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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: 9 min 29 sec ago

Are Backbone Organizations Eroding the Norms that Make Networks Succeed?

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 18:45
Link: Are Backbone Organizations Eroding the Norms that Make Networks Succeed?

...while collaborating across sectors has become a familiar mantra of strong strategies and good governance among organizations, it took many of us by surprise when the collective impact framework proposed by FSG became synonymous with any and all forms of coordinated action in the public and nonprofit sectors.

If this was not on your radar when Elinor Ostrom set the stage (and subsequently won a Nobel Prize) for her work on collective action theory, you might think that the collective impact model is the foundational model of how networks collaborate (or should collaborate) in today’s times. On the contrary, not only have organizations been perfecting the art of networks for decades via practical learning but also, for nearly as long, scholars have built upon and joined Ostrom’s lifelong commitment to developing sense-making structures, models, and frameworks for coordinated action. While Ostrom’s work on collective action has predominantly informed the environmental sciences on a pathway of developing incentives for coordination—determining the rules for use and institutional constraints and opportunities—the basic foundations of coordinated action toward a common goal resonate across the disciplines. No amount of new labeling can dispel the conclusion that “collective impact” is equivalent to old wine in a new bottle.

As many people know today, the CI model proposes that five conditions should be met for a network to be effective. These are: having a common agenda; having a shared measurement system; engaging in mutually reinforcing activities; open and continuous communication; and governance of a backbone organization. The authors of the model state, “…we believe that there is no other way society will achieve large-scale progress against the urgent and complex problems of our time, unless a collective impact approach becomes the accepted way of doing business.” The authors are not wrong that tackling wicked problems is going to take audacious innovative efforts; however, what is questionable about their statement is whether the collective impact model is “the only way”—or in fact, a way at all. Many of us are still waiting for evidence that this model is the way forward, in relation to any other model already proposed.

Read the rest at Non-Profit Quarterly


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Interview with Brendan Martin of the Working World

Fri, 02/09/2018 - 18:23
Link: Brendan Martin, founder and director of The Working World is interviewed by Vernon Oakes, on Everything Co-op

Vernon Oakes, host of the Everything Co-ops radio show, interviews Brendan Martin of The Working World about economics, cooperatives and creating alternatives for a more just economy.

Listen to the interview on Chirbit


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Incredible Edible Todmorden gives free food to everyone

Thu, 02/08/2018 - 17:28
Link: Incredible Edible Todmorden gives free access to locally grown food to everyone

Back in 2007, a woman in a small town called Todmorden, in the northern part of England, dug up her prized rose garden. She planted vegetables, knocked down the garden wall, and put up a sign saying, "Help Yourself." 

This small action grew into a movement that has transformed Todmorden into a town in which citizens are reshaping their surroundings. The incredible edible Todmorden movement has turned all the public spaces, from the front yard of a police station to railway stations, into farms filled with edible herbs and vegetables. Locals and tourists pluck fruits and vegetables for free.

Read the rest at Shareable


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How farmers benefit from ag equipment co-ops

Thu, 02/08/2018 - 17:23
Link: How farmers benefit from ag equipment co-ops

A CUMA is an agricultural equipment co-op that provides farmers the use of large, expensive machinery, and decreases the cost to access up-to-date equipment. 

As an organization, a CUMA is group of farmers involved in the same sector (grain farming, dairy, etc.), who pool equity based on the type of equipment they need. Shareholders in the co-op sign a contract committing to using a piece of machinery for a certain amount of time in a given year.

Shareholders also pay a membership fee, and generally each branch of a CUMA has a manager that oversees the scheduling of the equipment. This manager makes sure members are adhering to their contracts and that equipment is being utilized as efficiently as possible between members.


Though the amount of money saved by CUMA shareholder members varies on a case-by-case basis, the savings can be substantial. According to the Quebec Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Food, members of a dairy CUMA saved over $14,000 annually. Harris and Fulton claim savings could be as high as 70% in some cases. Plus, as an incorporated entity, liability rests with the co-op and not individual farmers. So, more individual farmer equity is free to grow their business or invest in other things.

Read the rest at Co-operatives First


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Farmers and Co-ops Benefit from Tax Bill

Wed, 02/07/2018 - 17:09
Link: Farmers, grain cooperatives to benefit from new tax law

Farmers seem to be one of the groups that will benefit the most from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

Under the new tax law, farmers in 2018 will be able to deduct 20 percent of their total sales when they sell their crops to a cooperative, which for some farmers could mean zero taxable income.

