The ecological production project of the Green European Foundation (ECOPRO) centralises its focus on the development of sustainable green technologies in a post-growth society. The core idea integral to the project is that the deployment of such green technologies would produce and maintain a green and just societal equilibrium; one that is needed in contrast to the current model we employ of damaging capitalist growth that breeds only austerity, inequality and environmental degradation.
This short text will expose the key assumptions guiding the project "Socioecological Reindustrialisation: Striking the balance of local and global dynamics”. It invites partners and interested stakeholder to comment and deepen the exposed arguments. Multiple perspectives should contribute to mutual learning within the Green movement and beyond.
While providing valuable insights about the development of our economic system over time, Thomas Piketty’s work on capital suffers from a critical flaw: like so many economic frameworks, it ignores the limits of the finite resources of our planet – the fact that our ecological capital is rapidly running out. A new unit of measurement which takes this into account is urgently needed.
At first glance, sharing initiatives would appear to be important elements for building an economy based on solidarity and sustainability. Yet, these different models of sharing do not generate the same societal and financial return. Some of them, such as Uber, are forms of ‘sharewashing’. In fact, Uber’s business model, financed by Goldman Sachs, is at the polar opposite of sharing.
In Belgium voting is compulsory. Nevertheless, more and more people choose not to vote. This means that the voices of socially weaker groups tend to fade away, unless civil society organisations take conscious steps to put social themes at the top of the political agenda. This is exactly what was done during recent elections in Flanders.
This text was written as a discussion paper for the 2013 GEF, Oikos and Nous Horitzons project Urban Re-industrialisation: Ecology and green jobs.
As the world rapidly continues to urbanise, cities will have to play a progressively greater role in the move towards a low carbon economy. By working towards the creation of a closed circular economy and a slow economy cities could be well placed to lead the transition.
What and how we eat has a profound impact on our culture. However changes in recent decades have profoundly changed our relationship with food, and not for the better. What are the costs of these changes, and can they be reversed?
Oikos is an independent think tank that strives for social and ecological change by contributing to public debate from an ecological perspective. Oikos focuses on long term challenges that are discussed too little in the social debate, but which are crucial for the future of our society and coming generations. Our starting positions are the environmental limitations of the planet and worldwide solidarity.
Oikos wants to provide an inspiring framework for positive practices. We foster hands-on initiatives that demonstrate how working towards a sustainable society is possible. These are part of the ‘new social movement that is not yet aware of its own existence’, as German social psychologist Harald Welzer puts it.
In Oikos’ seminars, lectures, publications and opinion pieces, the different dimensions of this aspiration to change are deliberated: the underlying ethics, the analysis of the current situation and the development of alternatives, together with concrete strategies to get there. In round table discussions, seminars, reading groups and blog posts Oikos offers involved citizens and experts the chance to expand their knowledge, exchange ideas and to start a common learning process.
Oikos publishes Dutch translations of thought-provoking books such as Money and Sustainability - the Missing Link by Bernard Lietaer e.a., The End of Growth by Richard Heinberg, Prosperity without Growth by Tim Jackson or Selbst denken by Harald Welzer. Oikos also brings together scholars, writers and activists from all over the world like Juliet Schor, Michel Bauwens or Vandana Shiva for inspiring lectures.
Each year, Oikos develops an international project in collaboration with the Green European Foundation and other European green think tanks.
Below you can find an overview of past and upcoming projects:
2017: Reclaim the Commons #commonsuccess
This years’ transnational project on the commons focuses on the possibilities that emerge in the digital age for, firstly, citizens to organise themselves in innovative ways, such as through citizens’ online platforms or discussions around new digital rights; and, secondly, transforming the way citizens can influence and even co-create policy decisions that affect their lives. The project will be realised with the coordinating support of Oikos (Flanders, Belgium). Supporting partners are Etopia (Wallonia, Belgium), Fondation de l’Écologie Politique (France), Fundacja Strefa Zeleni (Poland) and the Cooperation and Development Network Eastern Europe. The commons are driven by citizens’ initiatives, including an increasing amount of digital opportunities as well as new technologies which have the power to transform democracy. The activities organised will aim to foster the understanding of how citizens build online communities to participate and how a political party can reinvent itself.
Active citizenship in the digital era: Greens as a vanguard
Greens can be at the forefront of integrating technology and the effects of the digital era in the political discourse and of embracing new technologies for innovating democracy. This holds especially true, since what is needed to successfully make the transition is already inherent to the values that are key to Greens: active citizenship, working together in solidarity, and a positive view on public debate and democracy.
