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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: 50 min 37 sec ago

How a rural community built South Africa’s Co-op ISP

Wed, 04/18/2018 - 17:10
Link: How a rural community built South Africa’s first ISP owned and run by a cooperative

The Zenzeleni Networks project – Zenzeleni means “do it yourself” in isiXhosa, the Eastern Cape’s most prevalent language – is, as far as we’re aware, South Africa’s first and only Internet Service Provider (ISP) that’s owned and run by a rural cooperative. Just like any ISP, Zenzeleni installs and maintains telecommunications infrastructure and also sells telecommunications services like voice and data.

Yet what’s special about the project is that it involves a registered not-for-profit company which works with cooperatives in the community to deliver affordable voice and data services. Crucially, the project also keeps money in communities like Mankosi, often beset by high rates of unemployment.

Read the rest at the P2P Foundation blog


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Good Dog, Bad Zombie board game launched by worker co-op

Tue, 04/17/2018 - 17:54
Link: Good Dog, Bad Zombie board game launched by US worker co-op

Good Dog, Bad Zombie is the fifth board game to be developed by the co-op and will be printed in the USA on sustainable materials by a worker owned manufacturer.

“Because we care about humans, too, we wanted a board game that would be ethically manufactured,” explained Ms Shaffer. The game was developed over three years, and the co-op launched a Kickstarter campaign this spring to raise funds for producing the game.

Make Big Things has also partnered with One Tail at a Time, a rescue shelter in Chicago and will be using some of the funding received from backers to purchase items for the dogs at the shelter.

Read the rest at Co-operative News


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Transforming Ownership to Create a Better Economy

Tue, 04/17/2018 - 17:47

Private ownership of companies drives our economic system but it has also created corporations that put profit above everything else, a divided society and a planet on the brink of destruction. Armin Steuernagel proposes a new way to think about ownership: Steward-ownership replaces executives with leaders who are truly responsible and accountable. It creates an economy where companies are owned by the most able, not by the highest bidder and where a purpose is at the heart of every company’s DNA.


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South-Side Co-op was a Sanctuary for Black Chicagoans in the 1960s

Mon, 04/16/2018 - 17:28
Link: In 1960s, black Chicagoans sought relief from discrimination. In South Side co-op, they found a sanctuary.

It’s no secret that Chicago, one of the most segregated cities in the nation, has an ugly history of housing discrimination. Before the federal Fair Housing Act passed in April 1968 — 50 years ago — people of color were frequently, and flagrantly, prohibited from renting, buying or financing homes in areas where the population was mostly white.

Right before the act’s passage, some black Chicagoans found homes, and refuge, in a housing cooperative on the city’s South Side. Griffin moved into London Towne Houses Cooperative, in the Pullman community area, in 1967.

JoAnn Kenner, 73, current president of London Towne Houses, also has lived in the community since ’67. In the years before fair housing laws, the mentality around integrated communities, Kenner said, was as in the play “A Raisin in the Sun” — “Even if you were able to get a mortgage” and someone would sell you a house, if you were nonwhite, “the neighborhood was not going to be welcoming.”

London was “like a breath of fresh air, it was like living in the suburbs,” she said. “Like a little bedroom community.” This was a tremendous source of pride for residents, Kenner said, “people were begging to get in.”

Read the rest at the Chicago Tribune


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No to the violence of the State against the commons!

Mon, 04/16/2018 - 17:20
Link: No to the violence of the State against the commons!

Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval: The violent destruction of the commons of the ZAD (Zone To Defend) of Notre-Dame-des-Landes by the French government is an infamous and revolting act. The current police offensive, led by several thousand gendarmes and CRS equipped with armored vehicles and helicopters is only the exercise of the purest State violence against a set of collective practices that are in progress or in preparation. This includes their fragile material conditions (buildings, meeting places, work tools, herds), and they  are now destroyed by bulldozers and police squads.

Since the first day of assault on the ZAD of Notre-Dame-des-Landes, the destruction of the farm of the «Cents Noms» was a true declaration of social and political war. The destruction of this place was by no means imperative given the criteria invoked by the government in its “communication”. Nicole Klein, Prefect of Loire Region, justifies the police operation by claiming that the «Cents Noms» had not submitted an agricultural project. This is obviously false: the inhabitants of this farm were carrying an alternative agricultural project and some of them had submitted a request for regularization.

