The concept of Just Change was born not from a vague theoretical blueprint but from a critical reflection on the experiences of the last two decades, and our search throughout for innovative solutions to modern economic problems.
The theoretical and conceptual framework of Just Change is rooted in a conviction that traditional approaches to social and economic justice, on their own, are not likely to work in this market dominated economy. While social change champions were busy fighting at the local level for social and economic rights, at a global level the rules were being quietly changed. Economic growth took precedence over governance and issues of social justice. Politics gave way to economics and before we knew what happened a new wave of financial monarchs began to emerge. Markets became the holy cow – omnipotent and omnipresent and governments bowed and paid homage. The notion of social and political rights was articulated in the 70’s and 80’s as the right of every citizen to a fair and equitable share of a nation’s wealth and a voice in the democratic process of decision making. In the new millenium this notion of rights had been diluted to mean access to health and education as envisioned in the much trumpeted Millenium Development Goals.
We need to go beyond just trying to just increase people’s incomes to exploring how they can gain control over their economy. It is not only about money but also about power. For this we need to engage in the market. But we need to go beyond fair trade and just aiming at getting better prices for the producers to creating new trade structures that will give communities greater control in the market. We need to challenge the unquestioned power of capital and its ability to create wealth for its owners and come up with radically new structures and ways of working.
Beyond Income Generation
Traditional development interventions to tackle poverty have been within the narrow framework of income generation. This linear single dimension analysis of poverty has led to the conclusion that poverty can be reduced by merely increasing people’s incomes. Things are no longer that simple. We now live in a world of interconnected economies and we need to look at the economies of poor communities from a more holistic perspective and not just from the perspective of increasing incomes. We need to analyse where this increased income goes and who really benefits?
The Just Change concept seeks to go beyond income generation by first ensuring that people’s incomes flow back into the local economy as much as possible thus having a multiplier effect and secondly, if it must flow out to ensure that as much as possible flows to other similar communities rather than into the ‘market’.
Beyond Fair Trade
Isn’t this what Fair Trade seeks to do – source directly from producers and ensure that they get a fair price for their produce by passing on the fair trade premium to them? Yes, but Just Change seeks to go beyond that. First we would like to make it possible for poor and disadvantaged consumers to participate in the Fair Trade movement. But the premium price is a barrier, thus making fair trade products the privilege of more well to do communities. Secondly, fair trade as it currently operates does not change the fundamental relationship between capital and labour. Capital still has the power to “buy” labour and the fruits of labour. Paying a higher price will definitely alleviate the suffering of the producer but Just Change is not about fair prices alone – it seeks to change the relation between capital and labour; between “investors “, producers and consumers . It is a structure that recognises that labour and capital both have roles to play in the economy but ensures that they are not in competition with each other but work in tandem for mutual benefit.
Just Change seeks to go beyond the present boundaries of Fair Trade and to create an alternative trading system where producers, consumers and investors work together in mutually beneficial ways. Not only does Just Change ensure better prices for producers, we also reach good quality products at lower costs to consumers – so that poor and disadvantaged people who cannot afford the premium attached to fair trade products can also be included. We do this by taking control of and shortening the market chain. But more than prices Just Change is an attempt to help communities take control of their local economy and increase the social return on investment. For example through selling tea and other Just Change products, we intend to create jobs for local people in these communities.
Beyond Private Ownership Capital
The third theoretical leg of Just Change is rooted in more radical economics. In spite of the arguable collapse of capitalism during 2008 when governments had to step in with huge financial bail outs to keep the system going, people still believe that capitalism in its present form is the only possible economic model. Just Change argues that by changing the role and function of financial capital we can create new economic models that result in a better distribution of wealth.
