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GEO's Mission: To help build a nation- and worldwide movement for a cooperative social economy based on democratic and responsible production, conscientious consumption, and use of capital to further social and economic justice.
Updated: 29 min 6 sec ago

Brightly Shows How Worker-Owned Cooperatives Can Scale Up

Fri, 07/19/2019 - 17:05
Link: Brightly Shows How Worker-Owned Cooperatives Can Scale Up

One group of cooperatives that has created a well-designed initiative to scale is Brightly, a franchise of worker-owned cooperatives in New York City that offers cleaning services. Brightly is a licensed nonprofit franchise developed with support from the Center for Family Life, which is a community-based organization that has been incubating worker cooperatives for over a decade. 

Traditionally, franchise agreements include the purchase of the local franchised business and royalties for training and for using the franchisee’s brand. The Brightly worker cooperative franchise is different. First, the franchise is a nonprofit endeavor. Secondly, there is no upfront franchise fee and a very lenient non-compete clause, according to Phyllis Robinson, who coordinates the project at the Center for Family Life. 

The franchise attempts to remove the barriers involved in successfully starting a worker-owned cooperative. By providing access to a strong brand with visibility in the marketplace and shared resources to reduce costs, a franchise of worker-owned cooperatives enables low-income entrepreneurs to grow their businesses. 

The process of forming the Brightly franchise agreements was complex since Brightly aimed to mold conventional franchise documents to serve the interests of Brightly workers. 

“We met weekly with the members of the cooperatives to go through the 202-page [legal] document and pulled out the clauses that weren’t fair to them,” Robinson explained. “[The workers] pushed us on it and, in the end, we all got to a really positive agreement.”

Read the rest at Triple Pundit


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US report says a Green New Deal must help electric co-ops switch to renewables

Fri, 07/19/2019 - 16:32
Link: US report says a Green New Deal must help electric co-ops switch to renewables

As more and more electric co-ops across the USA signal a growing interest in renewable energy, a report has called for a new programme to transition rural economies to clean power.

The document, Rural Electrification 2.0, says: “The US public is increasingly demanding clean energy to pursue energy independence and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“As the price of renewables​ has dropped, investments in new clean energy generation have accelerated. Generation from solar and wind is expected to grow by 6% and 14% respectively in 2019.

“Maintaining flexibility in energy resources is key to controlling costs as the US shifts to carbon-free energy.”

Written by Erik Hatlestad, CURE (Clean Up the River Environment Minnesota); Katie Rock, Center for Rural Affairs; and Liz Veazey, of Omaha non-profit We Own It, the report says electric co-ops currently source 67% of their energy from fossils – despite “providing the infrastructure for a clean energy future through transmission lines, wind turbines, and utility-scale solar”.

It says the falling cost of renewables have removed a barrier to switching to renewables.

Read the rest at Co-operative News


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Stephanie Rearick on the Mutual Aid Networks

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 18:20
Link: Forward Forum: Stephanie Rearick on the Mutual Aid Networks 6/26/15

Stephanie Rearick speaks with Forward Forum host John Quinlan on the Mutual Aid Networks creating a legal, social and financial framework to help people redesign their work lives, by creating more comprehensive and resilient kinds of resource sharing and exchange.

Watch more videos from John Quinlan


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Exploring the Mondragon Cooperative System

Wed, 07/17/2019 - 16:51
Link: Exploring the Mondragon Cooperative System

Mondragon operates under the values of participation, innovation, social responsibility, and cooperation. Workers in Mondragon have the right to participate in a democratic decision-making governance structure, are given skill trainings and social safety nets to ensure sustainable employment, and experience a work culture of solidarity and alliances. While the rest of Spain struggled to maintain economic stability after the Great Recession of 2008, areas around Mondragon remained fairly unaffected.

Although Mondragon offers numerous benefits through its distribution of wealth and power, the model is not entirely absent of inequities. The Mondragon Corporation has over 266 business and cooperatives, in 32 countries, but only 98 of those are federated cooperatives, while the rest are international production subsidiaries. Workers in those other locations are not members of the cooperatives, and thus do no participate in democratic governance. This structure has created a group of people, who aren’t owners, but whose labor Mondragon now depends on.

Read the rest at Beneficial State


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How social cooperatives help informal workers

Wed, 07/17/2019 - 16:46
Link: How social cooperatives help informal workers

Does organizing informal workers into their own cooperatives help them? Most certainly. Let me tell you about two poor salt-pan workers from the Little Rann of Kutch (LRK), Gujarat, India; Bhuriben and Samiben.