Read the rest at the P2P Foundation


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The Commons and the Commonwealth

Fri, 04/13/2018 - 18:45
Link: The commons and the Commonwealth

HIDDEN INSIDE THE Commonwealth – both the word and the idea – is a crucial concept: the commons. A much-misunderstood political, social and economic idea, the commons is a powerful lens through which to examine the past, present and future of the Commonwealth of Nations. The commons is perhaps the oldest-known model of social organisation. It is about co-operation to ensure long-term stability for communities in and with the living world.

In these times, when conceptions of the world tend to be prescribed by notions of individualism and private property, it’s no surprise that the commons is often misunderstood as a thing – a field, or the atmosphere; some chimerical, mystical form of property that belongs to everyone and therefore to no one. But the commons is much more than that. An ancient concept, imbued with deep understandings of connection – to each other and to the natural world we are part of – the commons is better understood as a system than a form of property. It is a system by which communities agree to manage resources, equitably and sustainably. As commons theorist David Bollier describes in Think Like a Commoner (New Society Publishers, 2014), it is ‘a resource + a community + a set of social protocols’.

The commons isn’t the field where the people graze their cattle. It is the field, and the people, and the way in which the people agree to share the field, keep it healthy, share the benefits and prevent freeloaders.

Read the rest at Griffith Review


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Credit Unions Are Going to Die of Old Age

Fri, 04/13/2018 - 18:11
Link: Why we are all going to die of old age

Sounds like a good way to go, right? Ripe old age, preferably in your sleep. But I’m not talking about you, or me, I’m talking about the credit union industry. We are mathematically on track to die of old age. I mean we’re already over 100, so the chances are pretty good that we can’t sustain life for much longer.

But here are some concerning vital signs, if you will.

  • The average age of a credit union member remains at an unbelievably old 47
  • Research shows the average age of a credit union borrower is 2 -5 years OLDER than that
  • The National Youth Involvement Board was founded in 1967 with the mission to reduce the average age of credit union members by recruiting more members under age 18 (see #1)


Read the rest at CUInsight


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Q&A with Solidarity Research Center's Yvonne Yen Liu

Thu, 04/12/2018 - 16:46
Link: Q&A: Solidarity Research Center's Yvonne Yen Liu on the power of cooperative economics

When we started, in 2014, we were the research arm of the Industrial Workers of the World. We were charged at the time with surveying union members and trying to understand what needs they have. We evolved into partnering with a lot of different campaigns, mostly in North America, providing research and campaign support to worker-led organizing campaigns for different sectors from harm reduction workers to fast food and coffee shop employees.

We've also worked with the Incarcerated Workers Union, who organized a well-known prisoners' strike in September 2016. They were based mostly in a maximum security prison in Atlanta doing chem manufacturing, and they believed the products were being sold at Walmart, and they reached out to us for research assistance. We were labor researchers who cut our teeth helping grassroots workers and then started developing partnerships with other community groups outside of the IWW that represented our style of organizing. 

We got really interested in contesting unjust systems that punish people who don't have access to means of grievance [and] who are coerced into not resolving their issues. We started to get involved in learning about the solidarity economy and applying our skills to doing marketing and business research and feasibility studies for cooperatives. The organization in itself is no longer directly affiliated with the union but we are still working with them, especially on projects involving incarcerated workers.

Read the rest at Shareable


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Revolutionary Columbia University Struggle of 1968

Thu, 04/12/2018 - 16:36
Link: Revolutionary Columbia University Struggle of 1968

We are excited to be coming to New York on April 23 for Eric Mann’s talk on the Columbia Strike of 1968 in which he played an active role as a national organizer for SDS. Channing Martinez and Komozi Woodard will be part of the conversation. Today, 50 years later, we are in South L.A. still fighting the U.S. government. In 1968 Columbia University was a slumlord and gentrifier in Harlem—building a racist gym, that the movement called Gym Crow. Columbia faculty were making weapons to be used against the people of Vietnam in a Defense Department Institute for Defense Analyses. The movement of the Black community, the Student Afro-American Society and Students for a Democratic Society forced Columbia to stop construction of the gym and withdraw from the IDA.

