The SOLIDARan project

The SOLIDARan project is conceived as a whole, which through several different and mutually linked research segments encompasses the complex, heterogeneous and dynamic phenomenon of the solidarity economy in Croatia in its different aspects. Apart from research, an extremely important part is the applied, i.e. the advocacy segment, which aims to contribute to the strengthening and further development of the solidarity economy in Croatia, thus aligning the project with the principles of engaged science.

The central segment of the project consists of research of different forms of solidarity economy practices in the contemporary context of Croatia as a postsocialist country, based on ethnographic fieldwork with specific solidarity economy actors and other members of their communities (in the form of selected case studies). An emic perspective – the perspective of the actors themselves – will thus be added to the existing corpus of knowledge, providing theoretical insight into the conceptualisation of the solidarity economy “from below” and, potentially, allowing a clearer demarcation from the social economy. An analysis of the actors’ motivation will contribute to anthropological and sociological theorisation of solidarity (Durkheim 1964 [1893], Simonič 2019) and reciprocity (Mauss 1954 [1923./24.]), while their personal experience will facilitate a critical review of processuality and distinct intra- and inter-group dynamics. The grouping of individuals around solidarity economy practices will indicate ways in which new communities of belonging are created, perceived as communities of practice (Lave & Wenger 1991), thus contributing to theoretical reflection on a key anthropological concept. The changes in social norms and systems that the actors aim for will be encompassed by the concept of utopia of reconstruction (Mumford 1922), which means that they need not necessarily be considered unattainable (or a utopia in the lay sense), but should rather be seen as a matter of long-term processes whose results and meanings will be more clearly perceived from a long-term perspective. 

This segment of the project will focus on the following research questions:

  1. How do solidarity economy actors (but also other members of the community) experience, conceptualise and, through their activity and mutual relations, create solidarity, reciprocity and other values important for the solidarity economy (sustainability, social justice, equality…)?
  2. Which processes are at play in the (re)shaping of communities of practice and of new ways of imagining communities in the solidarity economy?
  3. In actors’ motivation for participating in solidarity economy practices, what role is played by seeing these practices as part of the process of building an alternative to the capitalist economy and in this sense as a utopia of reconstruction?

The diachronic aspect of the solidarity economy will be covered by archival research of solidary practices in Croatia during the past century, with the aim of uncovering (dis)continuities in different aspects of these practices throughout a period marked by multiple political, economic and social changes that the country went through. This segment of the research will also enable a historical contextualisation of the contemporary case studies, opening up the question of their links with or detachment from traditions of solidary practices.

With regard to the advocacy goal of the project, it is important to also include in the research that part of the population which is not actively involved in the solidarity economy, in order to determine its potential for expansion, as well as the potential obstacles in its way. Apart from including other community members in the ethnographic research, an online survey of the general population will also be conducted, focusing on familiarity with and attitudes toward the solidarity economy, ways of conceptualising and practicing solidarity and openness with regard to lifestyle changes. The results of the survey (as well as the data gathered in the other research segments) will be used to produce a map of the solidarity economy in Croatia, which, apart from informational and promotional purposes, will be the basis for further research on the geographical, i.e. spatial aspects of the solidarity economy. The role of the news media (online newspapers), as a potentially important platform for familiarising the public with the concept of the solidarity economy and with its actors, will be the subject of a comparative discursive analysis of different types of media sources in the period from 2007 (just before the economic crisis) until 2019.

The key advocacy segment of the project is the elaboration of a model (guidelines) for the implementation of elements of the solidarity economy into public policy. An important element is thus the analysis of existing public policy in Croatia, i.e. ofparticular legal documents which affect the success and implementation of concrete solidarity-based initiatives into public policy (such as ethical financing, co-operatives, short supply chains). On the basis of results of all of the research segments, a workshop will be devised (the Quadruple Helix Model, which includes representatives of political institutions, the academic community, the economic and the civil sector, using the World Café methodof solving issues by rotating participants in the interaction). This will help the researchers draw up a model for the implementation of particular elements of the solidarity economy in public policies, which will be presented at a round table discussion for additional evaluation by stakeholders. The project’s advocacy aspect will be further emphasised through the organisation of public fora presenting the research results in the communities where the research was carried out.

Dissemination of the project results will also include the publication of research papers, presentations at international conferences, as well as the organisation of a conference by the project team, and an electronic publication presenting the most significant research results.