Bhuriben, a salt-pan worker for more than 25 years, told me what life was like before her cooperative. “At the end of a season, a salt-farmer would be hardly left with 5,000 rupees (US$ 73) to support her family for the entire year.”

So, life was very tough for Bhuriben and over 16,000 salt-pan workers like her in the LRK. They faced two big problems – lack of direct market access that led to exploitatively low prices offered by a traders’ cartel, and the cost of the diesel fuel to operate the pumps needed for salt-farming.

Then, in 1998 something changed. India’s Self Employed Women’s Organization (SEWA) got involved. SEWA brings together more than 1.5 million poor, self-employed women who work in the informal economy. Bhuriben told me what happened next.

“SEWA helped us organize into salt-collectives and provided us with training to produce industrial salt, thereby fetching higher prices. Through our salt-collectives, we also started selling our industrial salt directly to large industries, thereby eliminating the middle-person. Thanks to SEWA and our salt-collectives, our income increased by 30 per cent.”

Read the rest at Work In Progress


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Intro to Ownership Succession Planning

Mon, 07/15/2019 - 16:39
Link: The "Shorter" Search for a Good Exit: Intro to Ownership Succession Planning

In this abbreviated "lunch and learn" version of the VEOC's "The Search for a Good Exit" seminar, business broker Lynne Silva and Vermont Employee Ownership Center co-Executive Director Matt Cropp review key considerations for business owners looking to plan for their exit, and outline four possible paths: Sale to Outsider, Sale to Family, Sale to Managers/Key Employees, and Sale to the broader group of employees.

Watch more from the Vermont Employee Ownership Center


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Request for Proposals: ECWD 2019

Fri, 07/12/2019 - 18:27
Link: Request for Proposals: ECWD 2019

We are accepting proposals for the 2019 Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy, which will be held in Baltimore, MD October 18-20th.

All proposals are due by Wednesday, July 31st. Proposals will be evaluated on a rolling basis, so get your proposal in early! Final programming decisions will be made by mid August. Our staff are happy to discuss your session proposal ideas - email to get in touch.

The ECWD, founded in 2002, is a conference that builds awareness of worker-owned businesses while strengthening existing worker co-ops. For 17 years, the ECWD has forged relationships between democratically-owned businesses, labor institutions, and cooperative resource organizations to expand workplace democracy. The ECWD has been convened every two years in the Eastern United States, and was last hosted by Baltimore in 2011. This will be the first year that the program is organized directly by the US Federation of Worker Co-ops, this country's national grassroots membership organization for worker-owned cooperatives.

Please complete this survey in its entirety as it cannot be accessed or modified once submitted. We look forward to hearing from you and seeing you at the conference!

¡Estamos aceptando propuestas para la Conferencia del Este para la Democracia en el Trabajo (ECWD por sus siglas en inglés), el 18 al 20 de octubre de 2019 en Baltimore, Maryland!

Las propuestas de talleres se deben recibir a más tardar el miércoles 31 de julio. ¡Propuestas serán evaluadas continuamente, asi que mande su propuesta pronto! La toma de decisiones sobre el programa será resuelta a mediados de agosto. Nuestro personal está disponible para hablar sobre sus ideas para una propuesta de sesión - envíe correo electrónico a para estar en contacto.

El ECWD, fundado en 2002, es una conferencia que busca concientizar al mundo sobre las cooperativas de trabajadores mientras que fortalezca las cooperativas de trabajadores existentes. Durante 17 años, el ECWD ha forjado relaciones entres negocios de propiedad democrática, instituciones de labor/sindicales, y organizaciones de apoyo para las cooperativas para crecer la democracia en el trabajo. El ECWD se presenta cada dos años en el este de los Estados Unidos, y la última vez que se presentó en Baltimore fue en 2011. Este año será la primera vez que el programa lo organiza directamente la Federación de Cooperativas de Trabajadores de EE.UU., la organización de membresía a nivel nacional para las cooperativas de trabajadores.

Por favor, complete este formulario de propuesta en su totalidad, ya que no se puede acceder o modificar después de ser enviado. ¡Esperamos con interés sus respuestas y el verle en el encuentro!

