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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: 48 min 36 sec ago

Harvest Co-op Markets Hiring Community Organizer

Wed, 05/30/2018 - 15:27

Harvest needs your help! Do you believe in the power of a community-ownership; of local, natural and organic food; of the cooperative model? Harvest Co-op Markets, Greater Boston’s largest consumer owned grocery store, is looking to hire a membership organizer to coordinate two major campaigns this summer.

Read more and apply


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The Workers' Economy at Left Forum

Tue, 05/29/2018 - 18:00
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Casa Nueva: a worker-owned workplace

Fri, 05/25/2018 - 17:18
Link: Casa Nueva: a worker-owned workplace

A staple of the Athens community, Casa serves as an example of how worker-owned businesses can operate smoothly.


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Little Italian villages show the way to a cooperative economy

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 16:31
Link: Little Italian villages show the way to a cooperative economy


Op-ed: We've seen a number of platform cooperatives, which integrate the practices of cooperatives in digital platforms by democratizing control and ownership, crop up in the U.S. These organizations are formed with the goal of countering extractive platforms that promote digital capitalism. While these platforms are often started in order to create a cooperative model, in Old Europe, the road appears to go in the other direction. It consists of cooperation between global digital platforms and bottom-up initiatives by community enterprises, located in small villages in Italy — away from the bright lights of Smart Cities. Distinguishing the two paths is necessary for discussion and collaboration.

For example, take Lavenone, a little village near Brescia in the north of Italy, one of the so-called "authentic villages" where Airbnb decided to invest. What is interesting is that the country managers of the digital platform won’t be greeted by a handful of hosts scattered around the village and the surrounding areas, but rather by a structured network of citizens, social enterprises, and local authorities. This was possible thanks to the resources allocated by Fondazione Cariplo, aimed at regenerating the economy of this region.

Likewise, Calceranica is a village located near Trento in the north of the country with approximately 1,000 residents and 600 homes for tourists that used to be empty. In this case, a little private agency focused on local development, along with the municipality, decided to pool these underused resources and transform them in a sort of "selling group" through a strategy of coordinated communication on the booking platform.

Read the rest at Shareable


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The Potential of Cooperative Food Delivery Platforms

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 16:16

This collaborative culture fostered among organised couriers is the first step to be able to co-develop their own food delivery platforms. That is the idea behind “”, an open source food delivery app licensed under the peer-to-peer foundation and co-operatively managed by its developers and any riders who want to use it. A forum of food couriers from across Europe are planning to implement it in France and Germany, while riders in Spain are on the verge of launching their own cooperative version of the Deliveroo app in Barcelona.

These co-owned delivery platforms could offer a meaningful business alternative to Foodora, Deliveroo, Uber Eats and co where the profits of the company go to those who are actually “driving” it, and where workers can enjoy better working conditions, safe contracts, sick pay, holidays and above all, respect.  Co-ownership wouldn’t just mean sharing the profits, it would also mean  democratic governance and accountability, as well as transparency on the use of workers’ data, and the functions of the algorithms that dictate couriers’ day to day work.

A cooperative business could also offer competitive prices. While Deliveroo charges an extortionate 30% to restaurants for each order, a cooperative model could reduce this charge once core costs are covered. For example, once an order reaches over £15 the cooperative has made enough to cover the rider’s wage and other outgoings, meaning orders over that amount could become cheaper.

Read the rest at openDemocracy


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Shared ownership needs shared governance

Wed, 05/23/2018 - 03:06
Link: Shared ownership needs shared governance

As part of our governance edition, Co-op News sent questions to Trebor Scholz, scholar-activist and associate professor for culture and media at The New York School in New York city about issues surrounding platform co-operatives.

What particular challenges do platform co-operatives face when it comes to governance – for instance with regard to rapidly changing technology or the ownership of data?

Co-operativism is not merely about shared ownership, it is most of all, about democratic governance. But as central as shared governance is to the co-operative model, it is also an important challenge for most types of cooperatives, not solely platform co-ops. At times, people in co-ops find it onerous to agree on even the most basic issues of how to run their organisation. 

But also the tyranny of distance presents a problem for governance. Take agricultural co-ops in rural Gujarat (India), for instance. It’s not easy for the women who work on far-flung farmlands to really feel as members of the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA). How can they start to participate in the day-to-day activities of this federation of co-ops? The problem does not disappear when co-ops join the digital economy.