Reuters reported last month that ethanol producers and privately run grain handlers fear they will be cut out of the equation. ADM told Reuters it was evaluating the provision and "various potential solutions" to it.

"It is going to put us out of business as a private if something is not changed right off the bat," said Doug Bell, president and general manager of Bell Enterprises Inc. "There is just no reason whatsoever why a farmer would do business with anyone other than a co-op."

Read the rest at Herald-Whig


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Worker cooperatives offer real alternatives to Trump’s economic vision

Wed, 02/07/2018 - 16:59
Link: Worker cooperatives offer real alternatives to Trump’s retrograde economic vision

Yet across the country, many of the nation’s most disenfranchised are writing a different story. In dozens of cities, worker-owner cooperatives are establishing new enterprises based on joint decision-making, dignified work conditions and fair pay. Utilizing their existing skills and harnessing new ones, these groups are leveraging their labor on their own terms, with a vision to change their industries and the economic landscape. And in this rising movement, people of color, immigrants and women are leading the way.

There are many reasons why cooperatives are well-suited to these demographics, says Esteban Kelly, executive director of the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives, or USFWC, a nationwide coalition representing over 160 co-ops. “Cooperatives are very appealing for people who have been locked out of the traditional job market, or who tend to get locked in to jobs which have low wages and poor working conditions,” he said. “We are seeing a lot of momentum in the service sectors, like child care and elderly care, early education, hospice, and other labor-intensive, low-wage jobs — and these tend to be comprised of many people of color, indigenous people, immigrants and women.”

Read the rest at Waging Nonviolence


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A Populism of Hope

Mon, 02/05/2018 - 17:54
Link: A Populism of Hope Begins When People Feel Their Own Power

The waning years of the 1800s bore an uncanny resemblance to the present. The U.S. economy was transforming and globalizing, leaving behind many hardworking people. Then, as now, a populist uprising was underway in national politics against politics as usual. Then, as now, tough-talking contenders tried to position themselves as spokesmen for the people.

That earlier populism shared many of the complaints about widespread economic stagnation and urban elites that animated voters in 2016. But, rather than in the apocalyptic preaching of a reality TV star, the movement’s backbone lay in feats of economic self-help. And this made all the difference. The proposals those populists sought called for fuller democracy, not authoritarian retrenchment.

This was a populism of hope, not a populism of fear.

Read the rest at YES! Magazine


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A Cryptocurrency With a Conscience

Fri, 02/02/2018 - 17:43
Link: Breaking Protocol: Blockchain and Capital Controls in Greece

Cash is increasingly being replaced with cashless systems including cryptocurrencies. This week, we hear about the political economy of blockchain. And we hear from Greeks who've been using cryptocurrencies since the capital controls of 2015.

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Categories: News

Five Elements of Collective Leadership

Fri, 02/02/2018 - 17:24
Link: Five Elements of Collective Leadership

What is collective leadership? How does it compare to a more traditional concept of leadership? Why would anyone want to use it? What are the benefits? How did it develop and what are its theoretical foundations? In this article, we outline key aspects and benefits of the process. What Collective Leadership Is and Isn’tWe have defined collective leadership as a group of people working together toward a shared goal. When collective leadership is happening, people are internally and externally motivated—working together toward a shared vision within a group and using their unique talents and skills to contribute to the success. In fact, collective leadership recognizes that lasting success is not possible without diverse perspectives and contributions. Collective leadership is a process. It is dependent on the relationships among the parts in the system, whether that system is two people working together; a classroom, team, board, or organization; or a system initiative. In collective leadership, the way the group works together makes it different from a more traditional model of leadership. How the group works together and the unique results that are possible only when this happens differentiate a group that is sharing leadership from one that is not. In collective leadership, there is shared responsibility and decision making, accountability, and authentic engagement. All members are involved in creating the vision and are committed to working to achieve that vision. Collective leadership is based on the assumption that everyone can and should lead.2 Collective leadership requires specific conditions for the success of the whole: trust, shared power, transparent and effective communication, accountability, and shared learning. It is based on the recognition that without the gifts, talents, perspectives, and efforts of many, sustainable change is difficult to achieve. Creativity is unleashed as people tap into their fullest abilities and capacities. When collective leadership is present, people say, “We have done this ourselves.” Read the rest at Nonprofit Quarterly  Go to the GEO front page
Categories: News

How Communities Use Clean Energy to Build Local Power

Thu, 02/01/2018 - 18:51
Link:  Video: How Communities Use Clean Energy to Build Local Power – Alternative Energy Resources Expo

In October 2017, John Farrell gave a keynote address to the annual meeting and expo of AERO, a Montana organization with a similar mission of empowering communities to promote a sustainable economy. He addressed the widespread opportunity for clean energy in Montana, the shared desire of communities to capture that growing economic opportunity, and three ways communities can get started. 