Submit your proposal


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Public-Common Partnerships: Building New Circuits of Collective Ownership

Thu, 07/11/2019 - 16:55
Link: Public-Common Partnerships: Building New Circuits of Collective Ownership

Drawing on partial examples such as the co-owned energy company in Wolfhagen, Germany, we provide an outline of what we call a Public-Common Partnership (PCP). PCPs offer an alternative institutional design that moves us beyond the overly simplistic binary of market/state. Instead, they involve co-ownership between appropriate state authorities and a Commoners Association, alongside co-combined governance with a third association of project specific relevant parties such as trade unions and relevant experts. Rather than a mono-cultural institutional form applied indiscriminately PCPs should emerge as an overlapping patchwork of institutions that respond to the peculiarities of the asset concerned, the scale at which the PCP will operate (whether it be city-region wide energy production in Greater Manchester or the commercial activity of a North London market), and the individuals and communities that will act together as commoners.

PCPs can help address challenges of political risk and economic cost, enabling more innovative and “risky” initiatives. However their real strength comes from setting in motion a self-expanding circuit of radical democratic self-governance. The aim of this circuit is to bypass the need for private financing and sidestep the mechanisms through which finance capital exercises its discipline and structures the economy. PCPs will function as a “training in democracy” and help foster a new common-sense understanding of how we relate to one another. They are a method for “taking back control” of the infrastructures and resources that underpin our collective well-being – from food markets to water basins – while increasing our collective ability to fight for the wider structural changes in our society and economy that are so urgently needed – from a reduction in the working week to the implementation of a comprehensive Green New Deal.

Read the rest at the P2P Foundation blog


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Co-operative farms: past, present, and future

Wed, 07/10/2019 - 20:25
Link: Co-operative farms: past, present, and future

The Glen Valley Organic Farm is a community service (ie. non-profit) co-op with around 50 members. Most of these members have purchased shares in the farm but don’t want to be farmers themselves: they just want to support small-scale local agriculture.

People become co-op members by purchasing one $5,000 share. The co-op is run by a board made up of members, including the farm’s business owners, giving them an active role in making decisions about the land.

“The one thing that’s interesting about the model is it’s the land and the assets on the land that are owned by the co-op, and us as farmers run our own businesses,” Bodnar said. “We lease the land from the co-op, but in order to be a tenant on the land we need to be a member of the co-op.

That provides us security in that decisions aren’t made by the co-op that impact us without our knowledge of what’s going on, and the actual intent of the people who are part of the co-op is to support people who want to farm on the property. Provided that we’re operating businesses that support the mission and vision of the co-op it’s a really good fit. So it provides us with long-term security on the land in housing, and at the same time we didn’t need massive capital or a mortgage to put into it.”

Read the rest at Co-operatives First


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New Book: "Communes in America, 1975-2000"

Wed, 07/10/2019 - 19:35
Link: KU religious studies professor finishes trilogy with book about contemporary communes

A University of Kansas professor describes the benefits of communal societies and their status in his new book, "Communes in America, 1975-2000," which completes his trilogy on the subject.

Timothy Miller, religious studies professor, explains in his recently published book, that communes, or a relatively small group of people living together and sharing possession and responsibilities, still thrive in the 21st century, despite public perception.

“The early waves essentially crested and declined, although not as much as you might think. There’s a lot of them still out there today,” Miller said.

Read the rest at The University Daily Kansan


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Worker-Owners in their Own Words

Tue, 07/09/2019 - 19:11
Link: Worker-Owners in their Own Words

For people interested in starting a worker cooperative, one of the most useful things to do is to hear from people who are already living the dream of worker-ownership. Starting a co-op can be an intimdating process, and connecting with those who have “been there and done that” helps not only by providing examples of how particular issues have been addressed in existing co-ops, but also by providing the confidence that comes with being part of a movement, rather than just a group of individuals struggling on their own to create something new.

It is with this in mind that we present a compendium of interviews with worker-owners in co-ops engaged in everything from building houses to baking muffins. It’s our hope that what you find below will help inspire confidence in the worker cooperative model, and a passion for expanding it into new fields and new enterprises. Enjoy!

Read the rest at the Cooperative Educators Network


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America Loves the Idea of Family Farms. That’s Unfortunate.

Tue, 07/09/2019 - 15:46
Link: America Loves the Idea of Family Farms. That’s Unfortunate.

