurement and worker rights (one for post-secondary schools and another for municipal government, for instance).

– Strive to connect students with workers on their campus around worker rights and support the struggles of workers both locally and internationally to improve their conditions and establish alternatives to capitalist structures of work.

– Support efforts for local food on campus through nationally coordinated campaigns and alternative policy development, such as: communal gardens, cooperative campus cafes, farmers’ markets, buying clubs, student-farmer solidarity initiatives, and local food policies. In addition, we will support localized campaigns and initiatives to meet these goals.

History

The following is a brief history of two organizations in which the catalysts of Equinomics – Patrick Clark, Ian Hussey and Amanda Wilson – have been heavily involved. These organizations have in many ways laid the groundwork for the organizing and movement building that Equinomics seeks to do. This will give you a bit of an idea of where we are coming from as organizers, but we don’t feel this information expresses what we’ve learned over the last four years of organizing. Our hope is that the histories and strengths of these two organizations can be incorporated into Equinomics to build a united movement of solidarity for economic change. We think a broad-based movement for trade justice is needed, and we want to work with you to build an organization that will achieve that.

Canadian Student Fair Trade Network

– Built a national network of over 750 campus groups, NGOs, cooperatives, businesses, community groups, unions, and engaged citizens.

– February 1 – 3, 2008 at Trent University, we organized an Activist School where over 80 participants engaged each other and various issues of trade justice. This inaugural Activist School will serve as the basis for future Equinomics training and community building events. (See Activist School Report below for further details).

– Organized two international convergences. The 2006 York University convergence had 150 participants from 9 countries. The 2007 University of Saskatchewan convergence had 60 participants from 4 countries.

– In February 2005, with various partners, we coordinated a Canada-wide speaker tour featuring two indigenous women from Chiapas, Mexico, to raise awareness for women’s education and empowerment.

– Organized two Canada-wide Fair Trade Halloween campaigns with La Siembra Co-operative (2005 and 2006). World University Services of Canada (WUSC) and Engineers Without Borders ran similar campaigns for Halloween 2007.

– In August 2007, we coordinated the writing and editing processes of an Ethical Purchasing Policy Campaign Action Guide, collaboratively written by student activists based across Canada.

– Only international participants in the 2007 strategic planning process of Hooked, Students for Trade Justice Australia.

– Facilitated workshops with WUSC, Oxfam Canada, among other organizations, on advocating the adoption of Fair Trade purchasing policies by academic institutions.

United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) Canada

– Canadian student anti-sweatshop organizing long predates the development of USAS Canada.

– The first student anti-sweatshop campaign in Canada was started in November 1998 by the University of Toronto Students Against Sweatshops group.

– In 1999, Students Against Sweatshop-Canada was formed. It folded after several years.

– In 2005, there was renewed energy to create a national coalition of student No Sweat groups across Canada, entitled Students Ethical Trading Network. However, it was never able to really get off the ground.

– In the spring of 2006, a Canadian version of USAS was formed. The aim was to build on the structure and campaigns of USAS in the US in order to develop a student No Sweat network and movement in Canada.

– USAS hired two Canadian Regional Organizers, and in October 2006, USAS Canada held its first conference in Kingston ON. A second conference was organized at McMaster University in the fall of 2007.

– Campaigns of local groups have focused on No Sweat apparel, the Designated Supplier Program and the Killer Coke campaign.

– USAS Canada currently has a national organizer and regional organizers in Ontario and Quebec, and is reaching out to new schools interested in developing ethical purchasing campaigns, worker solidarity, and stronger relations with labour and community groups.

February 2008 Activist School Report

The Activist School of the CSFTN provided a great forum for fair trade practitioners, activists, and academics to meet and discuss fair trade – from practice to theory and back again. The lively dialogue that emerged pointed to key challenges facing fair trade today, and opened doors to new ideas and debates on how to deal with them.

~ Dr. Gavin Fridell, author of Fair Trade Coffee: The Prospects and Pitfalls of Market Driven Social Justice, & Professor, Politics Department, Trent University.

Abstract: The Activist School brought together students from different post-secondary institutions who work locally to shift their schools towards ethical purchasing policies and practices. Throughout the weekend students were able to share their experiences and strategize on how to strengthen their local campaigns as well as networks between schools and organizations. The conference united students working at the grassroots on multiple issues of ethical purchasing with various group affiliations. The purpose of the weekend was to strengthen the capacities of student organizers and to develop a broader understanding of ethical purchasing, encompassing Fair Trade, No Sweat and local food, amongst other issues. The Activist School was a significant step in the ongoing process to build a network and a movement advocating for ethical purchasing on campuses across Canada.


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