Grassroots Economic Survival

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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: 27 min 8 sec ago

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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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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Categories: News

Wage inequality in workers' cooperatives and conventional firms

Wed, 01/24/2018 - 22:32
Link: Wage inequality in workers' cooperatives and conventional firms

The author evaluates the effects of democratic worker participation on the income distribution within firms. Wage inequality in French workers’ cooperatives (called SCOPs) versus traditional firms is measured using the 2001-2012 panel DADS dataset which includes all French firms. The author finds significantly lower inequality in SCOPs, in line with the previous empirical literature. Going into more detail, it appears that inequality is reduced at the top of the distribution and specifically regarding qualification-based inequalities; the gender gap and the advantage of senior workers are not lower in SCOPs. These findings contribute to the literature on Labor-Managed Firms, as well as to the broader debate on rising wage inequality in developed countries


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Non-partisan group organizes meetings to find solutions to local problems

Wed, 01/24/2018 - 17:54
Link: Non-partisan group organizes meetings to find solutions to local problems

RONAN – People gathered to learn how to bring individuals with different points of view together on Tuesday evening in an effort to create positive outcomes for the community.

Mission Valley Rises: Democracy Engaged! hosted the event at the Ronan Senior Citizen Center. The group is centered on the idea that solutions to problems can be found if people with differing and similar opinions come together to find common goals.

“We are a local, non-partisan, community-led group, committed to exploring issues that affect the lives of our community,” the group notes. “We believe that active listening and civil dialogue will bring us together to solve the problems that face us all.”     

Member Gail Trenfield said people can have different opinions, but letting those ideas divide the community isn’t productive. “We can’t stand as a divided community,” she said. 

Read the rest at the Valley Journal


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Co-operatives in South Africa and Beyond

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 19:36
Link: Co-operatives in South Africa and Beyond

The state of co-ops in South Africa has changed drastically since the early 1900s. Initially white agricultural co-ops received support from the state, both legislative and financial. The 1912 Land Settlement Act, 1913 and 1936 Land Acts, Co-operatives Societies Acts of 1922 and 1939 and many more all served to support these co-ops. Yet it is important to note that these co-ops did not adhere to the seven Principles of the International Co-operative Alliance and were mere extensions of successive white nationalist governments (The Department of Trade and Industry, 2012). State support for agricultural co-ops before the fall of apartheid was substantial. This resulted in agricultural co-ops making up more than 70% of co-ops. This dominance has however subsided in post-Apartheid South Africa with the co-op sector diversifying due to further legislation supported by the ANC government (Ibid). Between 1994 and 2009 the number of registered co-ops, grew from 1 444 to 22 619. However this growth can be misleading. According to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) only 2644 of these co-ops can be considered operational. The most successful of these sectors is the housing co-ops sector, with 32% of the co-ops being operational.

The state of worker co-ops has historically been poor in South Africa. At the end of apartheid, worker co-ops made up a negligible number of co-ops in the country. By 2003 worker members earned an average of R133 a month from their co-ops (Philip, 2003). The greatest barrier to the success for these co-ops has largely been due to a lack of access to capital, credit, skill and market share (Phillip, 2007).

Read the rest at the Institute for African Alternatives


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Wildlife cooperatives boost conservation and habitat

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 19:21
Link: Wildlife cooperatives boost conservation and habitat

A wildlife cooperative gathers private landowners, hunters and wildlife enthusiasts to enhance their local wildlife and habitat. The participants share their wildlife experiences with each other, accumulate more knowledge of wildlife from activities,  improve relationships with neighbors and have a chance to use land management techniques on a bigger scale.

Currently, Michigan has 120 wildlife cooperatives, a number that has been increasing since 1991, according to the MUCC.

“The ones I work with are often larger over time, with 25 or so members, and 3,000 -12,000 acres of combined properties,” Mitterling said.

Deer cooperatives and pheasant cooperatives are two of the major types in Michigan.

Deer cooperatives focus on the quality of deer herds. Pheasant cooperatives work to create and enhance grassland habitats.

“In our deer cooperative, we have an annual buck pole, we do a youth deer pole on the weekend of the youth hunt and we work with the DNR to put a plane in the air to look for poachers,” said Harold Wolf, the president of the Southern Mecosta Whitetail Management Association.