Read the rest at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance


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Jackson Rising: At Last, a Real Strategic Plan

Wed, 01/31/2018 - 19:04
Link: Jackson Rising: At Last, a Real Strategic Plan

Jackson Rising is the most important book I have read in a long time. Organizers are going to love it. If you wonder what democracy might look like in our time — here it is. Jackson Rising is the rarest of things: a real strategic plan. You will not find a simple wish list that glosses over the hard questions of resources, or some disembodied manifesto imploring the workers forward, but a work-in-progress building the capacity of people to exercise power. And that project is Cooperation Jackson. Cooperation Jackson is an emerging network of cooperatives and grassroots institutions that aim to build a “solidarity economy.” By seizing on the crisis and weak links of modern capitalism and building on the historic struggles for racial equality by the black people of Mississippi, Cooperation Jackson has created a model we can all learn from.Read the rest at Black Agenda Report  Go to the GEO front page
Categories: News

AORTA is Hiring New Worker-Owners

Wed, 01/31/2018 - 18:58
Link: AORTA is Hiring New Worker-Owners

AORTA is looking to hire up to three worker-owner candidates for full time positions. (We define full time as 35 hours/week, and are committed to hiring people willing to work no less than 30 hours/week minimum.) We are only looking to hire people interested in becoming worker-owners. We are looking for potential worker-owners who are excited about committing to the cooperative for at least 5 years. We are strongly invested in our organizational points of unity (which can be found here), and would expect a new worker-owner to share those values. While we prefer the person or persons we hire to be located in the San Francisco Bay Area, southern California, New York, Philadelphia, or Washington D.C., we are willing to consider applicants from outside of these regions. Due to the nature of our work, all members must have the ability and flexibility to work occasional odd hours, long hours, and weekend days. We envision hiring people who would devote approximately 60% of their time to client-facing work and 40% of their time to internal business administration. Client work includes facilitation, mediation, training, and consulting. We work with other cooperatives, student groups, community organizations, and social and economic justice nonprofits as facilitators of workshops, meetings, retreats, and conflict resolution processes and consultants on organizational capacity, transformation, and development. Being involved in internal business administration might look like joining our human resources team, growing our project management systems, or taking on finance, communications, or business development responsibilities, in addition to attending meetings and retreats and participating in democratic decision-making processes. Read the full job description and apply at AORTA  Go to the GEO front page
Categories: News

Talk on Limited-Equity Housing Cooperatives

Mon, 01/29/2018 - 19:16
Link: Talk on Limited-Equity Housing Cooperatives

While low-income workers have struggled to find affordable, dignified housing in (sub)urban areas since time immerorial, the housing affordability crisis in recent years has become more generalized and now affects a growing portion of the middle class throughout the country. Arlington has not been an exception to this trend and the county government has been scrambling to stem the decline of so-called market rate affordable housing (MARKs) while also increasing housing options for very low income individuals by expanding the number of committed affordable housing units (CAFs) through non-profit developers like APAH and AHC. More recently, the county board has proposed the creation of housing conservation disctricts that would place some restrictions on "by right" (re)development in certain neighborhoods and protect existing MARKs from demolition.

While these approaches have played a significant role in combatting Arlington's affordable housing problems, ORA believes that the county government should be giving greater consideration to shared equity housing solutions, particularly limited equity cooperatives. Through its Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA), our northern neighbor Washington, DC has empowered many low income tenants to avoid gentrification-related displacement by providing them the opportunity to purchase and convert their buildings into tenant-owned cooperative corporations. Many of these tenants opted to convert their buildings and units into limited equity cooperatives, which are a form of cooperative housing that is price restricted; affordability is maintained in perpetuity by capping the transfer value of cooperative shares to limit the equity that owners can extract from their units. As a type of collective ownership, LECs enable homeownership without the risk of debt financing or the responsibility of maintenance. The restriction on share resale values keeps LECs affordable to multiple generations of purchasers and enables renters to become homeowners without having to qualify for traditional fnancing. LECs provide these benefts while spreading the risk and cost of homeownership across many shareholders.