Today the Strategy Center is charging the Democratic Party ruling elite with a genocidal gentrification in South LA. We are fighting for Free Public Transportation, No Police on the trains and buses, and end to MTA attacks on Black Passengers. We call on the U.S. government to stop drone attacks and close down its 800 military bases all over the world. Columbia was a great workshop where The Movement challenged U.S. ruling circles and won a major struggle. We believe today’s movement needs to teach, learn, and make history. Please join us and purchase tickets below and please forward this to friends in New York. And please email us to let us know you can help! Our great appreciation to Michael Lardner of the Marxist Education Project for organizing this event.

Read more and register for the event at The Marxist Education Project


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The Myth of "Natural Flow"

Wed, 04/11/2018 - 18:18

When teaching or facilitating, I often hear, “Can we have a meeting and just talk, without any special format? It feels more natural that way.”

Sure, you can. But I won’t join you. Why? Because I am aware of what we are buying into when we promote “natural” flow.

What is natural flow and what are its effects?

“Natural flow“ is when people speak as they are moved to. It is what happens outside of any agreed-upon format.

The studies cited below show that the absence of intentionality around turn-taking manifests in oppressive patterns. As an example, the below findings are about gender, with gender being just one axis of oppressive patterns in our societies.

Read the rest at Enlivening Edge


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Rural Co-ops and a Path to Broadband Access

Wed, 04/11/2018 - 16:37
Link: Rural Co-ops and a Path to Broadband Access

Electric cooperatives were so successful in electrifying rural America that in 1949, the REA was authorized to fund cooperatives for telephone services. Or, as we would call the service today, “telecommunications.”

And it’s on that peg that leaders of the Central Virginia Electric Cooperative (CVEC), based in the Nelson County community of Arrington, believe they’ve found a way to address the biggest challenge facing rural America in 2018: the unavailability of access to broadband internet services.

We have argued many times that broadband access is as critical an issue for rural America today as electrification was 80 years ago. Broadband access, with speeds surpassing 100 Mbps and more, is rarely given a second thought in a city like Lynchburg or Danville. But in surrounding counties, thousands of residents can only dream of such access.

That’s why the CVEC board of directors recently voted to form a subsidiary to do what its own predecessor did in 1937 with electricity: constructing broadband on-ramps for members in its 14-county service area.

Read the rest at The News & Advance


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Redefining the family transfer

Tue, 04/10/2018 - 18:08
Link: Redefining the family transfer

In homecare, building a family-like culture is undoubtedly more challenging. Due to the nature of the work, caregivers are more isolated and have fewer opportunities to connect with owners and co-workers. This is one of the many reasons that turnover is so high in the homecare industry. A small but growing sector of cooperatively-owned homecare agencies has hit on a model that overcomes these challenges and presents a promising path for workers and retiring owners.

“As a [worker] cooperative, we do not feel the isolation that normally exists in the caregiving profession. The sense of family among our membership is tangible, practical and appreciated,” shared Kippi Waters, co-owner and administrator at Peninsula Home Care Cooperative, in Port Townsend, Washington.

Nationally, there are more than 400 worker-owned cooperative companies in operation, including 10 caregiver-owned homecare cooperatives.

Read the rest at HomeCare


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Can co-op-to-co-op training help drive worker co-operative development?

Tue, 04/10/2018 - 17:36
Link: Can co-op-to-co-op training help drive worker co-operative development?

A new report by Co-op Culture, a co-operative development co-op, has found that the key issues with which worker co-operatives need support are finance and starting up.

Released in January, the report is based on two workshops by Co-op Culture with support from SolidFund, the worker co-op solidarity fund.

Barefoot Co-operative Development Practitioners is based on the idea of co-ops helping each other to support and promote the worker co-op model.

The initiative came from co-operative development bodies themselves, says Dr Mark Simmonds, a member of Co-op Culture. A lot of co-operative development bodies have formed from the old co-operative development agencies.

