Solidarity Not Charity - Grantmaking in the Solidarity Economy


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Solidarity Economy & Culture

Here are a few examples of arts and culture groups and initiatives in the Solidarity Economy. As shown throughout the report, all networks and infrastructure in the Solidarity Economy—regardless of their emphasis on arts and culture—will support artists and culture-bearers.

Land and Housing

Community Land Trusts: Community Arts Stabilization Trust, Oakland CLT, Cooper Square Community Land Trust

Cooperative Housing: East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative*, Greene Street Artists, Emeryville Artists Co-op

Housing Cooperatives: Divine House, Art Cooperative

Cooperative Co-working Space: The Artist Co-op, Soft Surplus, Prime Produce

Cooperative Venue: Tianguis de la Raza, U Street Music Hall (closed), Network of Ensemble Theaters, ( = majority BIPOC membership)

Cooperative Store / Gallery: Dutch Alley Artists Co-op, A.I.R Gallery, Ujamaa Collective, ARTZ (Ancestral Rich Treasures of Zuni) Cooperative, Qualla Arts & Crafts,* Art Center Cooperative, Aarhus Makers, Ulična galerija (* = majority BIPOC membership)

Cooperative Studios: Talking Dolls, Adaept

Cooperative Recording Spaces: Live Musicians Co-op

Cooperative Darkrooms: Lone Star Darkroom, Bushwick Community Darkroom

Cohousing and Intentional Communities: Convent Arts Community, MilePost 5

Cooperative Co-working, Retreat, Residency, or #Landback Network: ZEAL, Activation Residency, Flux Factory, The Weavers Project, Soul Fire Farm, Yo Mama’s House, [Black [Space] Residency](, Land Relationships Super Collective* (* = majority BIPOC membership)

Work and Labor

Worker Cooperatives: ➔ News and Media: Cafeteria Radio, Means TV,   Media Reparations, Associated Press, Devil Strip, Discourse Blog  ➔ Architectural Design and Construction: Earth-Bound Building, Oxbow Design Build  ➔ Craft: Adams & Chittenden Scientific Glass, and so many more, including over 300 craft cooperatives. ➔ Fashion: Custom Collaborative,* Friends of Light  ➔ Printmaking: Cards by Dé, Story 2 Designs, JustSeeds, Radix Media  ➔ Graphic Design: Story2Designs,* Surplus Plus, TESA, Partner & Partners  ➔ Film + VR + Tech + Audio + Video Games: CRUX, Emma, The Sound Co-op, MOXI, Meerkat Media*, GlorySociety, Agaric* ➔ Beauty: Mirror Beauty Cooperative,* Brown Beauty Co-op,* Salon Cooperative  ➔ Music, Dance, Theatre: Ujima Theatre Company, Obvious Agency, Rhythm Conspiracy,* The Team,  the COOP ➔ Orchestra: Pro Arte Orchestra of Boston, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra (* = majority BIPOC membership)

Multi-stakeholder Cooperatives: Happy Family Night Market

Producer Cooperatives: 200 Million Artisans, Justseeds

Time Banking: Metasofa Arts Community, Kolanut Collaborative

Mutual Aid: NDN Collective, Sol Collective

Barter Systems and Non-Monetary Exchange: O+ Festival

Money and Finance

Participatory Budgeting: Runway, Participatory Budgeting Project

Credit Unions: Actors Federal Credit Union

Community currencies: Circles, Tandas

CDFIs: The Working World, SeedCommons, First People’s Fund, Oweesta Corporation

Community Loan Fund: Boston Ujima Project, Black Farmer Fund

Solidarity Philanthropy and Grantmaking: Center for Economic Democracy, The Weavers Project, AmbitioUS, NDNCollective, Intercultural Leadership Institute

Democratic Loan Funds and Grants: Boston Ujima Project, NDN Collective, Runway, First People’s Fund, Black Artist Fund*, Seed Commons, Common Future (* = majority BIPOC membership)

Cooperative Billing and Accounting: Freelancer Guilded*, ArtsPool, Open Collective (* = majority BIPOC membership)

Cooperative Insurance: Guilded, Open Collective Foundation, ArtsPool ( = majority BIPOC membership)