Based on research with the fishing community on the South eastern Coast of India, Just Change has developed a notion of “participative capital”. In this mode, capital does not get ownership rights as it does in the present free market economy but only gets participant rights along with producers and consumers. In other words an “investor” cannot automatically presume to “own” any surpluses generated through the investment. The producer and consumer have equal claim to it. Because we argue that it was not the action of capital investment alone that resulted in the surplus. Producer “investment” in the form of labour and the acceptance of a value for their produce that is lower than what the end consumer is willing to pay; and consumer “investment” in the form of purchasing and consuming goods at a higher price than the actual cost of the product delivered to them have both by their actions contributed to the surplus. Hence the division of that surplus has to be negotiated with all the three parties who have contributed to its generation.
In the Figure below, we see that in traditional market capitalism model financial capital is invested to buy or hire physical capital like land and labour from households. This physical capital is used to create products which are then sold to households generating a surplus or financial “returns” on investment which belongs to the investor of capital allowing the cycle to then repeat itself and ultimately resulting in increasing wealth accumulation in the hands of those who are capital rich.
In the figure below of the Just Change model of participative capital we see that first of all the whole system is based on people (households) all participating in different forms. Financial capital does not “buy” or “hire” physical capital – and therefore does not get ownership rights as in the market capitalism model. Some people (investors households) participate by making money available for producer households who use the money (participative capital) to create products which in turn are made available to other households who participate by consuming these products (consumer households). Note that investor households also function as consumers. All surplus thus created belongs to all three actors. Wealth therefore does not accumulate only in the hands of the investors but is distributed among all participants.
This theoretical framework – where we seek to change the power relationships within a market economy – has led to the setting up of Just Change as an international cooperative of producers, consumer and investors.
The concept behind Just Change was born out of our collective experiences and lessons learnt from working with poor communities over three decades. The first was Stan Thekaekara’s experience in the ’70s in what was then Bihar (now Jharkhand). By mobilising the adivasis to sell their produce collectively to bigger buyers higher up the market chain, they were able to bypass the local exploitative trader and secure a better price. But Just Change finally began to take shape more recently in the late 90’s when the adivasis of Gudalur started looking for market alternatives to sell their tea. The adivasis thanks to a successful land rights campaign had managed to reclaim their ancestral lands and had planted it with tea. And moved from being agricultural labourers to tea planters. But it also meant that they had catapulted from a local wage economy into a global market economy over which they had little control.
In 1991, India shed its socialist image and opened out its economy to global capital. Markets, often distant, began to dominate and affect the local economy leaving the adivasis suddenly vulnerable. It was the quest for alternatives to this global market economy, alternatives that would give local people control over their economies that led to the establishment of Just Change
In 1984, Stan and Mari Thekaekara came to the Nilgiris to work with the adivasis of the Gudalur Valley. They soon learnt that the people had been cheated of their land and pushed into abject poverty – working as unskilled labourers on land which was their own.
So, in 1986, along with K.T. Subramanian and other young adivasis they founded ACCORD to mobilise the community to assert their right to land. We worked on creating unity, analysing the reasons for adivasi poverty and getting the community to think about solutions. We encouraged them to fight for their rights, to fight injustice and exploitation.
By 1988, the adivasi people had organised themselves to a point where a historic land rights movement culminated in a 10,000 strong protest march. And the formation of the Adivasi Munnetra Sangam (AMS), a peoples’ movement for justice for adivasis. We reasserted self esteem and a pride in the adivasi identity.
The AMS organised the adivasis to reclaim their stolen, ancestral lands while ACCORD helped them to plant this with tea, a perennial crop which would help them establish and prove possession legally. To watch people move from poverty to a point where they at least could afford enough food to ward off hunger, gave us a feeling of one small mission accomplished.
But the gods laughed as tea prices hit rock bottom in the late ’90s plunging the district into despair. And the people back to hunger.
