Don’t be fooled — the last thing these folks are doing is sitting still. These are the movers and shakers of the worker cooperative movement. Photo by GEO.
Jim Hightower complimented the worker cooperative movement for being a “movement that actually moves.” Over the first weekend of August, hundreds of worker co-op activists met in Berkeley to discuss our co-ops and how to move our economic model from being an “alternative” to the standard in the United States.
The theme of the conference was “The Work We Do Is The Solution.” We learned a lot solutions being developed across the nation:
* The Cleveland Model (the Evergreen Cooperative Initiative), which is using the worker co-op model to revitalize an economically devastated neighborhood in Cleveland, OH.
* Toxic Soil Busters, who use plants to manage lead remediation in their Worcester, Mass., neighborhood. This worker co-op consists entirely of 14 to 18-year-olds who make all of the decisions.
* EdVisions, in Minnesota, which is a worker-coop charter school that has created a dynamic democratic educational plan to go with their democratic workplace.
The author (John McNamara) gives a presentation at the conference on “Marketing the Co-op Advantage.” Photo by GEO.
The workshops focused on a lot of “nuts and bolts” lessons from “How to talk to a lender” to “strategic planning” to “marketing the cooperative.” The energy, however, was about building infrastructure to improve accountability and responsibility, measure our co-ops against ideals, and manage conflict in our organizations.
The Regional Caucus met. We had no nominations for the Regional Director, so that seat remains vacant. If someone is interested in serving, please let me know and I will forward your name to the board— although we already have two seats on the board. We discussed holding a Midwest conference next year and how to build closer ties between Madison and the Twin Cities, as well as working with co-ops outside of major metropolitan areas.
The northern regional caucus meeting. The three people on the right side of the photo are Steve Herrick of the ICM and John Kessler and Ole Olson of Isthmus Engineering. Photo by GEO.
Kristin Forde was awarded the Local Hero Award for the Northern Region for her work in getting MadWorC up and running. Other winners included Erbin Crowell and Adam Trott from the Valley Alliance of Worker Cooperatives (VAWC), Dan Thomaseses for his work with NoBAWC, and Frank Adams for his lifetime of work in worker cooperatives. The Cooperative of the Year went to the youth movement Toxic Soil Busters, while the first Cooperator of the Year was granted posthumously to John Logue of the Ohio Employee Ownership Center for his lifetime of work and the creation of the Evergreen Initiative.
A special thanks to the Madison Interpreters Cooperative for provided what many described as excellent interpreting services.
A lot of folks were talking about replicating their models (WAGES, Toxic Soil Busters), and even more were talking about the importance of regional organizing to build capacity for education programs and other mutual benefits. The other theme was building the capacity of our organizations to offer a true difference by creating systems for accountability, education, and humanity.
Grassroots Economic Organizing (GEO) organized a team to blog on the proceedings. These posts are at www.geo.coop.