In a democracy, we should all have the opportunity to participate in the shaping of the structures on which we depend most. But one of the pathologies of platform capitalism is that it trains people to be followers; it primes them to think of themselves as workers instead of collective owners. It’s hard to change  mindsets overnight.

Read the rest at Co-operative News


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Co-ops and blockchain can change how startups do business

Wed, 05/23/2018 - 02:59
Link: Co-ops and blockchain can change how startups do business

At a stately home in South Yorkshire, a newly-affiliated group of tech firms are meeting for the first time. They’re a 25-minute drive from Sheffield, skirting the borders of the Peak District, inside a grand house surrounded by a well-manicured estate. Bulbous topiary hedges guard the house’s entrance.

Gathered in one of its smart function rooms, the first topic of discussion is a hypothetical one. Divided into tables of ten, they entrepreneurs get a challenge: In the future, if this collaboration succeeds, should every one of our employees – cleaners and managers alike – be paid exactly the same? The general response, which comes as a pleasant surprise to many of those in the room, could be parsed as: “In principle, yes. There’s just a few kinks we’d need to iron out first.”

This was November 2016, at the inaugural meeting of Cooperative Technologists, the UK’s first network of cooperatively-owned tech firms. Harry Robbins, co-founder of one of the member companies, Outlandish, and one of the people who’d helped to broker this first meet, recalled his shock at the external facilitator’s opening salvo. “I thought, ‘People are gonna think this is some sort of radical communist revolution thing.’”

“Which it is,” he added, dryly. “But I didn't want them to think that in the warm-up phase”.

Read the rest at Wired


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More U.S. businesses are becoming worker co-ops: Here’s why

Tue, 05/22/2018 - 17:37
Link: More U.S. businesses are becoming worker co-ops: Here’s why

In 1982, Linda and Gregory Coles were struggling to find a sitter for their 18-month-old daughter. After a year of searching, they just decided to open their own daycare, and founded A Child’s Place in Queens, New York, in 1983. Thirty-four years later, they were ready to retire. “We were going to sell the business,” Linda says. But their broker suggested that instead of selling to new owners, they offer the business to their employees, who could then buy it and organize as a worker cooperative.

The Coles’ hadn’t heard of worker cooperatives before, but once the broker explained how it would work, Linda knew it was the right decision for them. “The idea that we could turn our business over to our employees was one of the best things we thought we could ever do,” she says.

Read the rest at Fast Company


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96% of Co-op members back Ethical Advertising resolution

Tue, 05/22/2018 - 16:46
Link: 96% of Co-op members back Stop Funding Hate resolution

The Co-op Group Annual General Meeting has voted overwhelmingly in favour of a motion on ethical advertising, with a stunning 96% of members backing Stop Funding Hate.

The motion was proposed by Colin Baines, a former ethics adviser and campaigns manager for the Co-op Group, and a non-executive director of the Stop Funding Hate campaign, with the support of 200 other Co-op members.

Stop Funding Hate is a consumer campaign that calls on companies to incorporate advertising into corporate social responsibility commitments. It has targeted advertisers in the Daily Mail, The Sun and Daily Express, citing specific criticism by the United Nations.

A YouGov poll commissioned by Stop Funding Hate in December 2017 found 58% of the public believe ‘companies should withdraw their advertising if it is placed next to content they think is racist, sexist, homophobic or xenophobic.’ 21% disagreed.

Read the rest at Stop Funding Hate


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Want Better Working Conditions in Restaurants? Build a Co-op

Mon, 05/21/2018 - 18:01
Link: Want Better Working Conditions in Restaurants? Build a Co-op

At Blue Scorcher in the seaside town of Astoria, Oregon, customers count on a few things. There’s, of course, the golden braids of challah and the crisp loaves of sourdough, but also those flaky pinwheel pastries that go so well with the cafe’s frothy honey-cardamom lattes. But for the workers who find their way to Blue Scorcher, the business means much more than artisan breads and a paycheck. “When people find a good match here it’s kind of magical,” says Joe Garrison, a founding partner in Blue Scorcher.