Family farming isn’t just difficult. It’s so brittle that it only makes a viable livelihood for farmers when land is nearly valueless for sheer lack of people. In areas where family farming has persisted for more than a couple generations it’s largely thanks to extensive, modern technocratic government interventions like grants, guaranteed loans, subsidized crop insurance, free training, tax breaks, suppression of farmworker wages, and more. Family farms’ dependence on the state is well understood within the industry, but it’s heresy to talk about it openly lest taxpayers catch on. I think it’s time to open up, because I don’t think a practice that needs that much life support can truly be considered “sustainable.” After seeing what I’ve seen from 20 years in the industry, continuing to present it as such feels to me like a type of con game — because there is a better way.

America’s history is filled with examples of collaborative farming. It’s just less publicized than single-family homesteading. African-American farmers have a long and determined history of collaborative farming, a brace against the viciousness of slavery and Jim Crow. Native peoples that farmed usually did so as a whole community rather than on a single-family basis. In the early days of the reservation system, some reservations grew their food on one large farm run by the entire nation or tribe. These were so successful that colonial governments panicked, broke them up, and forced indigenous farmers to farm as individual single-family homesteads. This was done with the express goal of impoverishing them — which says a lot about the realities of family farming, security, and financial independence. It also says a lot about how long those grim realities have been understood. Indigenous groups today run modern, innovative, community-level land operations, including over half the farms in Arizona; or Tanka’s work restoring prairies, bison, and traditional foodways in the Dakotas as the settler-built wheat economy dries up.

One collaborative tradition that’s been very public about how their community-size farms function is the Hutterites, a religious group of about 460 communities in the U.S. and Canada numbering 75-150 people apiece. Despite the harsh prairies where they live, and farming about half as many acres per capita as neighboring family farmers, Hutterites are thriving and expanding when neighboring family farms are throwing in the towel.
Their approach — essentially farming as a large employee-owned company with diverse crops and livestock — has valuable lessons.

Read the rest at the Intelligencer


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Interview with Alex Stone of CooperationWorks!

Fri, 07/05/2019 - 16:44
Link: Alex Stone, Executive Director of CooperationWorks! is interviewed on Everything Co-op

Alex Stone, Executive Director of CooperationWorks! (CW), is interviewed on Everything Co-op, by host Vernon Oakes. Vernon and Alex discuss her experiences in the cooperative movement, and how Cooperation Works! uses its national network of Cooperative Development Centers, to help revitalize communities through effective cooperative enterprise development.

Alex Stone first became involved with co-ops through student housing co-ops at UC Berkeley, where she lived for three years and participated as a house-level manager and board member. She was deeply involved with the creation of the Berkeley Student Food Collective and served as the store's first Operations Manager through its first two years. Alex co-founded the Cooperative Food Empowerment Directive and coordinated its first training involving over twenty students from seven universities across the west coast. As Executive Director of CW, she looks forward to expanding CW's impact in the field of cooperative development.

CooperationWorks! is the Center of Excellence for cooperative business development. The organization is a dynamic and innovative national cooperative created to grow the cooperative model across the United States. Its mission is to strengthen America's cooperative movement by building and empowering a network of skilled cooperative development practitioners. CW members, a national network of Cooperative Development Centers, work together to revitalize communities through effective cooperative enterprise development.

Listen to more episodes of Everything Co-op


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Worker-owned domestic cleaning businesses are gearing up for a massive expansion

Fri, 07/05/2019 - 16:38
Link: Worker-owned domestic cleaning businesses are gearing up for a massive expansion

A few years ago, the Center for Family Life, a nonprofit social services organization in Brooklyn that incubates worker cooperatives, established one such cleaning cooperative, called Brightly. And now, they’re relaunching the cooperative as a franchise network in an effort to establish more worker cooperatives and expand the reach of the organization outside the New York City area, according to Phyllis Robinson, CFL’s “Coopportunity” coordinator.

In the years that Brightly has existed, it’s proven successful, if small-scale. There are now two Brightly worker cooperatives operating in the New York City area: one in Brooklyn and one on Staten Island. Its several dozen worker-owners generally make around $21 per hour. Instead of having to fork over a large percentage of their take-home pay to a company like Handy, they decide collectively how much of their pay they want to leave in the cooperative for expenses, and how much they take home.

Robinson wants to see the cooperative model scale across the home-cleaning industry to help workers attain better pay and more control over their schedules. While worker cooperatives are still a very small segment of the overall economy, interest in the model and the number of cooperatives is growing. Key to that growth, Robinson says, is having support systems in place to help existing businesses make the switch to cooperatives, or to help cohorts of workers self organize into a coop.