Cooperative Marketing: 200 Million Artisans*, BlacSpace Cooperative* (* = majority BIPOC membership)

Patronage Cooperatives: Ampled, Resonate, Catalytic Sound

Unions and Guilds: Screen Actors Guild/American Federation of Television and Radio Actors, Freelancers Union, Art Guild of Tellico Village

UBI / UBA / GBI: Creatives Rebuild New York, Springboard for the Arts UBI, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts UBI

Energy and Utilities

Community Solar: Soulardarity

Community Broadband: Institute for Local Self Reliance’s MuniNetworks

Energy Democracy: Uprose Brooklyn

Food and Farming

Community Gardens: All community gardens!

Community Supported Agriculture: All CSAs!

Food and Farm Co-ops: Soul Fire Farm, Double Edge Theatre, Cooperative Food Empowerment Directive (CoFED), Acres of Ancestry

Community Fridges: All Community fridges!

Media & Technology

Worker-Owned News Media: Media Reparations, Associated Press, Devil Strip

Community Radio: KOJH 104.7 FM (Mutual Musicians Foundation)

Platform Cooperatives: CRUX, Guilded, Ampled, and internationally Stocksy in Canada, Smart in Belgium, Arctic Co-ops in Canada, and Doc Servizi in Italy

Solutions Journalism: Solutions Journalism Network

Open Source: Mozilla, Wikipedia

Copyleft: Creative Commons

Cooperative and Collective Study Groups: Repaired Nations,* GEEX, Anti- capitalism for Artists, Architecture Beyond Capitalism, Dark Study, Dark Matter University, Dark Laboratory,* Artists Dismantling Capitalism, Cooperation Humboldt, School of Art, Culture, and Resistance, Arts, Culture, and Care in the Solidarity Economy Working Group*, (closed), and so many more (* = majority BIPOC membership)

Ways of being diagram

To support this work, you can: educate yourself, join existing organizing work, and advocate for economic justice.

This report, commissioned by Grantmakers in the Arts, is about the ways that arts and culture grantmakers can engage in systems-change work. The cultural sector is actively seeking alternatives to business-as-usual to create economic and racial justice in the sector and beyond. Grantmakers can play a role in the transformation of the sector by following the lead of Black, Indigenous, People of Color, disabled, queer, trans, and working class creatives who are innovating models for self-determination and community wealth. For specific suggestions, see the full report and the Action Checklist.

The Solidarity Economy Ecosystem

A number of organizations that support the Solidarity Economy in the United States have emerged in the past decade, and in recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number and diversity of entities providing support to Solidarity Economy organizations. However, although artists and culture-bearers participate in many of these as workers and beneficiaries, few of these entities place an emphasis on art and culture.

Key Social and Solidarity Economy Organizations and Networks

International Solidarity Economy Networks and Task Forces

National Networks / Coalitions

Examples of Sector-Based Networks:

No one knows what arts and culture will look like after the pandemic

63 percent of creatives have become fully unemployed.

⅓ of museums say they are likely to close forever.

The COVID-19 death rate of Black and Indigenous people is more than twice the COVID-19 death rate of White people in the US.

And yet, foundation giving in 2020 documented that only 5 percent of pandemic-response dollars were intended for communities of color.

Around ½ of 1 percent of annual foundation giving directly supports women and girls of color.

And less than ½ of 1 percent goes to Native Americans.

What would the cultural economy be like if it loved Black and Indigenous people?

All around the country, the people who have been most harmed by our current systems are practicing self-determination and community wealth

The movement for permanently affordable space in Oakland places culture at the center of the work.

The first democratically managed investment fund in the country — making non-extractive loans to community members — says: “cultural workers are economy builders.”

Culture bearers lead the oldest native co-op in the country.

Artists started the oldest non-extractive Venture Capital firm in the US.

A co-op giving 35,000 freelancers the benefit of full-time employment was founded by artists. It includes employment insurance and pension.

The nationally recognized legal organization that supports Solidarity Economy groups was co-founded by a cartoonist.

Black Lives Matter was co-founded by an artist.