The adivasi leap in moving from plantation labourers to tea planters improved their self esteem no doubt. But while it helped them gain control over assets and production, it increased their vulnerability to global fluctuations in tea prices. The arena of exploitation moved from the visible local landlord with whom we could bargain, to invisible, faceless global “market forces”. And when India opened up its economy and hurtled down th path of globalisation we read the writing on the wall. So even before the crash in tea prices we began looking for alternatives to secure their income from tea.
The Search for Alternatives:
Our search for an alternative justice based economic system led us to the Fair Trade movement and to GEPA Germany in the early ’90s. Fair Trade not Aid fitted the bill. It excited us. Yet we soon realised that Fair Trade is just as vulnerable to market forces and operates in a premium, niche market; unable to absorb large volumes. Fair trade products, which are usually more expensive, are unaffordable for poor consumers.It does not challenge the power relationships between labour and capital – we were still dependent on well meaning consumers who would pay a premium price to help the poor producers. Structurally the market system had not changed.
Fair Trade was great but it was not the solution for us. We needed something else. And so the search continued.
The first seed is sown.
In 1993, Anu an architect from the ACCORD family brought a Madurai womens’ group to meet the team. Tea from the Adivasis of Gudalur was sold in exchange for saris from the womens co-operative. The saris were sold at half the local market price and tea at a third of the market price. Both the women weavers and the adivasi tea producers were over the moon. Apart from the obvious benefits of a fair price transaction, there was a personal link. The solidarity of a face to face relationship. It started our thought processes in a new direction.
In 1994, the idea grew when Stan and Mari Thekaekara spent a month doing a critique of community work in the UK. We realised that poor communities in Britain were drinking large quantities of tea at very high prices while Gudalur tea growers got a pittance for their produce. A direct link would help both communities. We could start an international co-operative of producers and consumers.
Signs of sprouting:
The idea grew and excited people everywhere. John Fishwick, took a sabbatical from his job in the UK and spent it Gudalur. Fired up with the idea of directly linking communities, he went back to the UK and tried to build on the initial contacts Stan and Mari had made with communities there. The idea clicked instantly and everyone was eager to go. In India too, we established links with a number of community organisations. But getting people inspired and excited about the concept was the easy part – getting it to work was much harder. We realised we needed more resources, people who could work full time, take the idea and run with it.
We kept bouncing the idea with various people. And slowly the concept started becoming clearer. Joel Joffe, then Chair of Oxfam, challenged us: “Great idea but it won’t work if the only participants are poor producers and poor consumers who are in any case short on capital. You need investors too”.
But we kept nurturing the idea, letting it grow and spread. Numerous meetings were held across the country and even in many places in the UK. The Adivasi Tee Projekt in Germany which was formed to support the adivasis of Gudalur expanded their work to include the Just Change concept. Two young people who visited Just Change in India and UK were inspired to sow the seeds in France.
Just Change is Born….
In 2000, Joel Joffe, happened to visit Gudalur. And over dinner asked, “ What happened to your idea of directly linking communities to trade?” We explained how we needed more resources to ensure that there was sustained engagement with community groups. Joel Joffe immediately responded and said he would underwrite all our expenses for a year – just get going.
And so we did. James and Marion Wells-Bruges from the R H Southern Trust also chipped in to support us. We christened the concept Just Change and registered it as a charitable Trust in India. John Fishwick started working full time in the UK. He established contact with the Northern Tea Merchants, who too bought into the idea. They gave us technical advice and helped us develop a blend that would match the best in the UK. They also agreed to warehouse our loose tea, convert into tea bags, package it and help us distribute it. One more crucial link in the chain was established.
We began to follow up on all the initial contacts, we developed new ones. But these initial attempts to connect UK communities with Gudalur floundered, to our immense disappointment. One was Easterhouse, near Glasgow and another Matson, Gloucestershire.
In India, we started sending tea to various community groups – but after the initial consignment, things didn’t seem to progress.
But we kept on. In Manchester, UNICORN, a workers coop that ran a whole food grocery store loved the idea and started selling Just Change tea. Just Change tea found its way to the shelves of more and more coops and ethical stores like – 8th Day, Out of the World, etc.