Others were set up later by members of worker co-ops who found their way into delivering co-operative development. As some of the co-operative development leaders are approaching retirement, they are considering how the sector could continue to benefit from support and advice.

Read the rest at Co-operative News


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2018 Worker Co-op National Conference, Sept 14-16

Mon, 04/09/2018 - 17:58
Link: 2018 Conference

Worker cooperators, unions, developers, allies, funders, investors, and visionaries — join us this September!

This moment in U.S. history is pivotal — we are taking this opportunity to catalyze workers across the country, joining with the larger cooperative and economic justice movements to create and maintain stable, empowering jobs through employee ownership.

This three day conference in Los Angeles, California will make space for connection, education, skill-building, and sharing, for worker-owners and allied leaders who work to improve the lives of workers and their families.

Stay tuned for more information about sessions and registration, coming in January 2018.

To find out more visit the WCNC 2018 website


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The Growth of Co-op Business in British Columbia

Mon, 04/09/2018 - 17:52
Link: Good Job: The Growth of Co-operative Business in British Columbia

Elvy del Bianco, program manager for co-operative partnerships at Vancity Credit Union, believes the growth in B.C.’s co-operative business sector is driven in part by a desire for good jobs. The province, he said, is still suffering from the economic shock of the 2008 financial crisis.

“Job security is a thing of the past. Access to good, stable, well paying jobs is being overtaken by the gig economy,” he said. “People are seeing that it’s not a very friendly economy out there.”

A similarly unfriendly economy, he said, was what inspired the original creation of co-operatives in 19th century England. The pressures of industrialization drove skilled workers such as shoemakers, tailors and cabinet-makers to look for alternatives to capitalism. Del Bianco sees a similar thing happening today.

Read the rest at The Tyee


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The Rojava Revolution and Democratic Confederalism

Thu, 04/05/2018 - 16:42
Link: The Rojava Revolution and Democratic Confederalism

A Cooperation Jackson dialogue with Ercan Ayboga, Co-Author of "Revolution in Rojava", an activist of the Mesopotamian Ecologist Movement

Come learn about the ideological, political and programmatic similarities between the Jackson-Kush Plan and the radical democratic movement in Jackson, Mississippi and the Charter of the Social Contract, which serves as the Constitution of the Rojava Cantons, guiding the revolutionary transformation of Syrian Kurdistan. Learn more about their experiment with radical democratic confederalism amongst the various peoples and ethnicities of Syria, their work to build an anti-capitalist solidarity economy, to liberate women, and to restore the ecology.

Given the widespread violence and suffering in Syria, it's not unreasonable that outsiders look at the situation as unrelentingly awful. And while the reality of the devastation is undeniable, there is reason for hope in at least one small pocket of the nation: the cantons of Rojava in Syrian Kurdistan, wherein the wake of war people are quietly building one of the most progressive societies in the world today. Revolution in Rojava tells the story of Rojava's groundbreaking experiment in what they call democratic confederalism, a communally organized democracy that is fiercely anti-capitalist and committed to female equality while rejecting reactionary nationalist ideologies. Rooted in the ideas of imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan, the system is built on effective gender quotas, bottom-up democratic structures, far-sighted ecological policies, and a powerful militancy that has allowed the region to keep ISIS at bay. This first full-length study of democratic developments in Rojava tells an extraordinary and powerfully hopeful story of a little-known battle for true freedom in dark times.

Watch more videos from Cooperation Jackson


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South Philly Food Co-op Advances Local Food Access

Thu, 04/05/2018 - 16:34
Link: South Philadelphia: Co-op President Advances Local Food Access

The co-op had already been actively working and had incorporated as an organization and was aiming to get enough members to begin a real estate search. Cooperatives were something that was new and interesting to me personally and I decided to become a member-owner. It seemed like a really great way to get involved with my neighbors, so I decided to get more involved.

The co-op is currently more than 850 member-owners strong and we are, at this point, still an all-volunteer organization and so we are dependent on the passions and incredible skills of our member-owners. It’s a community-driven endeavor and I think that’s one of the things that’s incredibly impressive to me. [A lack of local food] was something that was identified as a need by the community and the community is solving this problem.