This work is not new. Creatives are “going back to the future,” to practices of shared livelihoods rooted in cultural traditions.

Why should culture and economic innovation go together?


Right now, we have a superstar system where the winners take all and the rest are left with crumbs.

Just like art, housing and dignified work are human rights.

Artists are the original gig workers.

Culture-making and political organizing go hand-in-hand.

We want a world where everyone’s needs are met so everyone can participate in the remaking of culture and society.

An artist living in a community land trust in New York City will have 27 hours a week to make art, compared to an artist in market-priced housing who will have 4 hours a week for artmaking.

We must repair centuries of injustice.

What do mutual aid networks,
worker co-ops,
community land trusts,
participatory budgeting,
and time banks
have in common?

Community ownership and democratic governance that builds political, cultural, and economic power.

When these hyper-local initiatives get together, they have enormous power.

This emergent movement goes by many names — economic democracy, new economy, regenerative economics, degrowth, the commons, local community economic development, democratic socialism, just transition, dual power, liberation economy — but internationally, it is known as the Social and Solidarity Economy, or Solidarity Economy for short. It provides resilience against crisis and has lasting impact when supported as a holistic system.

To support this work, you can: educate yourself, join existing organizing work, and advocate for economic justice.

Organize a book club in your community. Read the book “Collective Courage”. Study toward action.

Find your local credit union, worker co-op, or time bank, and join it.

Make media about this work: songs, posters, memes, and stories.

Make gifts and loans of time, art, and money to seed these groups.

Follow the lead of grassroots organizers and commit to long term support.

Advocate for legal and fiscal policies that enable the Solidarity Economy to thrive.

The people who have been most harmed are creating community-controlled, hyper-local economies that are resilient amidst crisis.

The systems that artists want are not only possible—they already exist, and can be strengthened and cultivated with intention.

Add Yourself to These Examples

Community ownership and democratic governance builds political, cultural, and economic power. When these initiatives get together, they have enormous power.

ACTION: How can grantmakers support the Solidarity Economy?

En Español

Grantmaker’s role

Grantmakers play a role in the transformation of the sector by following the lead of BIPOC creatives who are innovating models for self-determination and community wealth. This work is part of an emergent movement in the United States that is known globally as the Solidarity Economy.

Problem statement

As the cultural sector actively seeks alternatives to business-as-usual to create economic and racial justice in the sector and beyond, the main barriers for many Solidarity Economy cultural entities include

  1. a lack of understanding by grantmakers of systems-change and existing power imbalances
  2. ways to support cooperative governance in the sector
  3. the best tools of support for Solidarity Economy business structures, deliberate incubation, and start-up capital, and
  4. ways to change whole systems by transforming investments and endowments and advocating for systems-change policies to create a fiscal and legal enabling environment for Solidarity Economy cultures to thrive.


Shifts in grantmakers’ mindset, practices, programs, investment/endowment, and policy advocacy to support interconnected, locally-rooted models of community ownership and democratic governance to flourish in the arts and culture sector and beyond. This repairs inequity in the sector and allows those who have been most harmed by our current systems to achieve cultural, economic, and political power.


The table below presents some of the practices and policies that arts and culture grantmakers have adopted to support Solidarity Economies. Note: This list is a working document, developed in dialogue with our interviewees, and it reflects a small snapshot of the range of practices underway as of March 2021. These grantmaking practices are the result of each group’s ongoing learning and shared commitment to long-term organizational transformation in the service of racial and economic justice in the sector and beyond. Practices will look different for each organization based on their culture, context, process, and desires.