We registered Just Change UK as a company limited by guarantee with a dedicated Board of Directors. A number of people inspired by the idea became Just Change volunteers, in Manchester, London, Birmingham and Norwich. They started selling the tea and the idea to their families, friends, colleagues. In 2006, a group of adivasis travelled to the UK to speak about Just Change and the AMS at the Skoll World Forum for Social Entrepreneurship. During this visit, at ameeting organised by the New Economics Foundation in London they happened to come in contact with the community representatives from the Marsh Farm Community in Luton. An instant bond was formed between the two communities – their shared histories of struggle for survival shattered the boundaries of language, race and nationality. Within the year Just Change adivasi tea had found its ways into the council homes of Marsh Farm. Marsh Farm has become the distribution hub for the South of england and is all set to launch a large community enterprise that aims to get the tea and other Just Change products into at least 75% of the homes in Marsh Farm and to have it sold in all the local super markets as well.
In India, The Sir Ratan Tata Trust, agreed to support us to push the idea further. Sajan Ganapathy, a graduate of the Institute of Rural Management in India, gave up his well paid job with an international aid agency to join us. Supported by Manoharan, another senior IRMA graduate who heads the work in Gudalur, we managed to get two women’s groups in Kerala, SAWARD and Bhoodhan Vikas Mandal to join the network. They started selling the adivasi tea and the adivasis bought their coconut oil and hand made soaps. In Gudalur we also piloted trying to sell rice in the adivasi village sangams. But the feedback we got from all the groups was that their members preferred to get all their groceries from one place – which meant we needed to sell a lot more than just tea. And that meant more formal sytems and structures would have to be put in place to make this happen. The Just Change Trust was not the best vehicle for this. And so we decided to set up a trading company that would develop the infrastructure to directly source from producer groups even while creating a retail marketing system.
In January 2006, four community groups – AMS (The Adivasi Munnetra Sangam) from Gudalur, SAWARD (The Social Agency for Women and Development) from Poovatuparamba near Calicut, BVM (Bhoodhan Vikas Mandal from Nettikulum also in Kerala and POKS (Paschim Orissa Krishijibon Samiti) came together to formally launch the Just Change India Producer Company. The inauguration of the company took place under a tree in Gudalur, with community leaders lighting lamps. Everyone sang and danced and village elders made inspirational speeches about the hopes and dreams of our member communities.
And suddenly a concept became a reality!
Where we are now..
JCIPC has set up central stores and village shops (called Village Consumer Societies) both in SAWARD and BVM as well as RGNS (Ramanattukara Grameen Nirman Samiti) another women’s group near Calicut who joined us in 2008. We have complete a benchmarking phase and plan to consolidate our gains during 2009 and 2010. In the meantime, given the geographical distance we realised it would be impossible for us to work at this level of intensity in Orissa as well. But nevertheless, POKS with support from SVA decided to go ahead and launched their own Sahayog Just Change shops which are currently not directly under JCIPC but will soon be merged. The AMS in Gudalur decided to first start a savings programme for their members before launching retail shops. And over 1200 families in 150 villages have started saving. In 2009 AMS hopes to launch its first shop.
JCIPC during 2008-09 has had a turnover of 5 million rupees ($110,000). In each village there is a VCS committee and in each Branch a Just Committee and these committees oversee the functioning of Just Change in their community.
The Just Change Trust actively supports JCIPC in numerous ways. It provides training to community members, staff of the branches and the committee members. It has also deputed three young professionals to work with each of the member groups, with a mandate that by 2010, the community should be able to completely take over the functioning of the company.
We are headed in just one direction – forward! No more looking back.
