» Archive for: October, 2013


CIRI would like to invite you to Dr. Mohammed Girma’s presentation with the title: ‘Negotiating Public Special Space in Ethiopia: The Role of Indigenous Civil Organization’. His presentation will be another one within the CIRI research seminar series.

The venue will at the ISS, 29th October 2013, room 339 at 13-14 hrs.

Dr. Girma is an Assistant Professor of Sociology of Religion at the Evangelische Theologische Faculteit (ETF) in Leuven, Belgium, and a Research Associate at the University of the Free State, Bloemfontein in South Africa.

About the presented paper

This presentation aims to discuss a research proposal on two Ethiopian indigenous civic organizations, namely, Eder and Equb. While the former is a “safety-net” system through which the people facing unforeseen crisis seek immediate social, psychological and material help, the latter, on the other hand, is an informal financial credit facility that enables individuals to buy things based on urgent needs.  Their difference lies on the fact that Eder is humanitarian in nature, whereas Equb is financial. They share communality in that, despite being invented by deeply religious ordinary people, they are religiously and politically neutral. In other words, they focus non-metaphysical common good rather than religious and cultural differences. The main focus of this research will not be economic and humanitarian dimension of these institutions. The reason is that the aforementioned dimensions have already attracted significant academic attention. This research however intends to explore their significance to the art of negotiating public sphere. What is the epistemological ground that undergirds their understanding of public sphere? How is it different from the concept of public sphere introduced by the state and/or political entrepreneurs? What are the benefits and limitations of its epistemology? Could it be transformed and modified in such a way as to contribute to (post)modern and post-religious discussion of public space? These questions will be discussed using both empirical and theoretical research methods.

The 2nd International Conference on Complementary Currency Systems, held in June 2013 at the ISS, was the first large and open CIRI event. In line with the vision promoted by CIRI, the event, organized by Georgina Gomez, offered the meeting space where academics, practitioners, government officials, consultants and representatives of NGOs, the private sector and multilateral organizations to exchange ideas and produce knowledge on Complementary and Community Currency Systems (CCS). These are social networks to exchange goods and services that use non-official means of payment. They are a civic innovation by which citizens reclaim from the state the right to create means of payment and regain control over their resources.

CCSSome CCS has strongly emancipatory discourse and practice and the actors seek to create a “different economy” within the capitalist system. These ideas are being framed in the “social and solidarity economy” within a “diverse economies” framework (post-capitalist) of which Katherine Gibson (University of Western Sydney) is a leading scholar and was one of the keynote speakers of the opening session. A heated topic of discussion recently is the link of CCS to governments and the formal economy, which was the focus of the lecture of the second keynote speaker Prof. Keith Hart (LSE and University of Pretoria).

Rosalba Icaza from CIRI moderated the opening session and Prof. Kuroda opened a brainstorming session with a lecture on the ubiquitous plurality of monies throughout history. The following discussion on the future research agenda of CCS, facilitated by Kees Biekart from CIRI, applied the fish-bowl technique.

The closing of the academic strand was chaired by Prof. Bert Helmsing, who offered a synthesis on the present state of research on CCS, lessons learnt and future directions.

The bilingual conference (English and Spanish), with sessions organized in either language, lasted five days and it was the 2nd one of its kind, hopefully establishing the practice of meeting every two years. A total of 406 participants spread in three groups and events: academics, policy makers and practitioners, including both ISS affiliated and non-affiliated participants. Participants came from 34 countries in the North and South, from six continents.

Outcomes and output of the conference:

(1) Networking: The event was organized in partnership with Qoin Foundation in Amsterdam, Palmas Institute (Brazil and France), NEF Foundation in London and The Hague Timebank. This collaborative links were established for the organization of the conference. The event was supported by the EU’s North Western Europe Interregional Fund, FMDV, UN’s NGLS (non-governments liaison Service), Veblen Institute and the CCIA Project. These collaborative links were established for the organization of the conference.

(2) Networking & Funding: The event was financially supported by Stichting Doen, Fonds 1818 Stichting and the Municipality of The Hague.

(3) Academic output: a special issue of the International Journal of Community Currency Research is in progress (Journal with open access), as well as an edited volume to be published by Pickering and Chatto (Publisher in London) and a special issue of the Revista Prologos in Buenos Aires.

