Moving Cause was established in 2009 to promote social initiatives happening in East Timor throughout Europe. The project was conceived when a group of friends from Portugal visited the South-East Asian country and were inspired by the solidarity and community initiatives they encountered there.
When the country gained independence from Indonesia in 1999, 80% of its infrastructure was destroyed by the occupiers as they left, leaving many of the buildings burnt out and abandoned. One initiative for rehabilitating the country and its people saw a group of artists occupy the old Indonesian museum in the capital. They used the building to provide shelter for children who had ended up on the streets, and taught them to use artistic practices as an alternative education model. These days the space is managed by the children who grew up there.
The group also met a women‘s s cooperative who had established a handicrafts business on an isolated island off the coast of the capital. There was only one connecting trip to the mainland each week, and in the dry season the island was unable to produce food. The women were impelled to to find a way to survive. They set up a workshop, filled it with sewing machines and began to produce dolls using local textiles. The project was a success and provided an income for all those involved.
In a bid to promote such self-organising and solidarity programmes, Moving Cause enabled representatives from each of these initiatives to come to Europe and share their ideas and experiences. Then, when the effects of the economic crisis began to hit in Portugal, the group decided that they could use their energy and experiences to help people here. They worked to mobilise communities and to establish networks for social interaction and sustainable modes of living.
They began in the north of the country in the Parque Nacional de Gerês, by establishing alternative educational programmes and a permaculture design course. Then, in 2014 here in Porto, they set up the Associacão pela Manutenção da Economia de Proximidade (AMEP), which promotes solidarity for local producers and self-sufficiency within the community.
Inspiration for the association originates with the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model, through which a group of consumers joins together to support the work of one producer. The group pays in advance for 6 months of produce and in return each individual receives a weekly basket filled with food. In this way, everyone shares the risks of production. If there’s a bad harvest then the implications will be felt by the whole group. Equally, if there’s an abundance of produce then the profits are shared out amongst the consumers. This process enables people to know where their food is coming from, and to adopt sustainable practices by avoiding foods that have been shipped across the world.
AMEP has adapted the model in order to provide consumers with greater choice and to support the EcoSol- a virtual solidarity currency for trading within Porto. The group holds a meeting at the beginning of each cycle, which lasts 1-2 months, during which each member has the opportunity to tell the group what they can provide, and in what quantity. Everybody then has the chance to put in an order for the specific products they’d like, and all exchanges are made using the virtual currency.
When you create an EcoSol account you’re entitled to 100 EcoSois worth of credit. However, once this runs out it’s down to you to generate more of the virtual currency in order to continue making purchases. This promotes the notion of ‘prosumerism’, encouraging us not to be passive consumers but to be creative and to think about what we can provide that other people might need. The products offered up by AMEP members are diverse- from yoghurts, to bread, marmalades, mushrooms and homemade soaps- but the group is open to those who aren’t so confident in the kitchen too. One member offers up his services as a van driver, whilst another offers Reiki and acupuncture.
By encouraging people to think about how they can help others AMEP has helped shape a community of people that is rooted in principles of exchange and mutual support. The meetings are central to the initiative, providing an opportunity for its diverse members to come together and get to know each other. If you’d like to be a part of this you just need to head along to one of their meetings, which take place regularly at Espaço Compasso on Rua Torrinha.
Time to get thinking about what you can provide for the local community!