Wolf said cooperatives are good for the people who join: He got to know his neighbors better, felt pride in improving the deer herd and shared happy experiences and memories with family and friends.

Read the rest at Capital News Service


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Peer Networking For Worker-Owners in Converted Businesses

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 19:12

Date: February 1, 2018 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm PST

This is a new network call for member-owners who have converted to the worker-co-op model. In this conference call, we will cover:1) How can we use this space to support and improve our benefits for your businesses, as well as connect converted worker co-op member-owners2) How often we should meet3) Discuss the idea of a peer to peer support4) Next Steps Register here Visit the USFWC website  Go to the GEO front page
Categories: News

Kombucha goes Back to the Mother

Fri, 01/19/2018 - 22:25
Link: Happiest Hour: Kombucha goes Back to the Mother


What’s different about this kombucha? Back to the Mother is a worker-owned co-op, according to founder Drew Holman. “We function without managers as everyone involved is an equal owner in the company,” Holman told us in an email. “We use sociocracy to communicate in round table discussions. This model lets the people doing the work decide how the work should be done.” The producer has also worked with Bayern Brewing to use bottles and labels compatible with Bayern’s recycling program, a rarity in Missoula. “We are putting the power back into the hands of the people doing the work instead of continuing with the old model where the people at the top make profits off of no input on their end,” Holman writes. So if you’re thirsting for economic justice, bottoms up!Read the rest at the Missoula Independent  Go to the GEO front page
Categories: News

Montana's First Co-op Brewery

Fri, 01/19/2018 - 22:15
Link: Cooperative craft breweries: a new approach to revitalizing small towns

About 12 miles south of Flathead Lake, the town of Ronan is a community based largely on agriculture. With several schools, banks, a golf course and an active business community, Ronan is home to an estimated 1,871 people (according to 2010 U.S. Census information.) But while it boasts a variety of businesses, including a telephone company, a movie theatre, a café, a thrift store, a bowling alley, hospital, and others, many Main Street storefronts remain empty or rundown. Roughly a third of Main Street buildings are vacant or in disrepair.

Through several public listening sessions held with economic developers in 2016, community members identified the revitalization of Main Street and increased business development as priorities for their town. With a cooperative development center on Main Street, eventually the idea of a cooperative brewery emerged.

A year and half later, 100 or so people gathered at a Ronan bar on a Saturday night as would-be owners of the Ronan Cooperative Brewery. The Ronan Valley Club buzzed with energy on Dec. 2 as friends, neighbors and strangers connected over a cold drink and an idea. The gathering was the first public event of an ownership drive currently underway for the proposed brewery.

“I was kind of wondering what would happen,” steering committee member Gail Nelson said as he surveyed the room with a smile. “I’m excited by this.”

Gail’s wife Barb, who also serves on the steering committee as chairperson, agreed.

“You can feel the excitement in the room,” she said. “I think we can do it. I really do.”

Read the rest at Valley Journal


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A Community Currency in Rural Kenya

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 18:11
Link: A Wonderful Experience in Miyani

I am a French researcher involved in an MSc Agricultural Development at the University of Copenhagen. I am very interested in Community Currency, especially regarding their potential to foster sustainable agriculture, food security and endogenous development in developing countries.

In this context, I am currently doing amazing fieldwork in the rural area of Miyani (near Mombasa, Kenya) where a community currency -the Miyani-Pesa (MP) (part of the Sarafu-Credit system)- has been launched last August. Grassroots Economics has, indeed, supported a local agricultural cooperative in (1) investing in a posho mill; (2) launching the MP (which is backed by the milling service) and an inital network of 40 local smallholders.


Although the MP is still at an early development stage, 14 out of 36 interviewees mentioned that MP helps them on their daily food purchases by allowing them to buy food or mill their maize even when they experience a lack of Kenyan shillings. More astonishing, 60% of users noticed that they could already buy more diverse food thanks to the MP. Inital analysis of the food consumption booklets shows that in average, the non-users spend 23 Ksh per day per household member for food while the Miyani-pesa users spend 41 Ksh. This is an astonishing difference after only a few months!