(4) Dissemination for specialized audience: Articles produced within the conference were published in The Broker. The article authored by Georgina Gomez “A different economy with different money” can be found here. Other articles produced by participants to the conference as follows:

(5) Dissemination for general audience: several interviews with participants were conducted by the press and for a special documentary. These are posted as follows:

Photographs from the conference can be found here.

CIRI would like to invite you to Dr.Georgina Gomez’s presentation with the title: “Local agency and the structuration of governance in the coffee global value chain. The case of a Nicaraguan producers’ association”. Her presentation will be the firste one of the internal CIRI research seminar series.

The venue will be at the ISS, room 339, Tuesday 15 Oct from 13 to 14 hrs.

About the author:

Dr. Gomez’s research interests focus on money and markets as the two key institutions in exchange and that exist in great diversity: there is exchange without markets, markets without money, money that doesn’t look like such and is not used in markets, and so on. All of these initiatives require the building of institutions, which are the systems of rules that structure socio-economic life and are often organized by economic actors locally.

Abstract of the presented paper:

The literature on Global Value Chains (GVC) tends to describe a highly integrated global economy fragmented by productive sectors, within which transformation, distribution and consumption processes of the main raw materials are closely articulated. That type of worldwide economy transcends borders and governments, hence creating a governance problem at the global level. Economic governance, specifically, refers to the totality of institutions that coordinate or regulate the actions and transactions among the actors of a system or economic subsystem (Streeck and Schmitter, 1985; Hollingsworth and Boyer, 1997). Institutions are defined as a socially embedded system of rules of action (Hodgson, 2006 ). Global value chains and global production networks, its most recent version, are globally articulated systems of governance that tend to favor large companies that control access to critical resources, such as technology and consumer markets. As the controlling companies come from developed countries, most studies of global value chains rarely discuss the agency of actors at the base of the chain, located in the least developed countries. This local agency refers to the “ability of actors to process their experiences and those of others, understand their meaning and act accordingly” (Long, 2001: 49). In the case of value chains, the local agency translates into the ability to understand the system of global governance and its impact on the local level, and formulate actions in relation to this reading of the situation.

CoffeeThe relative scarcity of studies of the local agency in the hands of producers in developing countries probably reflects the tendency to see the governance of GVC as an immutable reality in which power asymmetries are so significant that local agency on the basis of the chain, if it existed, would be relatively irrelevant. Meric Gertler (2010) advocated for the development of the concept of local agency in the new economic geography, while Stefano Ponte (2008) criticized the tendency to study the effects or impacts of global value chains on producers in developing countries as if these completely lacked local agency. The research by Riisgaard et al (2009) is a notable exception to this neglect, and the authors analyze the agency of groups of African workers and their unions in the governance of the global chain of flowers.

The present research analyzes the local agency of an association of Nicaraguan small producers, which were recently integrated into the global value chain of coffee. It assumes that the governance systems of GVC are not fixed but dynamic and the processes of integration of producers evolve together with the structuration of the local system of production. In other words, these are two intrinsically united but distinct governance systems that intersect: the local production system of a specific territory and the global value chain with global rules. When these two systems of governance are studied separately, it is possible to see that there are actors at local level with agency to mediate the integration of the two systems. These actors can gain influence and increase the incomes of the small producers, for example. The objective of this research is to analyze how those economic agents (individual or collective) structure and exercise local agency while they integrate global value chains. What are the manifestations of local agency? What are the critical factors that contribute to the structuration of local agency? What are the effects of local agency on the governance system at local and at global level?

These questions will be explored by means of a case study of the Nicaraguan NGO, Pueblos en Accion Comunitaria (PAC), of which prior information was obtained through the Dutch donor organisation (Woord en Daad). PAC is a non-profit with 1,200 small rural producers in Nicaragua to promote local economic development. PAC supported a total of 4,000 farmers in June 2010 with an integrated range of services including credit, technical assistance, supplies and raw materials, trade and processing of crops. With this comprehensive approach, it has put together several local productive networks of coffee, cocoa and taro. PAC managed a portfolio loan of six million dollars in June 2010 and employed 109 people.


International Institute of Social Studies

CIRI aims to scale up and identify synergies between existing research at ISS on civic agency and change agents, as drivers of societal change and development. This blog is a forum on which to share and discuss themes and issues which fall within the broad framework of the programme.

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