The Catalan Integral Cooperative: another alien economy on Earth?

I have recently come across an excellent report on Cooperativa Integral Catalana (Catalan Integral Cooperative , henceforth CIC). It is not a single organization, rather a set of interconnected cooperatives, working closely together.

I am not going to try to summarize the report here. Yet again, the model it outlines is so different from run-of-the-mill late-stage capitalism that it might as well be describing some alien planet in a work of SF. I just want to note what seem to be the highlights of their economic model:

  1. Very militant attitude. Its one-time charismatic leader, Enric Duran, came to the fore for tricking Spanish banks into lending him half a million euro which he promptly gave away to various anti-globalization activist projects, in a kind of Robin Hood gesture. In 2013 he had to go to ground in order to avoid prison. It does not seem, however, that this money was directly used to capitalize CIC.
  2. Legal orgs as infrastructure for people’s businesses and projects. CIC has spawned a series of companies that act as legal vehicles for about 600 people to issue invoices. This is, to the people in question, cheaper than setting themselves up as independent workers under the Spanish system. They do pay a fee to these companies.
  3. CIC itself has no legal status. Despite this, it is very much real: a set of committees, which meet weekly, run the show. Committee members are paid – they call their monies “basic income”. There are about 10 full-time jobs equivalent in running CIC.
  4. Decentralized by design: CIC is constantly spawning new cooperatives, that initially rely on CIC’s support to get by. The successful ones, like Calafou have become fully autonomous.
  5. Two currencies. CIC operates both in EUR and in ECO, Catalonia’s local currency. There is also a system of mutual credit, which is similar to PayCoupons, though not as sophisticated.
  6. Real estate excess capacity. Many of the central features in CIC’s economic landscape have developed around the availability of cheap buildings (AureaSocial, Som Pujarnol) or even entire villages (Calafou). Physical spaces appear to be like bioreactors for innovative social dynamics and bnusiness models.
  7. Focus on public/common goods. CIC puts a lot of effort in making things that then can serve as an enabling platform for whatever the people in it might want to do. They have companies as a legal shell for freelance work, two-sided markets for labor and products, a logistic system for food products, a cooperative for mutual and self-financing, a science and technology networks, and some real-estate based projects.
  8. Dyson sphere. The system of small businesses surrounding CIC attempts to “capture” all the revenue that might come from the outside of the system. For example, suppose I had a client asking me to organize a workshop on network science. As I do that, I am going to try to send some business the way of other people in the system. Perhaps my client needs a venue: does anyone in the CIC space have one? What about the catering service? Etc.

The list above is interesting, because we in the Sci-Fi Economics Lab have seen some of its items before. 4, 7 and 8 are also part of the model in Messina’s social district. Edgeryders itself also does 7, in a fashion limited to software and knowledge so far. We also do 2, though not nearly as successful as CIC.

I hope that, as we continue the exploration of alt-economies, a convergence will emerge. By this I mean a set of strategies that several initiatives have independently hit upon, and work reasonably well under a variety of circumstances. These might be some of the building blocks for the new economic systems we are longing for.

If you know any interesting initiative that attempts to build an alternative economic system, I would be grateful for pointers. :slight_smile:

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Have you looked into Native Americe indigenous economies?

This isn’t a specfic example per se, but I’ve been pointed to this video from policyed - the last section there also points to some members of Native communities who are working to renew indigenous economies (also: draft paper by curator Terry Anderson):

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Questions on this:

  1. Legal orgs as infrastructure for people’s businesses and projects. What is the difference with organizations like SmartCoop?
  2. CIC itself has no legal status. Who pays the committee members?
  3. CIC is constantly spawning new cooperatives, that initially rely on CIC’s support to get by. Can we know more about this? How does it happen? Is there a strategy, or is it more members of the collective that come up with an idea and ask CIC-core to help?
  4. Two currencies. Can we know more about this?
  5. Real estate excess capacity. This is not necessarily replicable. Is there anything specifically Catalan in that building s seem to be available there?
  6. Focus on public/common goods. This is my own conjecture, and would need to be validated.
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Hello, Alberto and family.
It’s been a pleasure to talk to you, and I admire the pacient Maria, witnessing but not intervinning for such a long time.
Which at least, has been short, thus I bring some notes here - of things that we missed:

  • You could see C.I.C as a reality of applied sciences and as a prospective or futurism applied (foresight applied) in panarchy or polyarchy parallel to the state, which at the same time ment an essay of an independent horizontal networked Catalonia. (And as I said it: It’s a paradise of happiness for everyone to discover and bring to your own reality and country.)
  • Also there’s already vital, vivid and alive platforms you can join and participate as:
    Freedomcoop (all EU) and Bank of the Commons (worldwide).
    https://fair-coin.org/en/join-freedom-coop
    https://bankofthecommons.coop/ca/
  • Here you can find a lot of our ancient angel godfathers:
    http://bardina.org/
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Thank you @Joel1, and welcome to Edgeryders!

I told you about the SF-Econ Lab’s webinar series… Would you be up to guest star in the next one? Maybe in late October or so? @nadia is leading the series, and will have more ideas about this.

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Hi Alberto.
Sure, with pleasure!

Missatge de Alberto Cottica via Edgeryders <contact@edgeryders.eu> del dia dt., 8 de set. 2020 a les 16:18:

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@Joel1, Thank you for the call the other day, was very interesting. I have been thinking about some of the things and would like to ask something:

You talked both about universal basic income and about social currency. Would social currency still exist with a sufficient UBI? Or would there be no more need to “count” the social currency as everyone is able to just gift it freely due to their basic needs being covered?

I am not an economist as to be able to answer this 100% sure.
But for resilience, I would recommend always economic and money diversification.
Not only fiat and social currency, but also exchange and gift economies, individual and collective.
For a world transition, I guess, first we would need a change in world’s monetary system. And then provide the UBI worldwide. At the level of the country that gives the highest, i.e. Switzerland, about 3000€ per adult.
Same time: Promote networked societies, for resilience and ecology.
Vegetable garden at home, production and exchange points, once a week at very local level. There could be good, as banks of time, to use a money without interests.
At higher levels and collectively we could use ethical cryptos as FairCoin.
And even in higher levels, as city, large districts, big communities, BitCoin and fiat. For big enterprenourships as urban building, land buying…

But at large scale of time, some could substitute the others.

If we get the UBI, perhaps the fiat currrency (changed in it’s morphology or not) perhaps will prevale.

With time. And with or without some other changes in fiat money and or in social currencies, could bring the extinction of money. Towards unmonetized societies.

Also the UBI could be based in “social currency”

Or that change in morphology of the world’s monetary system, could imply getting close to what social currency is.

All options are plausible lines, and optionally they could meet and live together one with the other.

  • Hope I understood well your question. I tried to explain all open options I can foresee.
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Also thanks for your welcome, Alberto and team :slight_smile:

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@LauraRoddy