Read the rest at Philadelphia Neighborhoods


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Who are the New Co-op Weavers?

Wed, 04/04/2018 - 15:18
Link: Who are the new Co-op weavers?

The internet has spawned a myriad of collaborative projects, the most notable of which are still Wikipedia, Firefox and Linux itself – the open source kernel which supports majority of the internet – but, in general, effective large-scale online collaboration has been extremely slow to evolve. Instead we are presented with a cacophony of voices all vying for our waning attention and, despite our best efforts, we naturally gravitate into internet silos which hamper the cross-pollination of ideas and opinions. Plus, now publishing one’s ideas has become so easy, there is often huge overlap between disparate groups who share exactly the same vision, purpose and objectives but remain ignorant of each others’ existence, or unsure how they could collaborate when they do discover each other.

This is the realm in which the new generation of co-operative weavers are ‘shuttling’ the threads of disparate groups back and forth, curating and collating concepts and ‘memes’ into more coherent tapestries. The Collaborative Technology Alliance highlights the objective: “There are many groups around the world working to deliver a more open, more collaborative and inclusive society. These groups are intention-aligned but remain disparate initiatives, which means they fail to benefit from the network effect”.

Imagine how much more effective we could be if the members of the Transition NetworkNEONOccupyThe Solidarity EconomyThe Internet of Ownership, The WWOOFersThe Eco village Network and all the other hundreds and thousands of like-minded networks were actively collaborating on creating the type of society to which they all aspire. The network effect would be unstoppable.

Read the rest at The Open Co-op  Go to the GEO front page
Categories: News

Co-op mobile home park 'a success' in Burlington

Wed, 04/04/2018 - 15:13
Link: Co-op mobile home park 'a success' in Burlington

LeClair, now the 116-unit neighborhood's maintenance manager, explained the cost-benefit math. 

“You can own a new, energy-efficient, two-bedroom home here and pay $900 a month, which includes land rental, your mortgage and taxes,” he said last week. “Try finding that anywhere else in Burlington.”

Residents own their homes and share ownership of the entire parcel.

The pace of improvements, such as the removal of abandoned dwellings, has quickened, LeClair said.

“When we formed the co-op in 2015, we hit the ground running,” LeClair said. "People are more interested in how things are going — because now they have a say.”

Read the rest at Burlington Free Press


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Some Reasons why the 1970s Wave of UK Worker Coops Faded Away

Tue, 04/03/2018 - 18:16
Link: Some Reasons why the 1970s Wave of UK Worker Coops Faded Away and Why there is an Upsurge in the 2010s

In the late 1990s ICOM (the former worker cooperative federation) did a cluster analysis of location of worker coops and CDAs (cooperative development agencies) in the UK.  It was very clear that existing worker coops clustered around long standing CDAs. There were few where there had not been a CDA. With some odd exceptions eg Suma Wholefoods, the largest 70s worker coop, in Leeds and Halifax.  

It was also apparent that the loss of worker coops seemed to be higher where CDAs had disappeared previously due to loss of funding by local authorities as they lost funding from the Conservative governments of the 80s and early 90s.

But when the Blair Labour government won a landslide victory in 1997, they emphasised social enterprise. Cooperatives were deemed to be 'innefective and obsolete' by the promoters of social enterprise. They successfully lobbied the Blair administration to put all their considerable 'third sector' support into promoting social enterprise. Which meant that there was almost no cooperative development support or awareness raising on the ground. No one with any authority wanted to hear about cooperatives.

Social enterprise thought leaders of the 90s discounted democracy as part of the governance of their type of social enterprise, creating a gulf between cooperatives and UK social enterprise (unlike on the continent where social enterprise and cooperatives intertwine).  This was the case until fairly recently.

Conservative politicians disliked social enterprise 'Blairstyle', they referred it as 'jobs for the children of labour politicians'. After 2010 and the election of a Conservative led government it was again possible to start talking about cooperatives in the UK without getting the cold shoulder from government (local and national). Cooperatives fit the politics of all major parties (for different reasons) even if they don't really understand them.

Read the rest at Bob Cannell's blog


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