A diversity of kindred approaches to alternative political economics is emerging across the country. Many of them share a regional focus. This is showing unusual potential for advancing the development of worker co-operatives through inter-cooperative and cross-sector networking. We are calling this Regional Cooperative/Solidarity Economic Development (C/SE).*
Grassroots Economic Organizing (GEO) will convene, organize and implement a one-day mini-conference that will focus on this emergence. It will be an integral part of the Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy’s (ECWD) Conference in Worcester, MA. This ECWD conference will take place over a Friday through Sunday most likely in June or July of 2015. Exact dates and location will be announced. Since it will be GEO’s third Advancing the Development Worker Cooperatives conference, we are calling it “ADWC 3.”
The purpose of this one-day mini-conference is to explore ways to build local economies, coalitions and other practices that will help to solve economic and social problems in our communities. We are reaching out to leaders of these diverse political economic initiatives across the country as well as leaders from social justice and civic engagement movements who are and who want to be supportive allies in regional economic development. It is what GEO is calling Movements Moving Together.
The focus of the ADWC3 mini-conference will be on 1) exploring the challenges and opportunities organizers and developers are dealing with in their regions; 2) identifying the resources they need and how the resources might be acquired; and 3) how we can work together cross-regionally over the coming years.
In addition to worker co-operatives and other co-operatives, a diversity of kindred approaches to alternative economics has been evolving over the past few years in the US. Many of these approaches are deeply oriented to bottom-up development, where democracy and cooperation can be more deeply rooted locally.
Right now cooperative/solidarity networks are emerging in more than a few regions across the country: In western Massachusetts, central Massachusetts, New York City, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Madison, Detroit, Jackson, MS, Austin, TX and the Bay Area, to name a few of them.
The ADWC 3 project has three key features. First, the mini-conference itself. It will happen on the Friday of the three-day gathering in June or July of 2015.
Second, ECWD and GEO will also organize a workshop track to run during the regular ECWD conference on that Saturday and Sunday. These workshops will bring a variety of perspectives on this kind of regional development.
Third, prior to the conference, GEO will also publish an online collection of articles –- what we in GEO call a “Theme” — written by participants and others focusing on the most relevant issues. That Theme will be posted a month or so prior to the conference.
How to participate
We hope you will join us. You can tune your involvement from low- to high-grade. There will be four specific ways to do this:
· helping to develop the conference themes through an online forum;
· giving a workshop at the ECWD part of the weekend;
· contributing to the GEO online newsletter; and/or
· participating in the mini-conference itself.
You can begin by joining the ADWC 3 Google Group. To do so, send an email letter to one of the conference organizers:
Ajowa Ifateyo, email@example.com, or
Michael Johnson, firstname.lastname@example.org
The conference itself
The structure of the conference will involve three 1½ hour interactive group discussions, a light breakfast, lunch, two breaks, and a wrap-up discussion. There will be no formal presentations during the day.
The objective of this structure is for participants to talk directly with each other about
1) the challenges and opportunities they are dealing with in their regions; 2) the resources they need; and 3) how we can work together across regions over the coming years.
The specific topics of the discussions will be developed through consultations with potential participants over several months leading up to the conference. This will happen through exchanges in the Google Group.
The process will involve two facilitators for each discussion. As we did in ADWC 1 in Baltimore in 2011, at least 25 participants will sit in a circle for face-to-face interaction around the topic at hand. Another 30 or more observers will encircle this group during each of the three discussions. The specifics on how this will be arranged will be worked out through our online collaboration via the ADWC 3 Google Group.
Interaction among these two groups will occur during breaks and at lunch during the mini-conference; at track workshops; and during social times during the two days of the ECWD conference.
Again, if you are interested in being involved or just keeping informed on how things evolve, join the ADWC 3 Google Group by sending an email letter to one of the conference organizers:
Ajowa Ifateyo, email@example.com, or
Michael Johnson, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tune in to WOL 1450 AM, tomorrow for Everything Co-op, hosted by Vernon Oakes. This week Vernon interviews Noémi Giszpenc, Executive Director of Cooperative Development Institute. Vernon and Noémi will discuss the the role that cooperatives can play in the Arts, and CDI’s work to help start-up cooperatives, and support existing cooperative businesses.
Ms. Giszpenc, manages the day-to-day activities of the organization. She began her career as an economics researcher at the World Bank, worked as an editor at the Nonprofit Quarterly, a magazine for nonprofit managers, and became a principal at Ownership Associates, Inc., a consulting firm in Cambridge, MA specializing in developing an ownership culture at employee-owned firms. As part of earning a Master’s in Community Economic Development from Southern New Hampshire University, she did a thesis on the creation of a cooperative economy in the Northeast, including the practical development of an interactive cooperative directory, which has now evolved into the Data Commons Cooperative (datacommons.coop).
Cooperative Development Institute is the source for cooperative business development in the Northeast. CDI’s staff specializes in helping people work together to plan and launch a cooperatively owned business. The institute helps existing privately held businesses convert to ones owned by their employees or the consumers of their products and services.
Tune in to WOL 1450 AM tomorrow for Everything Co-op, hosted by Vernon Oakes. This week Vernon interviews Ajowa Nzinga Ifateyo. Vernon and Ajowa will discuss Grassroots Economic Organizing, cooperative economics, and her work to help cooperatives and other people-friendly projects get started in the DC area.
