Towards Co-operative Commonwealth: Transition in a Perilous Century

Announcing a Unique Learning Opportunity for Changemakers Everywhere

Empowering –
This course was extremely important and made the possibility of systems change feel achievable. I am truly in awe of the effort and achievement of the course organizers.

Shifting Thinking
The course exposed me to many different ideas that I had not encountered before. It has changed the way that I look at and evaluate issues. I have gone even further away from conventional thinking and ideas.

Sensemaking –
I shared articles and case examples/websites with colleagues. The material was solid! It added new information and helped me make sense of it all. It was clear and compelling. I agree with folks who talked about the huge value it has!!!

Testimonials from the 2019 edition – 1060 registrants from 42 countries

Towards Co-operative Commonwealth: Transition in a Perilous Century

4th Edition

Registration opens: December 15, 2021
Start Date:  February 7, 2022


Synergia Co-operative Institute is a community service co-operative whose purpose is to promote transition to a sustainable political economy that is democratic, socially just, and based on the principles of co-operation and the common good.

Synergia unites academics, activists, practitioners, and policymakers in a common effort to identify and implement models of economic, environmental, and social practice that focus on  institutional and systems-level change based on Cooperative economic democracy –  a framework of concepts, values, and practices that give priority to 

  • resilience over economic growth
  • cooperation over competition
  • sufficiency over efficiency
  • well-being over the right to possess
  • fairness and equity over the primacy of markets, trade, and capital
  • decentralized and democratic ownership over centralized power and private ownership
  • the commons over the rights of private property, and
  • our dependence upon nature over our right to dominate it. 

These are not merely theoretical propositions. They are choices about what is paramount for transition in a perilous century. They are the basis for a comprehensive alternative to the status quo – a compendium of ideas, models, and movements that are essential to our collective capacity for transition and survival. These alternatives, and the means to apply them, are the focus of our work.

Several questions frame our thinking and guide our work:

  • How can we meet our basic needs in ways that advance fairness and resilience where we live and contribute to the restoration of ecosystems and GHG reduction?
  • How do we shift the narrative from the mantra of endless growth to one of well-being, sufficiency, solidarity, and living within the natural limits of the planet?
  • How can citizens, communities, organizations, institutions, movements, and progressive businesses co-operate to craft and execute strategies that build solutions that counter the status quo?
  • How do we diffuse and amplify the impacts of existing models and solutions to advance system change?

Our contribution to this global call for a transition to sustainability is threefold:

  • Designing accessible, high-quality educational resources and training programs that can be leveraged by change agents everywhere to create system-changing solutions fitted to local contexts.
  • Providing training and education programming through intensive, face-to-face courses. 
  • In collaboration with our network of experts and practitioners, provide research, advice, and technical support to policymakers, governments, and NGOs on the development and implementation of transition models for system change.

Synergia’s mission to inspire, educate and animate people to take action is relevant to those beginning the transition journey as well as those who have been in the trenches for years. 

Our invitation to the 2022 MOOC embodies these principles and aims.

Synergia: Our Conceptual Framework

System change and transition to a political economy that is both socially just and environmentally sustainable are now the central concern of social movements the world over.

This marks an inflection point in the historical struggle for social justice. In previous eras, the primary forces driving progressive social movements were political and economic reform. In our time, the existential threat posed by global warming to the future of our species and to the planet has forced a radical rethinking of both politics and economics.

Climate change has added an unprecedented layer of complexity to social change work. To meet this challenge, “system change” means far more than a change of government or adjustments to the capitalist status quo. Transition to a just and sustainable future must be based on a wholly different set of values. It requires a perspective that is more integral, more holistic, and more demanding of cooperation than anything we have seen since the rise of industrialization.

This is the starting point for the transition work we envisage at Synergia.

How then to explain this vision of change and the means of achieving it in these perilous times?

Our framing of system change is guided by a set of interlocking principles and practices. They address why the crisis points have come to pass, how change might be affected and what sort of political economy may ultimately emerge from the process. Our approach is to understand how we got here and how to build real alternatives while resisting the catastrophic effects of the present system.

Our vision of system change is based on the following propositions:

  • That the conflict between predatory elites and the common good is endemic to all human societies and that societies protect themselves through civil resistance and the practice of democracy. This is a natural feature of all human societies and reflects Karl Polanyi’s concept of the Double Movement.
  • That power is concentrated at different levels systemically, and success hinges on achieving system change at each level. Here we are guided by the use of the Multi-Level Perspective (MLP) to craft and assess effective strategies for change.
  • That economics is an extension of social life and its purpose is to serve the common good as well as the well-being of individuals. The concept of Civil Economy is the embodiment of this understanding.
  • That co-operation and the deepening of democracy are the basis for redefining the roles of the state and civil society. The Partner State is a political form that reflects the principles of civil economy and co-operative commonwealth.
  • That transition must be premised both on social justice and the sustainable stewardship of the natural world. The concept of a Just Transition embraces the interdependence of social justice, political reform, and environmental regeneration.

The Synergia MOOC seeks not only to foster resistance to injustice and environmental destruction but also the means to build viable alternatives based on real lessons and transition models that are succeeding in the present day.