Flora

Network of expertise on resilience, gender and interconnected economics

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Rue du progres 323/7 1030 Brussels +32 2 2040640
BE Belgium
Web http://www.florainfo.be/
Maturity

In development

About the project Edit

Flora is an open network of people and organizations that develop expertise, good practices, methods, tools and conceptual models for more egalitarian, just and sustainable socio-economic structures.

In what ways is this project unique and creative? Edit

For the last 15 years or so, Flora has implemented several action-research projects with women (and men) in poverty from different cultural backgrounds. By bringing together the experiences of men and women of different backgrounds and their interpretation of their situation, Flora has developed a analysis framework that can be applied to various social problems at the individual level, the collective level (companies, organisations, etc.) and at the societal level. Flora is the only network that has developed a scientific conceptual framework, not 'about' people in poverty, but 'with' them.

What is the social value of this project? Edit

Flora has developed a conceptual framework and methodology of co-construction. Regardless of background, socio-economic status, sex or age, all citizens have talents to contribute to society. By including citizens in the process of defining what needs to be done (for example, at neighbourhood, school, company level), and by determining how the work will be 'defined', distributed and valorized, citizens can become co-producers of social well-being rather than clients of public services.

What is the potential of this project to expand and develop? Edit

At a time when existing models of science and innovation are becoming more and more complex and specialized, and innovation is having an ever greater impact on the planet and humanity, it is crucial to bring science and innovation back to the citizens. However, this doesn't mean that citizens must be 'empowered' and left to their own devices. It means that alternative infrastructures for building knowledge and social innovation need to be created, using specific frameworks and methodologies that allow citizens to become co-producers of innovations that meet their real needs - and not just the needs of the economy. The knowledge that is thus produced is mostly locally and temporally valid, but the model of participatory development of knowledge and innovation is broadly applied. In that sense, the network can become a world wide web. In fact, it needs to become big in order to counterbalance the dominant knowledge institutions and (socio-economic) models.

What was the triggering factor of this project? Edit

Flora was established in the 1990s when women, especially poorly educated and/or migrant women, did not fully participate in socio-economic life and felt excluded. In the 1970s, many initiatives were established with the aim of giving these women professional training and/or a job with the intention to strengthen their empowerment and participation in society. The socio-economic context (including the Lisbon strategy) forced organisations more and more into a narrow economic logic, sometimes putting them under pressure to exclude the most vulnerable groups in order to increase their productivity.

Flora was established as a forum, a platform for exchange and reflection about how the social goals (inclusion, participation, empowerment) can be kept in balance with economic ones. It became clear that this ultimately requires a redefinition of 'work', as well as a more fair way of distributing work and more sustainable ways of valorizing work. The Flora team has been working for 15 years exploring with organisations in the field to determine how this could be designed and what needs to happen at the political level in order to embed this more sustainable approach of socio-economic life in society. In fact, the current financial, economic, social and ecological crises are factors that give this project a new impetus. In 2011, Flora was asked to become a member of the Club of Rome.

What is the business model of this project? Edit

Flora is developing a 'resilient' economic model that counterbalances the exagerated emphasis on 'productivity' and 'efficiency' of classic monetary (neoliberal) economics. In terms of the general systems theory, 'efficient' systems depend on analysis, streamlining and hierarchy. Current monetary economics make 'growth' an end in itself, causing social inequality and ecological 'externalities'.

Resilient economics on the other hand, are based on a more holistic approach of 'work', meaning that Productive Work (meeting one's material needs) is always kept in balance with Care Work (caring for and taking into account the needs of future generations). Social Work (being part of a supportive and collaborative 'tissue', which can include other people, but is increasingly seen as including other species and the biosphere as a whole) and Self Work (developing ones personal talents, well-being, self-esteem). Maintaining (or restoring) the balance between these 4 types of work is in itself a fifth type of work (requiring the development of alternatives concepts, analytical frameworks, methodologies, political strategies, etc).

Therefore, this economic model (which has been developed by 'accumulating' the knowledge developed via action-research including people in poverty as co-experts) is called the Five Types of Work Integrating Network (or '5-TWIN) economics. It reflects narrowly the anthropological model that Bernard Lietaer developed in order to describe different monetary systems throughout history ('Au coeur de la monnaie' 2011), which can be seen as an indication of its validity.


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Partners

Organizations that work with people in poverty (NGO's, public services, social economy, cultural groups, etc.) are the partners for every project of action research that Flora sets up (and for which it needs co-experts).

Flora also has partners to develop and disseminate resilient socio-economic models (higher education, research institutes, political bodies, etc.)