As a worker-owned cooperative bakery, Blue Scorcher offers employees opportunities to advocate for themselves and benefit directly from the business’s success. Garrison tells the story of a young job applicant who walked through the door four years ago. “He sat through the interview with his arms crossed and didn’t make much eye contact, but we hired him anyway,” Garrison recalls. Today, the same man is an excellent pastry baker, a co-owner in the bakery, and financial officer on the cooperative’s board. “I really think there’s something powerful with this [co-op] model,” Garrison says. “It engages people in a good way.”

Read the rest at Eater


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Deal reached to end NH Electric Cooperative strike

Mon, 05/21/2018 - 17:04
Link: Deal reached to end NH Electric Cooperative strike

Striking union workers expect to return to work Tuesday after ratifying a tentative agreement reached with the New Hampshire Electric Co-op.

“The strike is over at the NH Electric Cooperative,” said a Facebook post by International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1837.

The 3 1/2-year pact, which workers ratified Thursday, still needs approval from the NHEC board of directors, which is expected early next week, the company said.

The union said it anticipates its members will return to their jobs Tuesday after the board’s “anticipated approval.”

The two sides Wednesday reached an agreement “that does not include the language that the union had objected to and provides for modest increases in pay, 401(k) and pension benefits,” according to the co-op.

Read the rest at the New Hampshire Union Leader


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Worker Cooperatives and Health Care

Fri, 05/18/2018 - 17:37
Link: Worker Cooperatives and Health Care

Certainly, both for-profit and not-for-profit providers can be driven by a real sense of mission, and even the most mission-driven not-for-profit needs to be conscious of the bottom line (the oft-heard refrain being, “no margin, no mission”).  Thus, patients and potential employees in search of a mission-focused entity need to scrutinize both types of providers in some detail when looking for care or employment.  Similarly, new providers selecting the model they want to use need to take into account the unique characteristics of both models.

There is another model which might afford providers, patients and employees exactly the right mix of mission focus and profit-driven efficiency they are looking for.  While it has not received much attention in New York State healthcare to date, the worker cooperative model, in which the employees are the owners, provides an interesting alternative.  Article 5-A of the New York Cooperative Corporation Law (“CCL”) was enacted in 1985 to promote the creation of worker cooperatives and provide a means by which businesses may be democratically controlled and operated by their own workers.  The legislature expected that cooperative ownership would result in increased economic benefits to the worker owners, as well as the creation of new jobs (CCL § 80).

Read the rest at New York Health Law


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Democratizing the Workplace

Fri, 05/18/2018 - 17:33
Link: Democratizing the Workplace

Data shared by the Center for Family Life (CFL) helps paint a portrait of worker-owners. Worker co-ops employ a group in Sunset Park that, on average, faces a number of socio-economic obstacles, risks, and hurdles. Of the worker-owners who responded to the CFL survey questions, the overwhelming majority (83%) is female. 89% percent of respondents define themselves as Hispanic, with 76% of respondents listing Spanish as their native language and 49% identifying as bilingual. A NYCgov Poverty report highlighted that those of Hispanic origin are at highest risk for poverty within the City (New York City Government Poverty Measure 2005-2015, 2017). Additionally, English-speaking deficiency is often cited as one of the largest barriers to employment for Latinos (John Jay College of Criminal Justice, The Never Ending Cycle of Language Barriers). On average, respondents are first-generation, and the average worker-owner is 38 years old. 27% of respondents have some college education or more, and 18% of respondents were enrolled in an education program. Most respondents are married or with a partner (53%), have children (72%), and rent their apartment (85%).

Read the rest at Urban Design Forum


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Cooperatives Lauded as ‘Trailblazers’ in Community Solar

Thu, 05/17/2018 - 16:27
Link: Cooperatives Lauded as ‘Trailblazers’ in Community Solar

Looking for community solar? Your best bet is in electric cooperative territory.

“In terms of the number of community solar programs, cooperative utilities have been trailblazers,” states a new report from the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA).

The report finds 160 co-ops have a program, though NRECA puts the number at nearly 200.

“This far exceeds the total in investor-owned utilities (31 programs) and public power utilities (37 programs) combined,” SEPA noted.