The transformation underway can be summarized as follows:

Social Dynamic Competition; I prevail at the expense of others. Collaboration; together we rise.
Power Tendency Centralization and monopoly Decentralization and collaboration
Leadership Individual Shared, rotating, co-leaders
Racial Imaginary White-led and White-culture organizations can serve everyone and deserve to receive the majority of programmatic, financial, and informational resources Culturally-grounded and community-based organizations serve their people and receive an equitable distribution of programmatic, financial, and informational resources
Strategy Five-year strategic plans Emergent, principled, responsive
Org Form Hierarchical firm, nonprofit, 501c3 Collective, cooperative, worker-managed nonprofit, guild, mutual association, LLC, 501c4, unincorporated
Creative Agents Individual artists, charismatic leaders Culture-bearers, collectives, rotating co-leaders, culturally-grounded orgs
Grantmaking Culture Polite, avoid conflict “Messy,” rupture and repair
Role of Foundations Charity, “we know what is best for you,” proud convener of artists Solidarity, reparations, “we follow your lead,” humble attendee of artist-led gatherings
Leadership Skill Sets Written word, delegation, strategic planning, research, measurement, analysis Storytelling, power analysis, conflict transformation, facilitation, organizing
Tools of Support Grants Grants, peer lending, mutual aid, community currency, non-extractive finance
Outputs Short-term projects Daily practices, member gatherings, trusting relationships, long term infrastructure
Timeframe for Support 1 year or less, restricted 5–20 years, unrestricted
Application Written Conversations
Decision Makers Program officer, panel-review Grassroots advisory board, participatory assembly, ripple granting
Review / Reporting Written Conversations, artwork, video
Geographic Focus Urban spaces dominate Emphasis on regional, rural, and virtual support
Main Gathering Structure Meetings, conferences Assembly, encuentro, ritual, deep dive, unconference
Surplus Maximize return on investment Redistribute for community wellbeing
Use-rights Granted by the owner (or not). Focus on: individual property and assets Co-decided by co-producing users. Focus on: equity, access
Pay Wages Shared livelihood
Political Economy Neoliberal, capitalist Post-capitalist: Solidarity Economy, socialism, or social democracy
Add Yourself to These Examples

This report, commissioned by Grantmakers in the Arts, is about the ways that arts and culture grantmakers can engage in systems-change work. The cultural sector is actively seeking alternatives to business-as-usual to create economic and racial justice in the sector and beyond. Grantmakers can play a role in the transformation of the sector by following the lead of Black, Indigenous, People of Color, disabled, queer, trans, and working class creatives who are innovating models for self-determination and community wealth. For specific suggestions, see the full report and the Action Checklist.

Top 10 Resources

  1. Power-Sharing in Grantmaking
  1. Solidarity Economy Education and Workshops for Grantmakers
  1. Solidarity Economy Terms Explained
  1. United Nations International Solidarity Economy Reports
  1. Solidarity Economy Legal Questions and Workshops
  1. Recommendations for Giving and Endowment Action
  1. Reports about Inequity in Funding
  1. Books about the History of the Solidarity Economy
  1. Shows and Podcasts
  1. Conferences

This report was created by Nati Linares and Caroline Woolard for Grantmakers in the Arts and draws upon interviews and conversations with the following people