Read the rest at Fast Company


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The push for city-supported worker coops is taking hold in these Bay Area cities

Thu, 07/04/2019 - 16:51
Link: Workers rising: The push for city-supported worker coops is taking hold in these Bay Area cities

When Rendell “Ren” Boguiren got a job in college at a South Bay pizzeria, he wasn’t expecting it would become a career. Now, as a part-owner in the business, he can’t imagine leaving.

It was a transition made possible because co-founders Kirk Vartan and his wife, Marguerite Lee, made a decision in 2015 to sell the business they started, A Slice of New York, to their employees. Both continue to retain part ownership, along with 14 other worker-owners.

“I take a lot of pride in being an owner,” Borguiren said. “It’s something I never would have expected.”

Read the rest at Mercury News


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Over 50 Co-operators Gather for Summit in Quebec City

Wed, 07/03/2019 - 18:11
Link: Over 50 Co-operators Gather for Summit in Quebec City

With the theme of “Meeting Worker Co-op Challenges of 2019”, over 50 co-operators gathered for the Worker Co-op Summit in Quebec City on June 17 (photos are available here).   It was a rare and special opportunity for members of worker co-ops belonging to the Quebec Forestry Co-op Federation, Quebec Paramedic Co-op Federation, Réseau COOP and CWCF to be able to meet and learn from each other.  Guest speakers included US FWC Executive Director Esteban Kelly by live video conference; Co-operatives and Mutuals Canada (CMC) Executive Director André Beaudry; Conseil de la coopération et de la mutualité (CQCM) Executive Director Gaston Bédard; and (on pre-recorded video), Noam Chomsky. 

The main themes explored via panels were worker co-op governance; the motivations to join a worker co-op; and federation services, with guest speakers covering other topics.

Read the rest at Canadian Worker Co-op Federation


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Incubating worker cooperatives in the changing world of work

Wed, 07/03/2019 - 18:07
Link: Siôn Whellens: Incubating worker cooperatives in the changing world of work

Calverts  is a worker-owned creative design studio and print shop. It was founded by seven people in 1977. It was the product of a conflict between employees and manager-owners of a publishing and printing subsidiary of the Institute for Research in Art and Technology. It started as a ‘sweat equity’ common ownership worker cooperative, designing and printing community, union and political publications. I became a member of Calverts in 1985.

Over the years, Calverts grew meeting its members’ evolving needs and aspirations and investing all its surplus in skills and technology development. It is now a leading print house and design studio, working for universities, consumer brands, arts organizations and publishers. It is still, however, also a ‘movement’ resource, often working pro bono for grassroots community organizations with which our members are involved. It has also remained true to its founding principles of equality. Our members are all hourly paid, on the same hourly rate - from the Finance Director to the Cleaner. We have no line managers, working instead as interlinked team circles, with a General Meeting every month. We have a culture of ‘emergent strategy’, and most decisions are made by consensus, using a mixture of sociocratic and devolved process. We try to avoid conventional voting, except when it is required by statute. This efficient and empowering approach is quite common in UK worker cooperatives, which are in the forefront of cooperative democratic innovation.

Read the rest at the ILO


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Converting Businesses to Worker Co-ops Video Series

Tue, 07/02/2019 - 18:54

The Northwest Cooperative Development Center in partnership with Jasonwienerplc presented a workshop on converting business to employee ownership in 11 Pacific Northwest Communities between April 29th and June 26th. During that time with engaged with several Small Business Development Centers in Idaho Falls, Twin Falls (Idaho), Ontario and La Grande (Oregon) and the Washington SBDC.

Our Legacy Tour wrapped up in Wenatchee on June 26th, but we aren’t done yet. At the Olympia session, we filmed the workshop and will be presenting it is 7 installments beginning July 8th after the long-holiday (International Co-op Day) weekend!

The first installment will premiere on our Youtube channel at 9:30 am PDT/12:30 pm EDT. People who tune in during the premiere can participate in a live chat which will be archived with the video. . If you visit the video page today ( you can click the bell and receive a reminder to join the premiere.

The series schedule is as follows:

Legacy Tour Video Series on YouTube









9:30 AM

Introduction and Benefits




10:00 AM

Readiness, Planning, and Exploration




10:00 AM

Entity Choices




10:00 AM

Tax Considerations




10:00 AM

Financial Planning




10:00 AM

Succession Case Studies




10:00 AM

New Structure and Maintenance


Funding for these videos provided by the Washington State Microenterprise Association thanks to a grant made by the Washington State Department of Commerce.

Funding for the workshops provided by the US Department of Agriculture Rural Development through the Rural Business Development Grant.


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