Empowerment through digital commons
The aim of the project is to introduce the commons perspective into political debates on EU policies within the European institutions, as well as outside, in order to introduce citizens’ perspective into current policies. Furthermore, the objective is to make the Green family more familiar with the empowering forces of digital commons, to strengthen the links with groups engaged in digital activism on the national level, and to increase awareness on how digital commons can strengthen our democracy. To this end, several activities will be organised by our partner foundations to enhance the European debate while, at the same time, connecting it to the respective national debate.
Find out more about the event in Belgium:
- 26th May in Brussels: (W)E-Democracy Thinking Day
2017: ECOPRO #aftergrowth
With this project, we provide new perspectives on the future of production and consumption based on sustainability and fairness. Growing inequality and structural unemployment in the EU, along with the transgression of the planetary boundaries, show that the growth-based economy is no longer a feasible development path for the contemporary society. Therefore, we look here for alternative solutions as a part of the big move to go beyond growth.
2016: Reclaim the Commons
Reclaim the Commons represents a continued transnational project that revives the debate around the commons as a fundamental part of the Green political ideology.
Through this project, six national partners from Belgium, Poland, Croatia, France and Spain (Catalonia) explore the transformative power of the commons for strengthening the green project, whilst engaging with the Greens and a wider audience around this topic.
Last year, this project set out to achieve its aims by bringing out both theoretical and practical approaches to commons across Europe. The theoretical point of view enabled the establishment of a common language used to talk about different institutional, economic and political models shaped by the emergence of the commons projects and management systems across Europe. Furthermore, Reclaim the Commons took a practical look at the struggles around the commons and provided an analysis of the cases where commons have been a driving force for mobilisation, those cases where the commons are to be protected, and more importantly – the transformative potential of these struggles for relationships in society.
In 2016, Reclaim the Commons aspires to build upon the results of the previous year and it will highlight two themes that will be the focal point of the analysis:
> the relation between the commons and policy;
> the impact of commons as a governance model on the public services.
2016: Ecological Production in a Post-Growth Society (ECOPRO)
Sustainable Work for All in a Post-Growth Society is the central theme of the ECOPRO project for the year 2016. The current aim of this evolving project is to put forward the Greens narrative on the post-growth economy, with a special focus on the role of work within it. This project aspires to enable the further development of the Greens' front-running approach in the field of the work of the future (sustainable jobs), with a particular consideration of working beyond the job (as more than paid work). Moreover, the project seeks to stimulate the labour-perspective with feminist, care and gender divisions.
In the framework of this year's ECOPRO project, a series of Framing Papers is produced, outlining the focus on sustainable work in a post-growth society. The paper from Oikos (Belgium) is available for download in English and the paper written by Beate Littig for Grüne Werkstattschriften (Grüne Bildungswerkstatt, Austria) is available for download in English and German!
The participants of the project are eight national foundations from different regions and different Member States of the European Union — namely, Austria, Spain (Catalonia), Croatia, Finland, Belgium, United Kingdom, Hungary and Ireland.
2015: Finding a common(s) language
The 2015 project brought about both theoretical and practical approaches to Commons across Europe. The theoretical point of view enabled the establishment of a common language used to talk about different institutional, economic and political models shaped by the emergence of the commons projects and management systems across Europe. Furthermore, Reclaim the Commons took a practical look at the struggles around the commons and provided an analysis of the cases where commons have been a driving force for mobilisation, those cases where the commons are to be protected, and more importantly – the transformative potential of these struggles for today’s society.
2015: Ecological Production in a Post-Growth Society (ECOPRO)
Ecological Production in a Post-Growth Society (ECOPRO), the successor of the GEF’s 2014 project Socioecological Reindustrialisation (SERIND), explores pathways for a transition towards ecological production, as part of a sustainable economy that is low-carbon and fosters an equal society.
ECOPRO looks at ecological production in an embedded economy, which reinstates the primacy of society and politics in shaping social-ecological transformations. Taking into consideration the structural differences between various national contexts, the project aims to explore a multitude of solutions suitable for addressing specific ecological challenges and economic development trajectories. Nine national foundations from different regions and different member states of the European Union — namely, Austria, Spain (Catalonia), Croatia, Finland, Belgium (Flanders), United Kingdom, Greece, Hungary and Ireland — are involved in exploring 4 pathways for ecological production:
- Production 2.0: peer-to-peer production;
- Conversion of existing companies so as to contribute to a more regionalised circular economy;
- Product-service systems;
- Potential of sharing and commoning.
