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Turkish fast food: Real food fast

The definition of ‘fast food’ according to the Wikipedia is food cooked in build and in advance, kept warm or re-heated to order....

Slow Fish a great success

Slow Food in collaboration with the region of Liguria, has just finished celebr4ating the event Slow Fish 2007. It was a great success with 42,000 visitors, a much higher number than expected. ...

National Sea Change Task Force urges more flood studies

ABC Wed Jul 11 07 The Mayor of Maroochy Shire on Queensland's Sunshine Coast, Joe Natoli, says it could be another 12 months before the CSIRO is able to undertake a flood modelling study in the Sunshine Coast region because the research body is under-funded. ...

Treechangers change country culture

An influx of treechangers into a rural community can keep population levels steady but it can change the needs and expectations within the community. ...

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What economic structures support the ethos of the slow movement

There are many local economic structures that support economically sustainable communities and fit within the principles of the slow movement.  Local economic structures such as community Credit Unions, LETS (local exchange trading scheme), CSA (community supported agriculture), Co-ops, Permaculture (which is more than a food production system), social firms, and community businesses, stop resources being siphoned out of the local community into the coffers of large companies that operate outside the community and often operate across state or national boundaries.

These local economic structures also offer the possibilities and practicalities of a more community-based and sustainable way of working. Work and ways of working can have a big impact on the environment in areas such as materials used, energy use, transportation, waste production and disposal, and pollution.  Work and ways of working also impact our relationships and connections to family and community.

Local community economies attempt to produce what they use, and use what they produce. The self-reliance that is generated from these activities empowers communities to take more control of their lives and environment. In working towards self-reliance community members gain a greater understanding of the local natural resources and begin to realise that the natural environment around them is indispensable to their quality of life - this leads to more sustainable use and management, as people become more directly responsible for the consequences of their actions. Negative environmental factors such as pollution, landfill, land clearing and erosion become more real to them.

Community banks or credit unions (CUs) are a step towards a community’s economic self reliance and a step away from the community’s dependence on governments and corporations. CUs are savings and loan schemes that are operated by the community members who use them, and these schemes offer affordable credit to their members. They usually offer loans to members at lower than bank interest, and encourage people to save regularly even if it is only a small amount. Community CUs invest money in community development projects and the majority of the investments are then returned to the community.

Local exchange trading scheme (LETS) are local community-based networks in which people exchange goods and services with minimal use of money. They provide a good means to connect to our community and to its economic development. The focus is taken off money and on to exchanging services – you do something for me and I’ll do something for you. It is in sync with the ethos of the slow movement.

Instead of money LETS use 'community credits'. People earn LETS credits by providing a service and they spend their credits on whatever is offered by other people in the scheme eg childcare, transport, food, trade services or home repairs. Where there has been a financial outlay to provide the service eg purchase of wood to make a box, the recipient pays for the wood, but not the service of making the box.

There are many difference between LETS schemes, and members trade a diverse range of products and services. Traditionally LETS systems have operated by distribution of a directory of services to members. Currently there are moves to distribute a directory of services to members through online bulletin boards and discussion groups.

CSA or community supported agriculture is another alternative that allows consumers to directly support people who grow their food. Through this system, consumers are guaranteed a steady supply of organic produce, while the supplier no longer has to struggle to compete with farms that are growing with chemicals. CSAs usually comprise one or two organic growers and members pay up front for a given period thus assuring the grower a buyer.  This ensures the producer has a reliable and sustained income.

Permaculture means permanent agriculture and more broadly permanent culture. Its aim is to bring human populations back into a sustainable relationship with their environment, and it offers a very clear vision of community self-reliance that is realistic and achievable. The principles of permaculture follow the principles of the slow movement – ethical food production and connection to all aspects of life.

Social firms are one type of social enterprise. Although social enterprise can be used as an umbrella term it is defined as a business that trades for a social purpose.  Some of the community economic structures highlighted here such as community credit unions, cooperatives and LETS schemes are a form of social enterprise. Sometimes social firms act as cooperatives.

A social firm is a business that has been set up specifically to improve the quality of life as well as the social and economic integration of disabled people through appropriate employment opportunities. The aims of social firms include empowerment of the individual. These businesses are committed to the social and economic integration of disabled people through employment by which individuals gain market wages.  This is a means to economic empowerment. 

Community business are owned and controlled by people in the community, and provide a facility or service that is of benefit to the community. Any profits are used to strengthen the business or provide further services to the community.

Co-operatives come in different forms depending on their aim eg housing co-ops, worker co-ops, marketing co-ops, and food co-ops. They all operate according to the following principles;

  • voluntary and open membership
  • democratic member control
  • member economic participation
  • autonomy and independence
  • education, training and information
  • cooperation among co-operators
  • concern for the community.