The Notion of “Benefit”
All economic activity, especially within a capitalist economy, is based on profit. The notion of profit underpins all activity in the arena of trade – so much so we have the infamous but completely accepted bottom line as the only measure of success. This leads to upholding competition as an inevitable, even desirable, component of economic activity. The damage caused by this pursuit of profit to the exclusion of nearly everything else has not been unnoticed, but has been largely accepted as the necessary price to be paid for “development”. The environment has been ruthlessly exploited and human society has been “structurally adjusted” for the creation of profit. Even “fair trade” does not challenge this notion of profit – though it seeks for a better and fairer distribution.
This notion of profit must necessarily put various economic actors in competition with one another. If there is cooperation it is usually only among actors in the same part of the economic chain. Since Just Change seeks to link actors across the economic chain – from producers, consumers and investors – into a cooperative way of working, it is clear that this notion of profit is not conducive for the way we want to work. Hence Just Change has developed the notion of BENEFIT as the underlying purpose of its activities.
This notion of benefit is underpinned by certain fundamental principles which determine what we will and what we will not do. How we perceive and distribute benefit will be therefore governed by these principles.
THE PRINCIPLE OF JUSTICE and EQUITY
The guiding principle of the notion of benefit is the fact that all human beings have an equal right to the earth’s resources – natural and created. All participants must benefit equally from economic activity. If we were starting from point zero where all participants were equal it would not be very difficult to create a system that ensures equal benefit. However, in a trade chain it is inevitable, that some participants will be not just better off but relatively more powerful. Even in Just Change where we seek to link poor communities there is bound to be differences in their economic levels. These differences more often than not are the result of a string of historical events and processes that have defined the economic status of these communities. Hence the notion of benefit must take into account the need to correct historical wrongs and injustices that are often the cause for people living in poverty. What is a “fair” or “equitable” share of the benefit must not be decided purely on the basis of the participation of a particular actor in that particular activity. The sharing between participants must be based not on their relative power within the economic chain – which translated means the ability to exploit the situation to better advantage – but on justice. Justice takes into account not just their current participation in the economic chain but also their historic participation. If someone is placed in a disadvantageous position because of historic or other reasons – inherited poverty being a major one – and vice versa this fact must be taken into consideration when deciding their share. Their share of the benefit must result in changing their position of disadvantage or powerlessness. For example let us take the case of the adivasis of Gudalur who once owned the land but have been rendered landless or marginal farmers over centuries. The fact that they have suffered such an injustice, leaving them at the bottom of the economic ladder, means that their share must enable them to gain more equality.
But it is not just about distributing benefit. We believe that people must have an equal say in the decision making process. Hence in Just Change we ensure that we will try our level best to ensure that all decisions are by consensus.
THE PRINCIPLE OF SOLIDARITY and MUTUALITY
We live in an interconnected world. However, many of these connections and links are by default and not by design. Our notions of community can no longer be defined by geographical boundaries like nation states. When the adivasis visited Germany for the first time, Chathi exclaimed, “For the first time in our lives we have been treated as equals bysomeone outside our community. I feel I have more in common our German friends than my non-tribal neighbour”. Similarly when the adivasis visited Marsh Farm, after tearful farewells, on the bus back to the airport Jeya cried, “I feel I have left behind my new family”. Till today Jeya talks of her brother Glenn in England.
Just Change defines community not as a group of people bound together by history but as people bound together by values. Values that will guide and define their actions.
Solidarity need no longer be a spiritual or intellectual concept. It can be very real – communities taking concrete decisions and actions that will benefit both themselves and other communities like them. Thus solidarity and mutuality is one of the cornerstones of Just Change.
THE PRINCIPLE OF SUSTAINABILTY
The dreaded S word! It means different things to different people.
Years ago a visitor to ACCORD asked a group of adivasis, “how do you know all the work you have done is sustainable”? After a prolonged and thoughtful silence, one of the adivasi elders replied, “when enough people believe in it will be sustainable”. Here sustainable was in the context of longevity. Just Change is committed to ensuring local communities participate in Just Change because they believe in it.
