Working Group 5: A Global Confluence of Alternatives to Development

Ashish Kothari (
Aili Pyhälä, University of Helsinki (

Aims, focus and content of the working group: Across the world, movements of resistance against the dominant, ecologically destructive, and socially inequitable model of ‘development’ are arising. Many are questioning the current development paradigm imposed by capitalist, statist, and patriarchal forces, and searching for radical and/or systemic alternatives. Such alternatives range from initiatives in specific sectors such as sustainable and holistic agriculture, community-led water/energy/food sovereignty, solidarity and sharing economy, alternative measures of wellbeing, worker take-over of production facilities, resource/cultural/knowledge commons, and inter-ethnic peace and harmony, to more holistic or rounded transformations.

It is important to understand these processes of transformation, their multiple dimensions, their internal dynamics (including contradictions), their enabling and driving factors, and other aspects. There is a great deal that such initiatives can learn from each other, if not the specifics of how transformation was brought about then at least the lessons, values, and principles emerging from them. Even more important, there is a need for networking and critical solidarity amongst actors involved in such initiatives, to create a greater critical mass for macro-economic and political change. This working group calls for contributions by the way of actual examples of fundamental, systemic, radical transformation, not succumbing to the superficial, often ‘false’ solutions that are emerging in the form of predominantly market measures, technofixes and so on. Contributions on any initiatives – at regional, national, or local scale – demonstrating radical/transformative/systemic change at the social, psychological, political and/or institutional levels are welcome. Our aim is to create a space for mutual sharing of alternative initiatives along the full range of human endeavour, to learn from each other, strengthen meaningful hope and inspiration, and build collaborations amongst people and movements.

Contributions can be – but do not need to be -from any of the following domains: Food / renewable energy / water /land sovereignty; Autonomy / self-determination/ inter-legality (including of indigenous peoples); Indigenous & community well-being / life plans; self-rule/ radical democracy; Degrowth / decolonization / alter-globalisation; Social / solidarity /gift / cooperative economies; Commons/ Community /complementary currencies; Peace / demilitarization; Worker / production democracy; Feminist / gender / sexuality; Social justice / equity; Climate and environmental justice; Ecosocialist; Radical and socially engaged spirituality; indigenous cosmology; Alternative media and arts / arts for social transformation; Rights of nature; Transition towns / permaculture/ ecovillages.

Key questions to be addressed:

  • How can we best strategize for advocacy and actions towards changing the macro-situation to enable the spread and deepening of alternative initiatives?
  • How can we enable conditions for fundamental, systemic transformation?
  • What do we collectively envision of alternative futures?
  • How can initiatives (and confluences of these) relate to existing global processes, adding to them rather than competing?
  • How can we strengthen our relationships (to each other and to all that we consume) so as to be more conscious, meaningful, respectful, and equitable?

Possibility for joint publication/special issue or other forms of dissemination will be considered depending on paper proposals and suggestions of such received.


1. The pluriverse as the path towards systemic change: Exploring synergies between systemic alternatives to neoliberalism from the ‘Global South’ and the ‘Global North’. Author(s): Marta Musić; ICTA – Autonomous University of Barcelona.

Abstract: We are currently experiencing an unprecedented systemic crisis generated by a global societal project based on capitalism, development, modernity, anthropocentrism, patriarchy, racism and caste-ism. Against the backdrop of this civilizational crisis, the past two decades witnessed the emergence and consolidation of a plethora of local, radical, emancipatory narratives and practices in both the ‘Global South’ and the ‘Global North’. Some of the most notable ones include degrowth, the commons, buen vivir, radical feminisms, eco-swaraj, the social and solidarity economy, environmental justice and Ubuntu, amongst many others. However, too little efforts have been directed towards building bridges between these alternatives and fostering alliances between the agents driving them. Aligned with the Zapatista concept of the pluriverse – i.e. a world in which many worlds fit – this research project seeks to: 1) develop an extensive, holistic framework of radical inter-related systemic alternatives; 2) examine to what extent these alliances are already being fostered and; 3) explore how synergies between alternatives can be further developed in theory and practice. This study is grounded on a critique of current hegemonic, eurocentric knowledge structures suppressing the epistemologies and ontologies of the ‘Global South’. By combining an ‘Epistemologies of the South’ framework with decolonial political ecology, it seeks to provide more space and visibility for silenced alternatives from the ‘Global South’ and build bridges with alternatives from the ‘Global North’ through open, intercultural, mutually-enriching dialogues. After exploring the points of tension and complementarity between these alternatives, the paper will analyse some initiatives that are fostering these cross-cultural political articulations such as Peoples’ Summits against the G20, the WTO and the G7, the World Social Forum and the Global Tapestry of Alternatives, amongst others. The concluding remarks of the paper will focus on the necessity to continue challenging (neo-)colonialism within all academic and militant spaces and will provide suggestions on how to continue fostering constellations of knowledges and practices strong enough to provide credible alternatives to global capitalism.

