COVID-19 is hitting specially hard in the Mediterranean región, and vulnerable communities are due suffer its socio-economic impact even harder – both in terms of social and health protection as well as in terms of lost income and employment.
Within this context, it is time now more than ever to introduce social innovation approaches that favour inclusive growth and collective participatory policies to provide better social services for the most vulnerable ones.
Through MedTOWN project we introduce a Social Solidarity Economy based model of co-production of public policies and social services with the use of local complementary currencies to multiply the impacts of public expenditures.
MedTOWN is a project designed towards the democratization and the improvement of public policy processes at the local level for the relief and the support of the most vulnerable groups in contemporary post-modern societies, where economic inequalities and social exclusion are rising hand in hand with environmental degradation in a global context dominated by power politics and economic competition. The global economic slowdown, due to the outbreak of COVID-19, is going to definitely take a toll on the population of the less developed countries, and the fears of increasing disparities and imbalances both “within” and “between” the local economies and communities are becoming more obvious and clear every day.
In addition, at political level COVID19 may favour totalitarian approaches as an effort to control the movement of people and the redistribution of wealth among the different segments of the economy. In the name of the “emergency situation” states have the power to take complete control and to perform or impose policies that are not normally permitted to undertake. In many cases, especially in the less developed countries, this can be used as a rationale for suspending rights and freedoms guaranteed under country’s constitution or basic law. Moreover and in contrary with the previous, COVID19 has unfold the resilience and the emergence of local community solidarity models in combating the negative effects of COVID19 outbreak.
It is within this framework that MedTOWN seems more relevant than ever, contributing to the modernisation of the public sector through the promotion of inclusive models of co-production of social policies in order to help the poorest and most vulnerable groups, with the support of SSE actors, and introducing the use of local social currencies as tools to promote the resilience of local communities and economies
On the other hand, local authorities and governments in the Mediterranean have witnessed a significant cut in their public spending, due to recent financial crises, which has further weakened their ability to effectively tackle societal changes and challenges, such as the one we are witnessing today: where production and economic activities- the sources of income and the drivers of economic growth – are being paralyzed.
Most worryingly, many NGOs and Social Solidarity Economy (SSE) actors, as well as many economists and social scientists, have emphasized that, now more than ever, we should act with more solidarity towards the most vulnerable people (the homeless, low-income families, people with disabilities, and other dependent population like children and elderly people, people with severe diseases, prisoners, etc.), who are more likely to become infected by COVID-19 and to suffer loss of income or health complications that could, in turn, exacerbate the rates of transmission and mortality for everyone.
Many countries have already taken actions to cope with this enormous challenge. Most of them are based on “cash” flow relief measures to tackle income loss and unemployment. However, there is a need to modernize existing schemes and add new ones. It is within this framework that MedTOWN seems more relevant than ever, contributing to the modernisation of the public sector through the promotion of inclusive models of co-production of social policies in order to help the poorest and most vulnerable groups, with the support of SSE actors, and introducing the use of local social currencies as tools to promote the resilience of local communities and economies. A new model of private-public partnerships that provides effective tools and utilises the capacities of the “users”, who participate in the design and delivery of social services and whose capacities are considered as assets, transforming public services into catalysts and facilitators of processes of individual and community empowerment rather than being unilateral providers of social services.
For that purpose, a team of SSE experts and researchers will work alongside policy makers and civil society organisations, to co-design co-production initiatives that will not limit the role of Social Services to the provision of “cash relief” but will strengthen their role in community organising and in the promotion of participatory public policies.
Reformulation due to COVID 19
Taking into consideration the negative socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 and the new challenges that public authorities will face, in terms of the provision of social protection policies, MedTOWN will re-formulate its 6 demonstrative actions and 10 pilot projects so that they contribute as much as possible to strengthen the resilience of the communities in which they will be implemented.
- In Spain, the demonstrative action will co-produce the delivery of first aid subsidies of the Municipality of Seville to the low-income population living in Amate district, that will be among the most affected by the loss of income and jobs. The aim is to produce socio-economic impacts with the use of a public Complementary Currency (CC) for the empowerment and sustainability of local economy. The model will be based on the successful pilot implementation of the CC Ossetana, led by Asamblea de Cooperación por la Paz in San Juan de Aznalfarache, a small town near Seville.
- In Portugal, the demonstrative action will help co-produce urban public space regeneration by encouraging active citizen participation in the development of the Campolide Agroforest as a means to promote the social inclusion of vulnerable groups living in low-income neighbourhoods, and to engage with local SSE actors. The Department of Social Services of the Local Authority of Campolide, has already re-formulated its policies in order to help the most vulnerable groups (elderly people and low income population) and a wide range of civil society organisations are providing voluntary help to support these policies and efforts.
- In Greece, the demonstrative action will co-produce with the Municipality of Paggaio and a SSE actor employment initiatives for young people with disabilities through school gardening, promoting healthy food and the Mediterranean diet. Another scenario could be to complement and improve the first aid subsidies programme for the most disadvantaged, through the use of a digitalised complementary currency as is the case in Seville. The main goal would be the social reintegration through basic aid and non-stigmatization.
- In Jordan, the demonstrative action will co-produce services for disabled people through a Social Business Incubator that will be hosted in the Ministry of Social Development and operated by the Jordanian Hashemite Fund for Human Development (JOHUD). In this co-production initiative, priority can be given to SSE start-ups that provide services and support to disabled people, women or refugees that are in need of basic social protection measures.
- In Palestine, the demonstrative action will co-produce a community waste management system based on a circular economy model using a CC, with the support of the Municipality Beni Zeid and the local agricultural cooperative. The local currency will work as an incentive to both encourage waste separation and as a mechanism to increase the economic capacity of vulnerable economic groups. The sorted waste will be processed, reused or recycled by local social and solidarity economy entities. This solution will strengthen the local economy by assuring a local cycle of money while also contributing to reduce the levels of pollution and reduce health hazards and requires minimal investment.
- In Tunisia, the demonstrative action will co-produce social housing for women survivors of gender violence in transition flats that belong to the Ministry of Women, Family and Childhood and will be operated by the Association of Tunisian Women for Research on Development (AFTURD). The aim of the action is to ensure that the women involved in the program will be actively engaged in improving their capacities, and collectively generate sufficient income to achieve their economic independence, and wellbeing. Ultimately, the program will, after the transition period, support the women involved in the program in finding their own habitational solutions consequently allowing for new women to join the co-housing facility.
An online platform and Community of Practice will be the main tools for developing synergies, sharing experience and knowledge and networking of the participating and interested actors. Our teams and partners will work from these tools until this crisis comes to an end and the world becomes safe for physical meetings and activities.