The word SEIZE is an acronym. It stands for Solidarity Economy Incubation Zone (you can say “for Entrepreneurs” at the end if you prefer perfect acronyms) and refers to the thriving community of practice built around the Concordia based social and solidarity economy. The Socialist Economy Incubation Zone is a member-based democratic organization and network. Our goal is to advance the work of replacing capitalism with an economic system that affirms the web of life and upholds human dignity and freedom within it. In short, we’re working to build the capacity for a socialist economy.
In broad terms, replacing capitalism with a socialist economy means:
- building a culture of economic cooperation and sustainable practices,
- actively restructuring our institutions, trade, and businesses at every level.
- moving from relationships of exploitation to relationships of solidarity,
What is an Incubator?
An incubator is essentially a business accelerator, meaning an organization that takes in groups of people with the ambition to create new businesses/organizations, and gives them the training, networks, funding, and support they need to reach success. Incubators operate as a service provider which can be broken down into three main streams of activities: Educate, Incubate and Organize.
This business accelerator model is commonly utilized and practiced within the traditional for-profit capitalist economy. Our research on university based entrepreneurship incubation services shows that there is no organization within Canada utilizing this approach to support the transition to a democratic economy.
What is the Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE)?
The social and solidarity economy (sometimes known as the socialist economy) is a model centered around collective ownership and democratic control as opposed to profit. That is not to say that the economic realities of a SSE enterprise do not guide its decisions, as every organization that exists in our economy (ie, a capitalist marketplace) must become financially sustainable. What it does mean is that there is a fundamental difference between the culture of a business that is grounded in the collective ownership and democratic assembly of its community, and the culture of a business that will grow to be controlled by the detached and questionable motives of laissez-faire economics. SEIZE is advocating that we channel the talents and ambitions of student and community entrepreneurs into creating cooperative businesses and SSE enterprises built around these principles, and in so doing help facilitate the transition into a democratic economy.
How will SEIZE create an incubator?
SEIZE’s activities for the Fall 2021 semester are focused on a campaign with the CSU to launch the incubator through the fee-levy system. This process, which is outlined in the CSU’s bylaws and other regulations, involves developing an organization model, and demonstrating interest from the Concordia undergraduate student body via a petition. Following these crucial steps, a referendum question is then voted on by the Student body, who carry ultimate approval.
Notably, as SEIZE has existed for many years, there have been multiple endorsements of the campaign, from fee levy groups, to the CSU council, to a former referendum students voted on back in the beginnings of our campaign in 2015 with 84% support. Before circulating the petitions, we presented the referendum questions to CSU council for consultation on June 9th, 2021, as per their regulations.
What services does SEIZE offer today?
For the third time, SEIZE is currently running an 8-week certified course (Fundamentals of the Solidarity Economy). Should the incubator campaign be successful, we aim to offer multiple curriculums each semester, with both core courses on fundamentals as well as specific topics necessary for early stage businesses and organizations. This would include, for example, hands-on non-profit board governance training, which would be conducted in collaboration with Concordia undergraduate’s impressive host of more than 20 different non-profit student organizations.
What is the fee-levy system?
The fee-levy system is a method of funding that is administered through the CSU. Students vote on whether or not they want to pay an additional amount per credit towards a given initiative, and if they vote in favor, these fees are automatically stapled on to their tuition payments with the university. SEIZE will be campaigning to achieve a $0.29/credit fee levy. Should students vote in favor of the SEIZE referendum question in the fall of 2021, the fees will go towards the operating budget of a new incubator, which will be launched in winter 2022.
Where will the incubator exist?
Should the fee-levy be secured through the campaign in the fall of 2021, the incubator will operate out of an office space in the downtown core. We will continue to run the curriculum and other core operations through a combination of online activities and booking university spaces (classrooms, etc.)
Who has SEIZE worked with?
Supporting Organizations (past and present):
- Concordia Student Union
- Regional Development Network
- Canadian Worker Cooperative Federation
- Concordia University Dean of Students Office
- Concordia Food Coalition
- Sustainability Action Fund
- Concordia University Television
- Milton Park Community
- The Hive Solidarity Cooperative Cafe
- The Breach Media
- New Roots Workers Cooperative
- Woodnote Housing Coop
- Tree Workers Industrial Group
- Divest Concordia
- Reggies Solidarity Cooperative
- Coop Beigne Oui