Someone else visiting Just Change in Nilambur asked, “ Do you think this model is sustainable” referring to our highly decentralised governance models. The answer from the women of Vellialamad village – “it is ours, we benefit – we will make it work”. Just Change is committed to ensuring that local communities have complete ownership.
And of course the final challenge comes from the environmental quarter. We are acutely aware of the damage that the single minded pursuit of economic growth has unleashed on our environment, our earth and its resources. Even as we grow, we are committed to ensuring that this will not be at the cost of environmental sustainability. Food miles is something we will watch for carefully ensuring that it is factored into the choices we make. Organic is another area where we will focus. Supporting and encourgaing producers to be as organic as possible. And finally looking at packaging – minimising plastics, doing away with unecessary packaging etc.
If Just Change is to have a true impact it has to consider sustainability from all these different angles.
Who we are
In India, Just Change operates through two structures: The Just Change Trust and the Just Change India Producer Company.
Just Change Trust
The Just Change Trust is a grant based organisation whose mission is to spread the Just Change concept and provide training and support to the community groups who join the Just Change network. Among other things, it initiated the Just Change India Producer Company and supports it in numerous ways. It also does research on subjects relevant to the Just Change concept, much of it through the community groups themselves.
Though the concept was launched in 2001, Just Change was registered as a legal Trust under the Indian Trust Act in 2003. It is governed by a Board of Trustees and managed by a dedicated team of professionals and community based catalysts.
Just Change has taken an evolutionary or emergent approach to the work. As ideas emerge and contribute to a broadening and deepening of the concept, the Trust adapts its support to the member groups of the Just Change network to incorporate or test these new ideas. For example, though the initial concept was to link producers and consumers, it grew to include investors into the framework as well. As a result of this, now that we have established fairly robust links between producers and consumers we are developing ways by which investors can also participate.
We at Just Change India are extremely proud and happy that individuals and communities from across the world are joining us to form a truly global community of people committed to social justice. Communities who are prepared to take a stand and willing to risk new and alternative paths in a quest to build a better world.
Just Change is a movement of networked communities. Hence each country while committed to the concept, has developed in its own way, creating thier own independent histories.
Just Change UK
Just Change UK was launched more or less simultaneously with India. Though our intial attempts to link directly with disadvantaged communities in the UK did not prove very successful, we managed to attract a number of other partners like the Northern Tea Merchants, who bag, pack and warehouse the tea from India, or Unicorn and a number of other ethical retailers across the country who sell the tea. We also drew in a number of volunteers who spread the message, sell tea informally and support the retailers to develop their sales. More recently, when a group of adivasis visited the UK we established contact with the Marsh Farm community. Working closely with them we are slowly developing this into a community enterprise on Marsh Farm which will not only sell the tea locally to its residents, but also be the distribution hub for the South of England. Just Change UK, a registered company coordinates and takes responsibility for all the aspects of Just Change in the UK.
Just Change Germany
Just Change Germany has its roots in a very longstanding relationship with the AMS and the adivasis of Gudalur. The Adivasi Tee Projekt (ATP) was set up in 1996 to support the adivasis to repay the loan they had taken to buy the Madhuvana Tea Plantation. This close relationship between the two communities has now grown to include the Just Change concept.
Just Change France
Just Change France is youngest addition to our global family. Started by volunteers from the UK who moved to France carrying Just Change with them, JC France is eager to develop and is actively looking for volunteers who want to join them.
None of this would have been possible without help or support from people and organisations all over the world. The first support came from Joel Joffe, whose foundation gave us a grant to kickstart the entire Just Change process. Marion and James Wells-Bruges of The RH Southern Trust followed and continue to support our work. The Sir Ratan Tata Trust has been our staunch institutional donor and was instrumental in helping us set up the Just Change India Producer Company. Dame Hilary Blume of the Charities Adivsory Trust has helped us set up village shops through the innovative Good Gifts Programme of her Charities Advisory Trust.
