LICEULICE: Solidarity implies empathy and sincere involvement in other people’s conditions

Photo: Sara Ristić

Liceulice magazine has recently celebrated LUL Week, while reminding ourselves of the importance of Liceulice’s work remains important each week and each day of the year, hence, this time we talked to Nikoleta Kosovac, program coordinator, and Milosav Marinović, director and editor in chief, about empathy and mutual support through solidarity economy. 

1. Liceulice has widely developed a model of solidarity which we can freely describe as multiply transformative practice since it changes lives on both sides of the magazines and everyone benefits from this simple exchange. While sellers gain higher levels of independence and economic stability, readers widen their horizons through top-quality magazine content. But what do support, solidarity, philanthropy mean to you? 

What Liceulice has developed relies upon solidarity and empathy, but I would prefer to say that it is a model of solidarity economy. In any case, we prefer to see ourselves as a social enterprise rather than a humanitarian organization, although we are that as well. I believe that we have accomplished the very essence of social/solidarity entrepreneurship: mitigating some of the numerous social anomalies and injustices by placing a quality product or service. The program of Liceulice does affect both sides (truthfully, not in the same way), both our users/sellers of the magazine and citizens who support them by buying the magazine. 

One of the slogans we have been using for years is “By buying Liceulice, you are helping others. By reading Liceulice, you are helping yourself.” I believe it is clear how you are helping someone by buying a copy, and how you are helping yourself has become clear to all those who have devoted some more time to the magazine, who have read at least something in it. And there are more such people every day, who, in their own words, read us holding a pencil and who preserve old issues in their libraries as a type of knowledge source, a precious source of a different view of the world around us. You do not buy Liceulice just to help someone, but also to find out something, because the way we approach social phenomena cannot be found so systematically in other media. That way, we continuously achieve double benefit for our sellers but also for the readers, that’s how easy is to help both others and yourself. 

2. The term philanthropy, with its x accepted and less accepted definitions, still frequently causes one-sided sentiments and opinions. One of the more frequent prejudices when approaching philanthropy is that it is a humanitarian, patronizing practice. Being a bright example of overcoming the pure humanitarian level of support, what would you say, where is the line of abandoning humanitarian work and transcending to the emancipatory side and tendencies for structural changes? 

While related, solidarity is certainly a wider term than philanthropy or benefaction. Solidarity implies empathy and sincere involvement in other people’s conditions, it implies a serious level of social connectedness. Solidarity is something like a worldview, life attitude, while philanthropy is action, a gesture possibly coming from that attitude but not necessarily. Solidarity can be expressed in numerous ways, while philanthropy only in one – with money. And while we can all be humane and philanthropists sometimes, if we are empathic and solidary, that is a permanent condition, almost a choice. 

3. How much do you manage to talk to magazine buyers? What are their most common reasons for engaging in support? And, on the other hand, when you donate as individuals, what inspires you to do it?

After years of work, efforts, talking about the project, presentations, meetings, explanations, we are at the level that, when we first meet an organization or individuals, many of them have already heard about us, they are buying the magazine, they have sometimes met some of the sellers and, in general, everything works much more easily – it is easier to establish new contacts, find new partners etc; it is easier for the sellers in the centre of Belgrade, and now in Novi Sad as well, when people recognize them, approach them with a smile and do not ask for a detailed story behind the magazine, or, if anything, at least they do not turn their head the other way. Of course, there are always some people who do not know who we are and who are yet to be introduced to the entire story, but that’s completely fine, we are not tired yet. 

Although the pandemic has put us a few steps back when it comes to selling the magazine, our printing continuously grows and we have more and more readers and supporters in every meaning of that word. I find the very fact that we are still, after ten years, still present, quite a success, we don’t give up and we struggle with different windmills each day to provide dignified lives to those who have lost every hope. And that is one of the greatest motivations to our readers and supporters – to express solidarity and support those who, through this working engagement, improve their lives and make changes. And there are more and more people wishing for different content, those who want to read different printed media regularly, to learn something new along the way, not just to read about the problems that we are all aware of but to also see some other perspectives and solutions to those same problems that our magazine regularly processes. 

We, as individuals, and sometimes also as a collective, contribute to other important initiatives and donate for diverse needs but we also share the existing resources, if we have excess in donated food/clothes/hygiene products, we forward it to partner organizations for their users etc. What motivates me personally is exactly the solidarity that we keep on talking about, the desire to contribute as much as I can, where I am, and to make at least some small change and make someone’s life more secure, nicer, with improved quality. 

Photo: Sara Ristić

4. Looking from aside, it seems like you continuously improve mechanisms for mutual support. What are the longest-term goals that you aim for as an organization?

The ideas of continual improvement of mechanisms for mutual support and plans are numerous, always exceeding our capacities for conducting them, but dreams exist for dreaming, and I believe that all of them will come true at some point – that’s what the practice has been showing us so far. 

Of course, that in and of itself isn’t enough to «survive». To turn the recognizability and trust gained among citizens into permanent support, as an organization, we need to strengthen on some remaining levels, to empower ourselves with specific types of knowledge, we need to expand our network across Serbia, to develop some new services and new products, to empower supporting mechanisms through crowdfunding etc. And to make that possible, it would be good to, at least for a while, free ourselves from daily worries for bare existence, which are, unfortunately, always behind the corner. 

Perhaps the quote of one of our collaborators speaks the most about how much we have succeeded in our goals:

“Liceulice is, besides medical advancements, the only reason for optimism that I can remember.”

Kruno Lokator, publisher

Interview by Galina Maksimović


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