DR. CRISTINA GRASSENI, University of Bergamo, Bergamo, Italy, was awarded funding in April 2013 to aid research on 'Seeds of Trust: A Comparative Analysis of Solidarity Economy Networks in Lombardy (Italy) and Massachusetts (USA).' This project consisted of a comparative analysis of a growing radical phenomenon in Europe and the US: solidarity economies, namely grassroots networks that organize direct provisioning, for example of food and energy. Since the 1990s, solidarity economies have emerged, either as diffused 'districts' or 'networks' of Solidarity Purchase Groups (as in Italy) or as locally focused 'community economies' in the US, including some community-supported agriculture schemes. The project compared the 'District' and 'Community' models of solidarity economy in Lombardy and Massachusetts-two roughly comparable sites by size, population, and affluence. Using ethnography (participant observation, interviews, and network mapping), the project focused on the respective repertoires and tool-kits as well as on their networking strategies. One of the crucial findings is that Italian and American solidarity economy networks produce distinctive repertoires and have different models for their socio-economic action despite their common international background. While the American movement looks especially at Italy and Spain for successful models of worker-owned cooperatives, the Italian movement distinguishes solidarity economy (largely consumer-driven) from the cooperative economy (which is equated to one of the orthodox actors in the global economy and the global food system). Consequently, different sets of skills are developed within each network: while the Italian activists develop mostly consumer-driven, volunteer-run collective provisioning schemes, the American activists become project developers for social and economic entrerprises in the green and cooperative sector, often depending on grants and start-up funds.
Grasseni, Cristina. 2014. Food Activism in Italy as an Anthropology of Direct Democracy. Anthropological Journal of European Cultures 23(1):77-98.
Grasseni, Cristina. 2014. Seeds of Trust: Italy's Gruppi di Acquisto Solidale (Solidarity Purchase Groups). Journal of Political Ecology 21:179-192.