Apart from funding support a number of organisations and individuals have played a role in developing the concept and operationalising it. The New Economics Foundation UK and FEASTA, Ireland – to name just two.
What we do
Just Change Trust regularly conducts a range of training programmes for the member groups of the Just Change India Producer Company. This training is imparted at various levels:
– Awareness building and motivation: these sessions are aimed at helping our members at the NGO level, the community organisation level and at the village level understand what exactly is happening in today’s market economy, how it impacts on them and what they can do to change it. Another set of sessions are aimed at the community coordinators to enable them to play their role as motivators and catalysts.
– Governance: these sessions are aimed at the various Just Change committees at the Branch and Village Consumer Society (VCS) level and the Board of JCIPC so that they understand their roles and responsibilities and are able to develop the necessary skills to fullfill them.
– Management: these are primarily for the teams at Branch and VCS level. It is aimed at ensuring that the teams necessary skills – like accounting, computers, financial analysis
Apart from this Just Change has a quarterly Partners Workshop for the members of the Just Change India Producer Company, which is a participative process that helps the members and their supporting organisations improve their planning, monitoring, and business skills.
We use a number of interactive methods and games to illustrate the capitalist market economy and the flow of money. The leaky bucket game and the candle lights game developed by Just Change are a few that our communities use to communicate complex economic theory and social processes.
Just Change research falls into broad categories:
Community Based Action Research to increase the knowledge and information needed by our member groups.To fulfill this aim we undertake community based research on issues of economic significance to our communities.
Conceptual Research to further strengthen and develop the Just Change concept. This is done by the research team of Just Change Trust
Community based Action Research:
The primary aim of this aspect of our research work is to provide the following inputs to our communities:
A comprehensive analysis on the status of the local economy including the production and marketing systems, potential for expansion/ development of production, income-expenditure patterns, savings and investment patterns, governance systems. This research is done by the community members themselves and we have already put a number of studies under our Local Economy Series.
A comprehensive database on commodities, prices, markets, production methods, and prospects for value addition. This includes gathering information on commodities of relevance to our communities and keeping a regular tab on the movement of markets and prices (local, national and international) for these commodities. It also includes interacting and developing relationships with regional or national R&D institutions to help develop value added products or technology that improves efficiency of production and quality of products. This research has resulted in our Commodity Research Series.
Other local community based studies are also undertaken that are specific to that particular community. For instance the studies on the coconut oil making unit and soap making unit of SAWARD. These studies help communities to examine strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in any economic activity that they may undertake. Such activities could relate to primary production, manufacture, value addition, storage, marketing of goods and commodities of the group as well as purchase and sale of goods and commodities from outside their production systems.
Much of this research is done by the community themselves and therefore ensures that the they become part of the process of intelligence and knowledge gathering and hence do not feel that they are mere spectators in a process that leads to prescriptions on the ways they can take control over their economies. It also helps our communities become keen observants of changes in factors that could affect their economies, be it global, national or local factors, and thereby respond appropriately.
Just Change concept is based on theprinciple of emergence and evolution. We believe that conceptual clarity emerges and evolves as we engage with the issue. To facilitate this we also undertake conceptual research on topics that are in keeping with the Just Change proposition. This research is to act as a feeder into our core research activity which is community. While we havenot yet put out any studies on this, we have written numerous articles on the Just Change concept in a range of media. However, two important pieces of research work are in the pipeline.
“Participative Capital: Rethinking the realationship between Labour and Capital”, is based on research done with the fishing community of South India by Stan and Mari Thekaekara as part of their fellowship with The Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, Said Business School, Oxford. The yet to be published study, looks at the way the fishing community manage their economy and puts forward a case for “participative capital”, a phrase coined by us to explain how capital investment can work within the Just Change model.
