Creating Confluence: Weaving a global tapestry of alternatives


Editor’s note: The Global Tapestry of Alternatives (GTA) is an ORA Research Grant recipient. GTA seeks to build bridges between networks of Alternatives around the globe and promote the creation of new processes of confluence.

The idea of Global Tapestry of Alternatives (GTA) emerged from the Indian process called Vikalp Sangam (Alternatives Confluence) in discussion with other similar processes such as Crianza Mutua in Mexico. Alternatives are defined within the GTA as activities and initiatives, concepts, worldviews, or action proposals by collectives, groups, organizations, communities, or social movements challenging and replacing the dominant system that perpetuates inequality, exploitation, and unsustainability. In the GTA we focus primarily on what we call “radical or transformative alternatives”, which we define as initiatives that are attempting to break with the dominant system and take paths towards direct and radical forms of political and economic democracy, localised self-reliance, social justice and equity, cultural and knowledge diversity, and ecological resilience. Their locus is neither the State nor the capitalist economy. They are advancing in the process of dismantling most forms of hierarchies, assuming the principles of sufficiency, autonomy, non-violence, justice and equality, solidarity, and the caring of life and the Earth. They do this in an integral way, not limited to a single aspect of life. Although such initiatives may have some kind of link with capitalist markets and the State, they prioritize their autonomy to avoid significant dependency on them and tend to reduce, as much as possible, any relationship with them.

Such a global process of weaving was first proposed at the 5th International Degrowth Conference (Budapest) in 2016. The idea was shared and tested by members like Ashish Kothari with several networks including Beyond Development Working Group, Commons Network, European Commons Assembly, ECOLISE, Transition network, Global Sustainability University, Great Transition Initiative, Defend the Sacred who were interested and supportive of a process like GTA. In 2018, Ashish Kothari and the late Gustavo Esteva got together to explore this idea as similar ideas were being discussed among the Latin American groups – Esteva and Arturo Escobar were exploring the possibilities of regional networks on alternatives in Mexico and Colombia respectively. At the Degrowth conference in Malmo and Mexico, the idea of GTA was presented by then members Ashish Kothari, Arturo Escobar, Vasna Ramasar, Shrishtee Bajpai, Marta Music, Alex Jensen, Enric Duran among others. Several regional, thematic and global networks were reached out to, to collaborate, endorse and seek comments on the GTA idea. Early connection with current funders began at the Edge Funders conference in Leipzig and collaborations were fostered. The process was launched in early 2019 after seeking endorsement from many key regional and global movements and networks. A dedicated website (www.globaltapestryofalternatives.org) containing relevant documents, names of endorsers, reports of activities, and publications started simultaneously. The GTA is now endorsed by more than 80 international organizations and networks and many individual referents (activists, public intellectuals, academics, etc.). This list is constantly growing as a reflection of the increased attention and relevance of this ongoing process.

Members from the weavers Crianzas Mutuas Colombia were brought into the team and they agreed to be a GTA weaver. Alternatives Centre at the University of Philippines were working on alternative regionalism and joined the GTA group on the invitation of Indian colleagues who knew of their work. They were already bringing many networks together and were encouraged by the GTA to formulate a regional network called Movement for Alternatives and Solidarity in Southeast Asia (MASSA).

The following are the networks that currently weave the GTA:

  1. Vikalp Sangam-Alternatives Confluence, India (VS)
  2. Crianza Mutua Mexico (CMM)
  3. Crianzas Mutuas Colombia (CMC)
  4. Movement for Alternatives and Solidarity in Southeast Asia (MASSA)

Over the next few months and years to come this list may expand, with the possibility of adding a weaver each in Europe and Africa.

GTA is now a network of networks and each of those networks in different parts of the planet are documenting, identifying, connecting and weaving a tapestry of alternatives, hence they are our weavers. We define a weaver as a local, regional, or national network or organization that connects or consists of multiple Alternatives on different themes/spheres, in an inter-sectoral way. A global network cannot be a Weaver, neither only a thematic one. It should be a collective process of some kind, rather than only a single individual or single organization. By being a “weaver”, they are committed to participate in the GTA, developing ways of dialogue, interconnection, collaboration and solidarity with other Weavers. GTA promotes the interconnection of the Weavers, identifying a series of common criteria for the weaving of Alternatives.

GTA intends to “support change, through inspired leadership, effective networks and the influencing of norms, for reviving cultures of interdependence and reverence”. Hence, GTA aims to foster networks that seek to establish alternatives for a more just and sustainable world. In doing so, the communities, cultures, initiatives and networks that the GTA involves or supports include those that explicitly recognize the deeper connection between humans and non-human nature; the need for climate balance – especially in addressing the fundamental flaws of the current economic system; and foster regenerative economies that support biocultural systems. Thus, one effort towards this larger goal is to create spaces for dialogues, exchanges, documentation, research, collaborations among regional networks of alternatives in different parts of the world. Ultimately creating a critical mass for transformative systemic change.

The GTA process has no central structure or control mechanisms. The intent is that it spreads step by step as an ever-expanding, complex set of tapestries, woven together by already existing communal or collective webs, building on already existing and new alternatives to dominant regimes. It promotes or joins regional, national and global encounters, when the conditions allow for them, as well as close and synergistic linkages with existing organizations, like the World Social Forum. A small group of committed individials from around the world hold the process of the GTA. This team combines people who collaborate on strategic decisions, conceptual definitions, political opinions and the direction of the process. There is also a subgroup of “facilitators”, who are in charge of the daily maintenance of the infrastructure and the usual operational tasks. Part of this team performs partially paid tasks, but to a large extent the labor contributions are voluntary.

The GTA facilitation team currently comprises 22 members from different parts of the world including South Asia, South East-Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe, North America, Australia-Asia. Many of these members come from racially marginalized groups and geographically colonized territories. These members range from community members, organizers among others working with grassroots movements, academics, scholar -activists, and researchers. The facilitation team brings rich experience of being involved in social justice, environmental justice, democratic struggles of governance, economies as well as theoretical understanding of these struggles in transformations. Several members are involved in such work on the ground through networking at regional, national and global levels. The group combines the core of individuals who initiated the GTA process in 2018, along with others who joined in 2019 with the public launch of the initiative. New members continue to be needed as gaps and needs arise. This mix of founding members and “newcomers”, with a very wide range of ages, is intended to respond to the dynamic nature of the GTA process, which is built on a set of basic and consistent principles. The logic of decentralization, decisions by consensus, a non-bureaucratic approach and relationships of friendship and trust give shape and meaning to the dynamics of collective work that we have been building. It is by no means a perfect or conflict-free process but the approach is to be self-reflexive and learn as we go along.

This facilitation core team is only meant to hold the process, the decision making on next steps, plans of activities and networking is done through GTA Assembly which comprises regional network (Weavers) and endorsing networks/organizations. Currently, the GTA Assembly is formed by 4 Weavers, facilitation team members and more than 75 Endorsers.