The project is content-wise coordinated by Dirk Holemans of the Flemish green think tank Oikos.
A framing paper explains their paths and serves as background for 9 Conferences taking place in the participating countries.
The article The politics of sufficiency: a new approach to ecological production by Dirk Holemans and Maya Maes highlights different pathways to ecological production.
Find the program of the Belgian ECOPRO seminar on 20/11/2015 in Brussels here.
2014: Socio-ecological reindustrialisation: Striking the Balance Between Local and Global Dynamics (SERIND)
How can bottom-up initiatives work together with existing industries towards socio-ecological reindustrialisation? What are the possibilities and what are the challenges on the road to such a sustainable economy? These questions will be discussed in a public event on December 12th, organised by Oikos, Flemish Green Think-Tank, with the support of Green European Foundation in the framework of SERIND. The seminar will be held in the Royal Academy of Belgium Salle Baudouin.
In order to sustain the transition of its economy, the EU needs industries that are frontrunners in low carbon, circular economy, collaborative consumption, green services and social justice. These eco-industries that manufacture in Europe and for the European market will form the foundation of a fundamental transformation of our work and ways of life. The project “Socio-ecological reindustrialisation: Striking the Balance Between Local and Global Dynamics” (SERIND) looks at the future of enterprises (social and commercial) and sustainable employment. It broadly discusses the fundamental transformation needed for EU’s industrial basis in order to sustain a general transformation of the economy towards sustainable practices.
The project is set up by the Flemish Think Tank Oikos and the Austrian Green Foundation GBW and is coordinated by the Green European Foundation GEF. It entails a series of events organised by 7 Green national green foundations (Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Ireland and Spain). The Brussels SERIND public event invites four inspiring speakers to engage with a broader audience on the topic of bottom-up initiatives and larger businesses engaging with one another.
- Martin Charter, Director of The Centre for Sustainable Design at University College for the Creative Arts (UCCA), UK. http://cfsd.org.uk/Innovation_for_Sustainability/18_19_jun08/Martin%20Charter.pdf
- Eva De Grootte, Coordinator of new models of cooperation and methods at Timelab, Ghent. Timelab is an experimental working place on the intersection of technology, art, and society in the city of Ghent.
- Bernard Mazijn, Managing Director of the non-for-profit organization Institute forSustainable Development (www.IDOvzw.be), and visiting professor SustainableDevelopment at Ghent University.
- Egbert Lox, Senior Vice-President of Government Affairs at Umicore, a global materials technology and recycling group. http://www.umicore.com
The SERIND-closing seminar: building blocks for eco-industries took place on 12 december 2014 in Brussels. Video footage is available on GEFs Bambuuser-channel. More information about the key assumptions guiding the SERIND project can be found in this text written by Dirk Holemans and Andreas Novy.
2013: Urban Re-industrialisation: Ecology and green jobs
The world is confronted with a systemic crisis that cannot be solved with the usual excessive consumption of resources. The necessary development of knowledge and technology exists to help radically change our consumption patterns. In this context, industrial transformation plays a key role. GEF with support of the Green foundations Oikos (Flanders) and Nous Horitzons (Catalonia) is organising an event in Barcelona to discuss the main challenges to this new paradigm, and to present some examples of how this transformation has been carried out successfully.
Economic innovation is more and more connected with creative cities and urban regions. In the current multiple crises that Europe is facing, economic revival could partly be found in a network of European cities that are gathering places of knowledge and innovation.
The event taking place in Barcelona is part of a project that GEF, Nous Horitzons and Oikos are working on together on the question of urban ecological re-industrialisation and on its impact on job creation. Within this project, Dirk Holemans, coordinator of Oikos think-tank, produced a discussion paper "Cities as eco-factories of the future", which addresses questions like What does ecological re-industrialisation mean in terms of job creation? Will the cost of living be reduced in these new organisational models? How will this transformation be financed? How can the government support this transformation? GEF organised in October an expert workshop in Brussels to discuss the findings of the paper and some of these conclusions will be presented also in Barcelona.
The conference Urban Re-industrialisation: Ecology and green jobs took place on 28 november 2013 in Barcelona. More information about the program can be found on the event flyer.