The other piece of work is in collaboration with Feasta, Ireland where we are attempting to develop new financial instruments that will enable “participative capital investment” into Just Change as well as developing local community currencies to ensure more flow of money within the local economy.
We are aware that across the globe people are looking for new alternatives to the age old problem of poverty and injustice. Though approaches may be vastly different from Just Change we feel it is important to dialogue and share ideas and experiences so that new solutions can emerge. Hence we have established and maintain links with a number of organisations. We also communicate the Just Change concept through a number of channels: articles in the media, radio programmes, talks and lectures, our newsletter, this website as well as participating in conferences and seminars.
Some of the organisations we are involved with are:
Feasta: The Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability, Ireland: Feasta is another organisation that has been thinking on much the same lines as Just Change. Stan Thekaekara was invited by Feasta to deliver their Fourth Annual Feasta Lecture in 2002 called People First – Justice in a Global Economy. This lecture was later published along with other papers in the Feasta Review – “Growth: The Celtic Cancer”. (Click) Currently Feasta is working with Just Change to develop new investor models as well as developing local community currencies.
The New Economics Foundation, London: NEF has done some pioneering work on money flows in local communities. Their Plugging the Leaks concept has influenced us and led to the development of the Just Change concept of Plumbing the Leaks. This and their booklet on The Money Trail has resulted in Just Change developing The Leaky Bucket game game that community groups can play to understand money flows. NEF invited Stan Thekaekara to deliver the Alternative Mansion House Speech, 2003 based on Just Change.
The Skoll Centre for Social Enterpreneurship, Said Business School, Oxford: Stan and Mari Thekaekara have been visiting fellows at the Skoll Centre. During this time, they have published a paper on Social Justice and Social Entrepreneurship and have taken classes for MBA students on the Just Change concept. They have actively participated in the Skoll World Forum in 2005 where Stan delivered the Keynote, in 2006 when a group of adivasis opened and ended the Skoll World Forum and in 2009 where Stan was a panelist talking about Just Change.
Shop for Change, India: This is a new initiative that is attempting to develop a domestic fair trade lable for India. We are represented on the board and are actively involved to ensure that this isa producer focussed organisation among other things.
AHARAM Traditional Crops Producer company, India: This is a producer group located in Madurai, Tamilnadu. Though not a formal part of Just Change we have many things in common. They are one our main suppliers of rice, tamarind, corriander and chillies.
We have written a chapter for a yet to be published textbook on Social Entrepreneurship for Northampton University which uses Just Change as a case study.
Apart from these there have been numerous articles written by us and others on Just Change and links to these can be found in our resources section.
The Just Change India Producer Company Limited (JCIPC) was formally registered under Chapter IX A of the Companies Act in January 2006. The Company represents a partnership of four member communities, each owning shares of the Company:
Social Agency for Women and Rural Development (SAWARD), Poovatuparamba, Kozhikode District, Kerala
The Just Change Retail model has been launched in two of the four member partners – BVM and SAWARD. AMS has started a massive savings programme to ensure that the village groups have enough working capital before venturing into setting up retail shops. POKS has launched Sahayog Just Change shops and has started pilot retailing ventures. Though this currently does not form part of the accounts of Just Change, they are rooted within the Just Change concept and is likely to be merged into JCIPC. A fifth member group Ramanattukara Grameen Nirman Samithi, (RGNS) based just outside Calicut has started Just Change trading and are in the process of becoming shareholding members of JCIPC.
Being geographically spread out over a large part of the country, these groups are linked together by the common ideals of bringing social justice and equity to the market. Our Company’s success is judged not by profits, but by benefit to producers, consumers and investors.
With three Branches in north Kerala, JCIPC has a turnover of about Rs.50 lakhs (5 million) a year. About 50% of our goods are sourced directly from producers. These include tea, coffee, spices, coconut products and soaps which we source directly from our members and rice, corriander, chillies and tamarind which we source from other producers communities.