2. Open Source Seed Initiatives and Alternatives in Agriculture Author(s): Krishna Ravi Srinivas PhD.

Abstract: While the open source seeds was proposed as an alternative approach in 2002, only recently it has been translated into practice, in at least two countries, i.e. Germany and USA and few more are in different stages. The idea behind open source seeds (OSS) is to make seeds available in open source mode and share the innovations so that seed is not enclosed through intellectual property rights, nor farmers and breeders lose their rights or get a very limited right over seeds. The OSS idea is now implemented in Germany by Agrecol and in USA by Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI). The former has used a contract based licensing model while the latter has used a simple voluntary undertaking model. Although they are in the initial stages they have implications for alternatives in agriculture. In this paper I describe the OSS as an idea and as an evolving option and examine how it differs from the dominant approach to seeds, intellectual property rights over seeds and innovation. I point out that the idea of open source is not a technical option but also an alternative mode for creating, sharing and sustaining a novel innovative process. Instead of understanding OSS and the current initiatives, I place this in a larger context of alternatives in agriculture. If we conceptualize alternatives in agriculture as a broad collection of opportunities and initiatives in agriculture that aim at sustainable agriculture, then OSS can contribute to that as it creates an opportunity for innovation and sharing and this need not be dependent on the dominant model. On the other hand, OSS opens up avenues for collaboration with/in organic agriculture and enhancing role of public sector in agriculture. This has implications for agriculture and agrobiodiversity. OSS model can draw upon traditional knowledge and resources and help indigenous communities. In this paper I outline how OSS can contribute to sustainable agriculture in theory and practice.

3. Inter-species relations and wellbeing in biocultural communities in Central India Author(s): Uotinen Joonas, Loivaranta Tikli & Seal Arunopol.

In the studied indigenous (Adivasi) communities and community forests in Central India, relations between humans and non-humans seem to gravitate around the realization of interdependence; and the unfolding relations of affection and care, where each human and non-human community members’ needs and wellbeing are considered. According to the respondents, the surrounding forest is a community of beings, including the soil, waterbodies, animals, plants, the adivasis, and gods. Thus, instead of relations among people with respect to the forest and resources, we discuss inter-species relations and happiness among this whole more-than-human community, including the forest itself, with respect to its constituents. According to the respondents, happiness of this extended community is inseparable from individual happiness. Contribution to others’ happiness is a source of happiness; but more importantly, the happiness of others is a condition of one’s own happiness. One’s happiness is entangled with others’ happiness, and this entanglement and connection is itself a desirable aim, vital for, and a condition of happiness. In the state of entanglement of oneself with others, one takes action for the sake of other (human and nonhuman) beings from an internal disposition of care and love for those beings; because their happiness is part of one’s happiness. Happiness entails the wellbeing of the vital materiality within the forest, and is linked to – but not limited to – fulfilling each human and non-human community members’ needs for survival. Furthermore, based on our findings, we discuss the prospects for biocultural initiatives, which recognize the entanglement of people and the environment, and promote a holistic system of social and ecological wellbeing. Recognizing the local inter-species ethics as biocultural heritages would ideally strengthen the position of indigenous communities in local governance, promote indigenous biodiversity conservation, and act as a communicative bridge between customary and statutory laws on various scales, including international conventions such as CBD and UNDRIP. Furthermore, published biocultural documentation could provide vital inspiration to anyone who seeks to strengthen respectful relationships with the morethan-human world.

4. Transformative change achieved? Two decades of civil society cooperation with the Wixáritari living at the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain in Western Mexico. Author(s): Outi Hakkarainen, CRASH – Coalition for Research and Action for Social Justice and Human Dignity.

In this presentation results and relevance of development cooperation projects will be analysed, carried out in 1997-2017 by the AJAGI (Asociación Jalisciense de Apoyo a los Grupos Indígenas) with its two Finnish partners to support the Wixárika (known also as Huichols) indigenous communities to be able to live according to their understanding of development. AJAGI was formed in 1990 by people who had worked in the Wixárika communities on issues such as health, nutrition and education. They learned that the root cause of problems was lack of control over the legally possessed land and formed an organisation to be able to sue, in cooperation with the communities, the invaders. AJAGI has worked also on the inter-cultural education and ecologically sound subsistence, as asked for by the communities. AJAGI’s Finnish partners have been the Coalition for Environment and Development (CED) and the Student Union of University of Turku (TYY), funds were received from the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The connection was made in 1995 when I learned to know AJAGI during my fieldwork in Guadalajara, in the practical cooperation my role has varied from background friend to adviser and project coordinator, according to partners’ needs. I’ll answer in my presentation, for example, to following questions on basis of this two-decade long experience. What kinds of changes could be called transformative in case of Wixárika indigenous communities? What kinds of internal and external obstacles these communities and their partners have faced in trying to achieve the changes? Is a civil-society led development cooperation project a relevant instrument to support indigenous communities’ autonomous way of life? What kind of outside support would best serve them? I’ll use examples from the overall cooperation but will give special attention to two latest projects carried out by AJAGI and TYY in 2010-2017 in Tuapurie – Santa Catarina Cuexcomatitlán. It is one of three main Wixárika communities and has most actively defended its autonomous position and frequently challenged actors from outside society willing to influence its development. In 2008 Tuapurie made a development strategy focusing on sustainable use of natural resources and culturally respectful high-school education.

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