Read the rest at America's Electric Cooperatives


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Evergreen Cooperative Laundry Takes Over Cleveland Clinic Laundry Operation

Thu, 05/17/2018 - 16:21
Link:  Employee-Owned Evergreen Cooperative Laundry Takes Over Cleveland Clinic Laundry Operation, Adding 100 Workers to Coop

The Cleveland Clinic laundry operation has long been a crown jewel coveted by Evergreen Cooperative Laundry, which along with Evergreen Growers and Evergreen Energy Solutions makes up Evergreen Cooperatives, a nine-year old employee-owned company.

As Brett Jones, executive vice president, told us last year, Evergreen was mission-driven from the start, and continues to be, but it's also a business proposition. It can't depend on the goodwill of major clients alone; it has to demonstrate that it's a profitable and sustainable operation with a diversified portfolio, and it has, so that no one contract is a make or break proposition for any of its three divisions.

"What we've done is try to keep the percentage of revenue from anchor institutions at about 25%," Jones told us. "It's part of what leadership has done, keeping a healthy balance, looking at anchors but also securing other revenue so that when people look at us, we're not too dependent. If you only have two customers, that's a risk. So, in terms of spreading and growing revenue, the Clinic contract would be important for us, but every contract is important."

Read the rest at Scene


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Co-op City: Zürich's Experiment with Non-Profit Housing

Wed, 05/16/2018 - 17:02

Thanks to a clever design scheme by Müller Sigrist Architekten that integrates the nine-metre high depot hall and curved track into the building’s supporting frame, the site now boasts 97 affordable housing units for approximately 250 people, 5,000 square metres of retail space, offices and ateliers, as well as a publicly accessible raised plaza. More striking than the architecture, though, is the economics. The project was initiated by a grassroots collective of ten people and developed in line with an independent non-profit model that rejects speculation in favour of sustainability.

Switzerland has a long history of co-operatives. As Andreas Hofer, one of the original leaders of the co-operative housing movement, later explained to me in his office at the seminal Kraftwerk1 development, “co-operatives are in some way part of the national myth.” The country’s two major supermarket chains, for example, were founded, and continue to operate, as co-operatives, with a combined membership exceeding half the Swiss population. An early 20th-century product of the broader European labour movement, co-operatives in Switzerland soon began to provide non-market rental housing to their working-class members. In the process, they acquired large land holdings at cut-price rates on what were then the peripheries of growing cities.

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It’s Not a Food Desert, It’s Food Apartheid

Wed, 05/16/2018 - 16:44
Link: Karen Washington: It’s Not a Food Desert, It’s Food Apartheid

Washington has won a James Beard Foundation Leadership Award, been invited to the Obama White House for her involvement with New York’s Botanical Garden, and been called “urban farming’s de facto godmother.” She’s also worked to transform the Bronx’s empty lots into spaces where food can grow, helped launch a farmers’ market, and, in relentlessly engaging her community, has remained focused on the intersections of food and issues like poverty, racism, a lack of healthcare, and joblessness.

In other words, Washington has been around the block. What she found is that there weren’t very many people who looked like her with active roles in the food system. To bring additional voices to the table, she cofounded Black Urban Growers, an organization dedicated to supporting and advocating for black farmers and black leadership in the food movement, in 2009. And as she creates a more inclusive food community, she is working to redefine the challenges that the food system faces, too. Washington is opposed to using the expression “food desert,” which she calls “an outsider term” that calls desolate places, rather than places with enormous potential, to mind. She prefers “food apartheid,” which “brings us to the more important question: What are some of the social inequalities that you see, and what are you doing to erase some of the injustices?”

I connected with Washington over a long phone call to ask her about these distinctions, among other things. Throughout our conversation, she pointed to the extent to which food is connected to most everything—health, education, class, the environment—and that, if we’re to be good advocates for a better food system, we need to take an intersectional approach. “‘Food apartheid’ looks at the whole food system, along with race, geography, faith, and economics,” she says. “When we say ‘food apartheid,’ the real conversation can begin.”

