Community action: in Chile coops rebuild better together
The Covid-19 pandemic crisis has been an engine for people to support each other and resolve everyday issues through community action and cooperation: it is no coincidence that cooperatives in Chile are concentrated in the regions with the greatest poverty and social vulnerability.
Until not long ago, the Chilean economy was said to be one of the most stable in Latin America. But, as a result of the strong inflation in 2015 and 2016, the country has seen its image deteriorate.
Against this background, cooperatives have proven to be a resilient and effective economic alternative. Associative networks such as “La Minga” or “La Kanasta“, emerged with the aim of assembling and distributing food baskets from local retail producers, whose organization is based on community action, solidarity, and the circular economy.
Community action to counter the Covid-19 pandemic crisis
As in other countries in the world, the health crisis caused by Covid-19 has strongly affected the economic situation of families. According to a report published by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in November 2020, one in three people of working age are unemployed and more than 1 million workers are registered as “absent employed”, that is, with the suspension of their contracts.
The good news? The family economic crisis has undoubtedly made it possible to deepen community action and networks. According to figures from the Associativity and Cooperatives Division, during 2020 the number of cooperatives grew by 11.8% compared to the previous year.
New initiatives have proliferated, but also, associations that have been working for a long time have increased their impact radius. “La Kanasta” for example, before COVID it supplied 90 families from different communities of Santiago, and just one month after the start of the pandemic, it was expanded to 145 families!
Cooperative solutions to rebuild better together
Similar community actions initiatives have originated in the neighborhoods in the northern and southern sectors of the Chilean capital, such as Conchalí, La Pincoya and El Bosque, respectively. With the help of social workers, sociologists and personnel who work in public health centers, a social registry of all the neighbors has been carried out, and similarly they have created various types of solidarity baskets.
Each family that participates contributes between 10,000 to 30,000 pesos per month (between 10 and 30 euros). The value depends on the type and quantity of food in the basket, and also includes a surplus to distribute baskets to families who cannot pay that money, but support the organization process. Each partner has the option to contribute with hours of work either in the accounting, supply and/or distribution part.
As in any community network, the need to organize arises not only from a utilitarian nature. There are several more important issues at stake: trust, self-management, and cooperation on a small and large scale.
Proof of this, the Fondo Alquimia is a platform that includes self-management initiatives and community actions to make contributions and/or get directly involved with common neighborhood pots; feminist and trans organizations; campaigns, and collection community centers.
All over the world, cooperative organizations can be the change.
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