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Buffalo gathering of progressives to brainstorm solutions for the future

Nearly 1,000 progressive activists, organizers and intellectuals are headed to Buffalo this weekend for a three-day conference on how to create systematic change in the United States.

Among issues for the gathering, dubbed CommonBound 2016, are ways to democratize energy systems and lower the cost of solar and wind power in the face of accelerating climate change, developing vibrant local economies without displacing people already there and promoting worker ownership to spread economic wealth.

“The conference is going to be a two-way street, where many of these visitors will be exposed to Buffalo for the first time, learning about the incredible strides we have made and what a rich context this is for localism and community wealth,” said Aaron Bartley, executive director of PUSH Buffalo. “On the flip side, we will be reaping the benefits of all their experience.”

PUSH is one of several Buffalo organizations that have formed the Crossroad Collective to plan and host the conference. The sessions will be held at SUNY Buffalo State, with tours and other off-site activities occurring throughout the city.

“What makes it timely and trenchant is that we are at a crossroads in Buffalo in the sense that there are various visions for the future of Buffalo,” Bartley said. “There is one that might end up in a very gentrified, less diverse city, and another that would be more heterogeneous and democratic and diverse, and more localized in its economic systems and production.”

Tori Kuper, the conference’s Buffalo coordinator, said the time is right for a conference that brings together people and organizations interested in creating change designed to work for the many instead of the few.

“It’s becoming increasingly clear that the current economy is not working for the vast majority of people, and for many years groups have been working to change that and to strive toward a society in which we are able to get our needs met, build strong communities and thrive,” Kuper said.

Ideas and practices to strengthen local economies to be discussed during the gathering will focus on food, energy and home health care. Some of the solutions, organizers say, have been found in worker-controlled cooperatives.

The conference is sponsored by the Boston-based New Economy Coalition, a network of 140 organizations whose mission is “working for an economy that puts people and planet first.”

“The staff visited Buffalo, and was compelled by the really interesting, exciting and innovative projects happening here,” Kuper said.

Commonbound 2016, which runs from Friday through Sunday, includes local, national and international speakers. The cost of attending ranges from $90 to $500, with scholarships available and a special fund set aside for Buffalo residents.

For more information, a list of speakers and programs, and to register, visit commonbound.org.

email: msommer@buffnews.com