  • Nwamaka Agbo
    CEO, Kataly Foundation
  • Caron Atlas
    Director, Arts & Democracy
  • Teesa Bahana
    Director, 32° East Ugandan Arts Trust, Uganda
  • Julia Beatty
    Program Officer, Black-Led Movement Fund and the Communities Transforming Policing Fund, Borealis Philanthropy
  • Alicia Bell
    Organizing Manager, Free Press and Media Reparations 2070
  • David Boillier
    Director, Reinventing the Commons Program, Schumacher Center for a New Economics
  • Craig Borowiak
    Associate Professor of Political Science, Haverford College
  • Melody Capote
    Executive Director of Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute
  • Rachel Chanoff
    Founder and Director, THE OFFICE
  • Esther Choi
    Doctoral Candidate, Ethnic Studies, University of California - San Diego
  • Binna Choi
    Director, Casco Art Institute: Working for the Commons, Netherlands
  • Jen Cole
    Director, National Accelerator for Cultural Innovation, Arizona State University
  • Willa Conway
    Founder, Weavers Fellowship
  • Joey DeFrancesco
    Historian and Organizer, Union for Musicians and Allied Workers
  • Penelope Douglas
    Chief of Strategy and Revenue, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
  • Estrella Esquilín
    Program Manager, National Accelerator for Cultural Innovation, Arizona State University
  • Nia Evans
    Director, Boston Ujima Project
  • Eli Feghali
    Network Organizer, New Economy Coalition
  • Gertrude Flentge
    Program Manager, DOEN Foundation
  • Reg Flowers
    Artist, Activist, and Educator
  • Alexis Frasz
    Co-Director, Helicon
  • Allen Kwabena Frimpong
    Co-Founder, ZEAL
  • Luna Olavarria Gallegos
    Storyteller, Researcher, and Co-Founder, Art.Exit
  • Noémi Giszpenc
    Executive Director, Cooperative Development Institute
  • Lavastian Glenn
    Director, Racial and Economic Justice, The Nathan Cummings Foundation
  • Jeffreen Hayes
    Executive Director, Threewalls
  • Tempestt Hazel
    Program Officer, Field Foundation
  • Greg Jackson
    Founder, Repaired Nations and Equal Justice Works Fellow at the Sustainable Economies Law Center
  • Michael Johnson
    Director of Advancement, NDN Collective
  • Emily Kawano
    Co-Director, Wellspring Cooperative Corporation and Coordinator, US Solidarity Economy Network
  • Esteban Kelly
    Executive Director, US Federation of Worker Cooperatives
  • Ceceile Klein
    Double Edge Theatre
  • Arleta Little
    Program Officer and Director of Artist Fellowships, McKnight Foundation
  • abdiel lópez
    Program Officer, AmbitioUS, Center for Cultural Innovation
  • Josh MacPhee
    Founding Member, JustSeeds Collective
  • Annie McShiras
    Investment and Fundraising Director, East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative
  • Margaret Morton
    Creativity and Free Expression Team, Ford Foundation
  • Gabriela Muñoz
    Program Coordinator, National Accelerator for Cultural Innovation, Arizona State University
  • Jennifer Near
    Philanthropic Advisor and Organizational Consultant
  • Jessica Gordon Nembhard
    Professor, Community Justice and Social Economic Development, Department of Africana Studies, CUNY
  • Emiko Ono
    Director, Performing Arts Program, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
  • Janelle Orsi
    Director, Sustainable Economies Law Center
  • Alexis Ortiz
    Senior Program Associate, Office of the President, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
  • Leticia Peguero
    Vice President of Programs, Nathan Cummings Foundation
  • Francisco Pérez
    Director, Center for Popular Economics
  • Cierra Peters
    Communications Director, Boston Ujima Project
  • Yvon Poirier
    Vice-Coordinator, RIPESS
  • Kate Poole
    Principal, Chordata Capital
  • Michelle Ramos
    Vision Keeper / Executive Director, Alternate Roots
  • Esther Robinson
    Founder/ Co-Executive Director, ArtHome
  • Ted Russell
    Associate Director, Kenneth Rainin Foundation
  • Maliha Safri
    Chair and Associate Professor of Economics, Drew University
  • Estella Sanchez
    Founder, Sol Collective
  • Noni Session,
    Director, East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative
  • Nathan Schneider
    Assistant Professor, Media Studies, University of Colorado Boulder
  • Danya Sherman
    Sherman Cultural Strategies, Consultant for ArtPlace America
  • Aisha Shillingford
    Intelligent Mischief
  • Kamal Sinclair
    Executive Director, Guild of Future Architects
  • Gaby Strong
    Director of Grantmaking, NDN Collective
  • Leila Tamari
    Previous Senior Program Officer, ArtPlace America
  • Aaron Tanaka
    Co-Founder and Director, Center for Economic Democracy
  • Anasa Troutman
    Cultural Strategist
  • Carlton Turner
    Lead Artist and Director, Mississippi Center for Cultural Production
  • Eddie Torres
    President and CEO, Grantmakers in the Arts
  • F. Javier Torres-Campos
    Program Director, Thriving Cultures, Surdna Foundation
  • Carlos Uriona
    Co-Artistic Director, Double Edge Theatre
  • James Vamboi
    Chief of Staff, Boston Ujima Project
  • Susan Witt
    Director, Schumacher Center for a New Economics
  • DeeArah Wright
    Creative Strategist and Cooperative Organizer
  • San San Wong
    Director of Arts & Creativity, Barr Foundation
  • Laura Zabel
    Executive Director, Springboard for the Arts

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