Besides, 60% of interviewees also underlined that, by using MP, they could increase their savings in Kenyan Shillings. They would use the savings for paying the school fees, developing their farm and/or increasing their business stocks. For instance, one of the respondents underlined that he saved 300 Ksh (more than a weeks wage for him) since September and could, therefore, invest on his farm by buying one chicken.

Read the rest at Grassroots Economics


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How Black Businesses Helped Save the Civil Rights Movement

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 17:58
Link: How Black Businesses Helped Save the Civil Rights Movement

The story of the Montgomery bus boycott usually focuses on two key figures: Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. But without the development of car pools and the support of small businesses, the boycott could not have succeeded. These stories demonstrate that the support of small black-owned businesses helped the civil rights movement to succeed in a variety of ways. King, for example, traveled widely during the civil rights movement. One magazine estimated that King travelled nearly 780,000 miles per year in the late 1950s as he preached against segregation. Such wide travel would have necessitated considerable material support. Local businesses played a key role.

In Mississippi, black business owners were also on the front lines, enduring pressure from the white community. In addition to preaching at four different congregations, Reverend George Lee ran a prosperous printing business and a grocery store, positioning him as a prominent leader in Belzoni, Mississippi’s black community. He was the first African American in Humphreys County to get his name on the voting list and organized the Belzoni, Mississippi branch of the NAACP in 1953 along with his friend Gus Courts, another grocery store owner.  Lee and Courts registered hundreds of black voters in a county where no black person had voted since Reconstruction. In 1955, after regularly receiving telephone threats that said, “You’re number one on a list of people we don’t need around here anymore,” Lee was shot and killed while returning from picking up his preaching suit at the dry cleaners. The investigating sheriff dismissed the death as merely an automobile accident and said the lead pellets lodged in what remained of his jaw were just dental fillings. Gus Courts then endured threats that wholesalers would not deliver goods to his grocery store and a local bank refused to do business with him unless he handed over NAACP records.  But this did not deter Courts. Despite threats that he would face a similar fate as Lee, he continued to push for voter registration. In response, white-owned gas stations stopped selling gasoline to him. Recognizing the power of black-owned enterprise, Courts started pooling money within the black community so that it could purchase its own gas station. After refusing to remove his name from the voter registration list, Courts was shot twice while standing inside his store, but survived.

Read the rest at Institute for New Economic Thinking


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Corporate-run Ag Co-ops Squeezing Farmers

Tue, 01/16/2018 - 17:56
Link: How Rural America Got Milked

The independent New York State dairyman, who passed away last year, complained that Dairy Farmers of America used its control over local milk haulers to prevent him from doing business with anyone else. For Garrett Sitts, it was the abuse of food safety protocols. He charges that milk inspectors controlled by DFA threatened him and many other farmers with health care violations if they dared to raise questions about DFA’s business practices. For Jonathan Haar, it was a failed attempt to escape DFA’s grip. After nearly ten years with DFA, he tried to leave for another co-op, Agri-Mark. But after promising negotiations, Agri-Mark suddenly went silent. Haar says he was told that Agri-Mark and DFA had an unwritten agreement not to work with each other’s farmers.

Read the rest at Washington Monthly


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Call for Submissions: Solutions to Our Housing Crisis

Mon, 01/15/2018 - 20:05
Link:  Call for Submissions: Solutions to Our Housing Crisis

How much do you pay for a place to live—and how much should you? Across the country, housing prices continue to climb while wages essentially have been stagnant since the 1970s. At the same time, the supply of housing isn’t keeping pace with population growth. Zillow has estimated that the current number of homes for sale is about the same as it was in 1994, but the U.S. population has grown by 63 million people since then. Even in places with laws requiring developers to build a certain percentage of affordable housing, “affordability” often applies only to a select few people within a narrow demographic. Most people below the upper middle class are priced out.

Where are the solutions? The last major drive toward public housing in the 1960s had wide-ranging effects that did little to alleviate poverty and, in some places, made it worse. Across the country, innovations in housing—cohousing developments and community land trusts to urban mixed-use communities and rural cooperatives—have shown some promise, but can they scale to address the scope of the problem? There are only 165 cohousing groups across the United States, for example, some having only a few homes and none more than a few dozen. And, no, a million tiny houses won’t fix us.

Read the rest at YES! Magazine


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