Read the rest at Guernica


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How Blockchain, Co-Ops and 'Microsubscription' Services Could Help Artists Earn More From Music Streaming

Tue, 05/15/2018 - 17:43
Link: How Blockchain, Co-Ops and 'Microsubscription' Services Could Help Artists Earn More From Music Streaming

Now, though, a growing number of smaller streaming services have emerged offering artists -- and in some cases listeners -- a better deal, using alternative ways to split up the pie. Some of these companies boast a co-op model, offering acts ownership stakes, as Jay-Z’s Tidal did when it launched in 2015 with about 16 other artist-owners including Rihanna, Madonna  and Coldplay (that number has subsequently increased). Others are plotting different payment schemes, such as "micro-subscriptions" to the catalogs of individual artists. And some executives at even the biggest streaming companies have mulled over how to better funnel fans’ subscription dollars directly to the artists they stream the most. Currently, artists' royalties from streaming leaders Spotify and Apple Music are determined in part by their labels' market share, as well as their popularity compared to all the other acts in the system.

Among the newcomers is Resonate, a streaming co-op started in 2015 based out of Berlin that has made artists and listeners co-owners of the service. Cutting against the standard subscription system, Resonate offers what founder Peter Harris calls "a ‘discovery phase’ and then a ‘fans phase’" through its #stream2own model. Listeners pay 0.002 credits the first time they hear a song, a number that doubles until the ninth play, when the listener has paid a total of 1.022 credits, a number roughly equivalent to the $1.29 iTunes store download price (though Harris said that may change based on artist input,) and can now download the song or stream it free. By doing so, Resonate is able to offer acts better compensation by avoiding the market share issues that can cause inequitable distribution and cumulative payment rates more in line with download royalties than streaming ones. Resonate claims on its site that a track with 100,000 plays on Resonate will pay out $1,526, compared to a competitor’s $600.

"I was thinking about how to do a fixed rate model, that it likely was not going to be subscription based, because that was part of the issue," Harris said. "You get wildly different listening habits, you get some people that are listening an hour a day, others that got it on six hours a day, you know, how do you divide all that up?"

Read the rest at Billboard


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Lakewinds Food Co-op is carving out a niche in the competitive suburban grocery scene

Tue, 05/15/2018 - 17:38
Link: How Lakewinds Food Co-op is carving out a niche in the competitive suburban grocery scene

As a member-owned institution, Lakewinds is under pressure to make patronage refunds while continuing to grow at a rate faster than inflation. “Our growth strategy includes increasing membership and adding new stores,” Woodbeck says. “There are opportunities in the southwestern metro because land is still available; though, as in the residential market, it’s overpriced.”

Lakewinds financed its Richfield store, completed in 2014, with a mixture of loans from members and banks. “Members loaned money with four-, six- or eight-year terms at interest rates based on the length and amount of the loan,” says Woodbeck. “Our members have told us that they’re proud of the store they invested in, that it’s in line with their commitment to Lakewinds’ values.”

Lakewinds is now paying down its bank loans, thanks to the store’s rapid success. “Running my own business, I learned a lot about risk management,” Woodbeck says. “So before we commit to any new project, we spend a long time on sales projections and market analysis. We co-ops can learn a few lessons from traditional grocers in the fundamentals. For example, we’re still learning to access and use data to inform good business decisions.

Read the reast at MinnPost


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Cooperatives as a tool for women’s empowerment

Mon, 05/14/2018 - 19:00

“We are trying to bring [the cooperative system] to life in Rojava. In early history, women were responsible for economic issues before they lost control of them. But now we are trying to develop this cooperative system so that women can regain control over the economy. Our cooperatives in the Kongra Star are run by women. They started two years ago, first in the agricultural sector. There is also a textile workshop and a knitting shop. And women making dolmas. We also have a bakery run by women. Currently in the agricultural sector, about fourteen women work. In the textile workshop, seven to eight women.”

Yasmine, former academic, works with Saliha in the economic committee of the Kongra Star. She comes from Efrin and arrived recently, following the Turkish attack. There, she was already working with the women’s movement. “Before the revolution I was teaching at the university. Then I got involved in the economic field. I found [Kongra Star’s economical projects] very interesting, I decided to participate in them. This is different from what I have seen elsewhere, in Lebanon, Turkey and Syria. I had not seen a women’s organization developed to such an extent elsewhere.”

“Women working in cooperatives feel empowered,” says Saliha, “they see that they can do things, that they do things. Because they participate in the system and because they produce their own sources of income, they feel empowered.

The women who come to work in co-ops are those who believe in themselves. They want to do something in society. There are women who for one reason or another didn’t come to co-ops but they end up doing it because they need a job.”

Read the rest at Co-operative Economy in Rojava & Bakur


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