Monday, 15 August 2016

Fundraising campaign for STUDIO89''s Youth Led Community bistro

TorontotheBetter recently donated books to support Studio89's pioneering arts and culture bistro in Mississauga. See our directory listening for Studio89 at

Friday, 5 August 2016

Campaign for a Social Economy Commons - Here and Now, as the World Social Forum comes to Montreal,Canada.

The World Social Forum/[]/ForumSocial Mondial []  is now opening in Montreal with the slogan 
"Another world is needed, together it's possible"

The graphic below shows the the animating spirit behind the several previous social forums since the first in Brazil in 2001 -   
With the world more connected than ever before, the example of the Internet as a working global communications commons  and with the pursuit of narrow private interest more clearly counter productive than ever before, the time is more right than ever for economic systems based on partnership and collaboration. There are, of course, many such systems already in action, though largely "alternative" or subsidiary to mainstream economies governed by the the economic principle of rational self-interest.

The problem is that in the twenty first century self-interest is not so  rational. Contrary to a famous/infamous paper written by Garrett Hardin in 1968 it now appears to many that it is not the commons that is tragic but its "un-commons" counterpoint. Just as we cannot allow self-interest to ravage the environment we cannot allow economic inequalities to impoverish many for the benefit of a few. Things can't work that way any more. It is by collaborating and co-operating that the world has progressed to whatever degree of  peaceful coexistence we have been able to achivee, even if it took the lunacy of world wars to make the point to much of the world.      

The following may read as an argument for evolutionary change, but it's not. Few revolutionary changes of the kind the current economic system seems to require, especially after its latest breakdown in 2008, arise out of no pevous process; nor can they. Life, aka living things, don't work that way; what disruptive change arise from are multiple  processes that at some point converge in radical breakage. What we describe below is a key economic change process that is ncessary for the construction of  a genuinely social economy that serves all who live in it and by it. For the needed change to occur the private sector, still the largest economic sector in most developed mixed economies must change to practice sustainability, worker empowerment and community partnership (the values celebrated by TorontotheBetter since we started our directory in 2004), whether the agent of that change comes from within or without. And when it does it will do so not because it's right, or is forced to, but because to do so works better than the alternative.    
Historically, since the advent of the industrial age in the nineteenth century the reformist approach to remedy the destructive consequences of the market system has been largely through government regulation, such as occupational health and safety standards. That there are more revolutionary approaches, sometimes effective, but sometimes not, will be the subject of another post, as will the issue of Evolution becoming Revolution.

Though, after political struggle by workers and their unions, reform has achieved definite improvements in citizens’ lives, there is no guarantee of success and there is always resistance in the democratic process as regulations must be at least somewhat acceptable to the economic interests that will be regulated. Furthermore, most regulatory mechanisms in the liberal market democracies most common now in the developed world are reactive, not proactive; that is, harms are addressed only after they have been executed. 

And now after yet another mainstream economic collapse in 2008 more and more are looking for economic systems that avoid the recession/depression problems by which  market economies have been plagued throughout history. Such approaches are diverse and no one method has triumphed, the lesson of biodiversity can be a guide and a  general commitment to benefit for all our creed. We call this the social economy way.  

Since prevention is always better than cure arguably a better way of achieving benefits for citizens is to get organizations to do the right thing before they get habituated to bad ones.  this is where the still largely subsidiary and “alternative” social economy of organizations dedicated to social benefits through their economic activities is so important. They serve as a model for society as a whole by demonstrating that enterprises embodying, for example, workplace democracy, sustainable business practice and/or community collaboration. There are many examples of such enterprises, who, of course, differ in their emphases but make the general point that enterprise can coexist with social benefit. And it is to celebrate and promote such that TorontotheBetter was created. Our network of enterprises has grown from single digits in 2004 to several hundred now.

Our challenge now is to work to make what is commonly conceived as an “alternative” to standard business practice the norm. And since private enterprise is still the biggest sector in the economy it is here where the most benefits for workers and society can be achieved. This is why we have created the Alliance for Toronto’ Social Economy [ATSE].   It is free and open, and we invite membership and donations of any kind to the campaign. To join send an email to with ATSE in the subject line. A social economy means a better Toronto and a better Toronto is better for all. it is true tht a campaign by stealth to infuse private ownership with public goals is less satisfactory than comprehensive replacement the perfect should notbe the enemy of the good, which, as now, when the mainstream falters, will win more converts  on the road to the  primary goal: an economy that works for all, not just a few.