Thu, February 8, 2018

7:00 PM – 9:00 PM EST



Arlington Mill Community Center

909 South Dinwiddie Street

Rm 525

Arlington, VA 22204


Register for this free event here


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Categories: News

All About the Heritage Shellfish Cooperative

Mon, 01/29/2018 - 19:04
Link: Heritage Shellfish Biography

Heritage Shellfish Cooperative is a producer-owned cooperative that was formed in 2013 by three experienced fishers that can trace their roots in family fishing back three or more generations. Members maintain a shared goal of preserving New Jersey’s tradition of clamming. They connect seafood lovers with delicious local hand-harvested shellfish raised using sustainable aquaculture practices and adhering to the highest standard for marine stewardship and preservation.  For these member-owners, being a clammer is a proud tradition and working their local waterways is a way of life.

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Visit the Heritage Shellfish Cooperative website

Visit the Keystone Development Center website


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Categories: News

Report on the Third Year of the Worker Cooperative Business Development Initiative

Fri, 01/26/2018 - 20:02
Link: Working Together

[T]his report to the New York City Council outlines the worker cooperatives served by the Worker Cooperative Business Development Initiative (WCBDI) in its third year. In this report, we will detail the extensive support this administration has provided to worker cooperatives in New York City.

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The Insource Renewables story

Thu, 01/25/2018 - 16:40
Link: Worker ownership works for everyone! The Insource Renewables story

In order to maintain good jobs and quality of life in rural Maine, business owner Vaughan Woodruff is guiding his solar installation company, Insource Renewables, toward employee ownership, with the help of Cooperative Development Institute.

Worker ownership works for everyone! The Insource Renewables story from Co-op Development Institute on Vimeo.


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Meet the German network that supports and develops sustainable co-housing projects

Thu, 01/25/2018 - 15:49

Here's the problem: The founders of "Mietshäuser Syndikat" (tenements syndicate), a network of cohousing projects in Germany, observed many self-organized cohousing projects struggle and fail. Some couldn't overcome the challenges in the critical early phases, in terms of dealing with legal issues, finances, and group dynamics, while others created commercially exploited housing projects against their original intentions. At the same time, many cohousing projects did not have the capacity to support each other.

Here's how one organization is working on the problem: The Mietshäuser Syndikat was launched to support self-organized, social housing projects. It connects successful, established projects with emerging ones to provide help, while at the same time reducing re-commercialization by ensuring all inhabitants co-own all real estate assets of all cohousing projects.

A legal construct stipulates that each cohousing project is considered an autonomous enterprise that owns its real estate, with the legal status of a limited liability company (LLC or "GmbH" in German). This GmbH consists of two partners: the cohousing association itself and the Mietshäuser Syndikat GmbH. The form of limited liability companies allows the property assets to be interconnected, since decisions cannot be made unilaterally. Finally, the single associate of the network’s GmbH is the MHS Association, which all inhabitants are part of.

Read the rest at Shareable


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How a Tech Worker Co-op Develops Client Projects

Wed, 01/24/2018 - 22:45

We consider our client work valuable if it satisfies the following criteria:

  1. The Camplighters involved in it are happy
  2. The clients we partner with are happy
  3. The end-users of the developed product are happy

In order to fulfill the first criterion, each project request we receive is evaluated by the people at Camplight. Most projects don’t usually match our values or interests. The rest have the potential of being worked on. The one project that gets chosen receives full dedication and attention from us up to the point where the client does their job, where “the client does their job” means:

  • Acquiring money to finance the project development
  • Making proper marketing so the project starts building user base
  • Being transparent to us as we are to them
  • Testing and giving feedback on a daily-basis

From these points the remaining two criteria are easy to be fulfilled. In order to make the client happy, we try to help them with advice on what’s most important from a development, design and business point of view. We ensure that there’s almost no managerial or communication overhead. Also, we seek daily feedback by doing frequent releases or at least sharing wireframes, user journeys and screenshots of developed features.

Read the rest at Tales around the camplight


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