Das Titelbild zum Bogbeitrag. Im Hintergrund sind die Mitarbeitenden des Konzeptwerks zu sehen, die nebeneinander auf einer Brücke stehen und eine gebastelte 10 durch ihre Reihe geben. Auf dem Bild ist der Text zu lesen: Ausblick auf's laufende Jahr Was steht im Konzeptwerk an?

Networking and exchange meeting No.2

Building bridges: Degrowth in post-communist European countries

When working on a socio-ecological transformation there is a lot to learn from different regions and cultures, specifically those that have undergone transformations in the past. This thought lies at the heart of the project „Partnership for Dialogue on Degrowth and Socio-Ecological Transformation“ run by partners from the Czech Republic – namely Re-set, NaZemi and the Department of Environmental Studies of Masaryk University – and Germany represented by the Konzeptwerk Neue Ökonomie. The project consists of several meetings, of which the second took part on June 24th-26th 2022 in Leipzig. It was attended by the project participants as well as activists from local movements, who took part in various workshops concerning the topics of degrowth and socio-ecological transformation. An office tour at Konzeptwerk Neue Ökonomie and planning of the upcoming conference on “Degrowth and socio-ecological transformation” completed the agenda.

After getting to know each other and introducing the participant’s groups and organisations we started with the first programme block focusing on a more practical approach of degrowth and had an inside look at the financial and organizational structure of Konzeptwerk Neue Ökonomie.

The Konzeptwerk has been working for a socially just and ecologically sustainable economy and society for 10 years. It focuses on the criticism of power structures and the economic system, as well as the development and dissemination of alternatives. The core of Konzeptwerk was and is a collective. This means that Konzeptwerk works with as little hierarchy as possible and decisions are made together. As a professionally functioning organization with external constraints and limited resources, this also has its limits – and yet it is a successful model for its members and is constantly being developed further.
For Konzeptwerk, taking their collective existence seriously means finding a workable mix of collective decision-making and division of labor, introducing clear procedures, having low salaries with small pay differentials and low (personal) financial security, striving for personel continuity and role rotations. Central to this is designing projects together, giving sufficient space to power-critical processes and distributing responsibilities.
During the second network meeting Konzeptwerk shared their internal strategies of money distribution with the participants. There are four main pillars: money talk, salary, contract and redistribution. There are regular check-ins on money and once a year the collective takes more time in order to discuss their need-based salary. Salaries are regardless of experience, qualification or work task. There is a base net salary, which is same for all collective members, which can be expanded according to personal needs in the range of financial possibilities. Therefore the contract itself remains a formal act as the collective members are basically employers and employees at the same time. Last but not least the Konzeptwerk is also working on redistributing financial assets and inheritances and supporting each other in difficult financial situations.
The organizational structure of Konzeptwerk relies on weekly team meetings, big plenaries for everyone once a month and meetings of specific working groups e.g. anti-oppression, finance etc. In order to keep key internal processes running and ensure as little hierarchy as possible there are coordination roles e.g. team coordination, full coordination etc. However decision-making takes place always in plenaries and the purpose of coordination is to facilitate this process.

The next big part of our weekend programme followed a more theoretical approach. In order to dive deeper into the topic of transformation processes in Central and Eastern Europe we discussed Lilian Pungas new book chapter “Degrowth enthusiasm and the transformation blues of the East” with the author. The book chapter asks the following questions: What can we learn from the transformation processes that state-socialist societies underwent towards capitalist societies? What experiences and practices before and after the upheavals can potential degrowth societies build upon? To what extent can we take up the alternative system – as well as transformation experiences of the people in the “East” in order to use their potential in and for a social-ecological transformation?

Our goal was to achieve a better understanding of the interconnections between a post-socialist transformation and the degrowth debates. Only then can we identify links to promote a socio-ecological transformation, that includes a profound and emancipatory social change.

In the former socialist countries, struggles for a socio-ecological transformation meet the transformation experiences of the older generations. These experiences can give insights as to whether and how, under what conditions and with what limits, processes of profound and emancipatory change are desirable and can be shaped.

The post-socialist transformation processes after 1989 in Central and Eastern Europe had a massive impact. De-industrialization was followed by a catastrophic economic decline, a sharp rise in unemployment and persistent processes of marginalization and exclusion. While post-socialist societies continued to be growth-dependent and became even more growth-oriented in the wake of the neoliberal turn, the social and political consequences of the transition years are still present today. Realising this, it is no wonder when people in the former socialist countries are not very enthusiastic about further attempts to transform society. However, the experiences and skills that people acquired before, during and after the periods of upheaval are relevant to the degrowth discourse in many ways. They provide valuable information about how transformations unfold and can be shaped in the first place. As a good example of that we had a closer look at the (semi)subsistence agriculture, which is widespread in Central and Eastern Europe, and discussed Lilian’s study on Datchas in Eastern Estonia as a particularly exciting example of how growing food in one’s own garden served people as a way to secure the supply of food as well as to increase its diversity and quality.

Motivated from the weekend meeting, we wish to keep networking and relate these experiences to current socio-ecological transformation efforts. In other words we need to create bridges in order to learn from each other, strengthen the movements and overcome the change fatigue. Inspired and empowered we enter the summer break and will meet next time at the conference on “Degrowth and Socio-ecological Transformation”, which will be held in Brno, Czech republic, September 8th-11th 2022.

Sponsored by the

Foto von Charlotte Hitzfelder

Visual components of the Erasmus+ programme

Foto von Charlotte Hitzfelder


Foto von Charlotte Hitzfelder

Foto von Charlotte Hitzfelder

Foto von Charlotte Hitzfelder

Foto von Charlotte Hitzfelder

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