Ms. Nzinga Ifateyo has been a co-editor of Grassroots Economic Organizing, (GEO) for more than 10 years. GEO, a 30-year-old publication, reports on cooperative developments around the world, and provides advocacy for alternative economic solutions. Her work with GEO has inspired her to research and think about ways to empower individuals to make personal changes to better organize and participate in cooperative/group entrepreneurial enterprises.
Ajowa has nine years of experience on cooperative boards, including: Ujamaa Collective, the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives, and the Eastern Conference on Workplace Development. In 2000, she and four other D.C. residents co-founded an affordable housing co-op for community organizers, the Ella Jo Baker Intentional Community Cooperative, in Washington, DC, where she served as treasurer and secretary-treasurer for about six years. Presently, Ajowa is researching how to effectively incorporate spirituality in the work of organizing co-ops.
22 years ago, Heidemarie Schwermer left her difficult marriage and relocated to the city of Dortmund (in Germany’s Ruhr area) with her two kids. A middle-aged secondary school teacher, she quickly became aware of the large population of homeless people in the town. It shocked her so much she decided to do something about it. Schwermer believed the homeless didn’t need actual money to be accepted back into society, only a chance to empower themselves by making themselves useful. With this decided truth, she opened a Tauschring (swap shop), called “Gib und Nimm” (Give and Take).
Give and Take became a place where anyone could trade stuff and skills for other things and skills they needed, without a single coin or banknote exchanged. Old clothes could be traded in return for kitchen appliances, and car service rendered in exchange for plumbing services, and so on…
2nd Annual NYC Worker Cooperative Conference
Workplace Democracy Across the Professions
Register at: www.nycworker.coop/register
The New York City Network of Worker Cooperatives will hold its second annual conference of presentations and discussions about economic democracy and the road to economic justice.
The conference will be held on Saturday, May 2, 2015 at CUNY Law School from 9 AM – 5 PM. The public is invited to a day of panels, group sessions, and presentations on workplace democracy, worker cooperative businesses, and the future of economic democracy in New York City.
This year’s conference will focus on the variety of professional callings currently practiced at democratic, worker-owned firms. The keynote speaker will be Professor Frederick Freundlich from Mondragon University. A series of panels will feature worker-members from the following professions: architecture, academia, management, maintenance, sales, carpentry, clerical work, and lending services, among others. Alongside these panels, the conference will also host networking sessions and tutorial workshops. Finally, city and state lawmakers will again be invited as special guests of honor.
Childcare will be provided nearby at Montessori Kids of Long Island City.
Continental breakfast and lunch are included.
The recent financial crisis has had a devastating impact around the globe. Thousands of businesses have closed down and millions of jobs have been cut. Many people have lost their homes. Capital and the Debt Trap explains how key economies have fallen into a ‘debt trap’, linking the financial sphere to the real economy, and goes beyond, looking into alternatives to the constant stream of financial bubbles and shocks. Overlooked by many, cooperatives across the world have been relatively resilient throughout the crisis. Through four case studies (the transformation of a French industrial SME in crisis into a cooperative, a fishery cooperative in Mexico, the Desjardins Cooperative Group in Quebec and the Mondragon Group in the Basque country of Spain), the book explores their strategies and type of control, providing an in-depth analysis within a broader debate on wealth generation and a sustainable future.
Capital and the Debt Trap: Learning from Cooperatives in the Global Crisis
By Claudia Sanchez Bajo and Bruno Roelants
Palgrave MacMillan (second edition 2013)
Endorsements: Capital and the Debt Trap was endorsed, among others, by Vandana Shiva (Navdanya Research Foundation for Science Technology & Ecology, New Delhi), Noam Chomsky (MIT, USA), James Galbraith (Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, USA), Jean Ziegler (University of Geneva), Paul Singer (University of São Paulo, presently Brazilian Secretary of State for the Solidarity Economy), Louis Favreau (Université du Québec, Canada), George Irvin (School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London), Robin Murray (London School of Economics), Stephen Yeo (previously Principal of Ruskin College, Oxford), Yves Cabannes (University College London), Peter Davies (University of Leicester, UK), and Anis Chowdhury (Western Sydney University, Australia). The late Prof. Ian MacPherson from Victoria University, Canada, drafted the foreword of the book.
How to buy the book? The English version of the book can be purchased directly from the Palgrave website at: http://www.palgrave.com/products/title.aspx?pid=688814. It has been translated into several languages.
You are welcome to visit the book blog at http://www.capital-and-the-debt-trap.com/ , to read new comments and texts on the book, but also to leave your own comments. You can also follow us on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Capital.and.the.Debt.trap
About the authors:
Claudia Sanchez Bajo email@example.com, PhD in Development Studies (ISS, The Hague), was the inaugural Chair in Cooperative Enterprises of the University of Winnipeg, Canada, till January 2015. She teaches at Pavia University, Italy, and previously taught in The Netherlands, Germany, Italy, China and several Latin American countries at pre-graduate and MA levels; she published among other books “The political Economy of Regionalism – Business Actors in Mercosur in the Petrochemical and Steel Sectors” (2001) and contributed to “The Political Economy of Regions and Regionalism” (Shaw, Boas and Marchand. Eds., Palgrave 2005) and “Cooperatives in a Post-Growth Era: Creating Co-operative Economics”, Novkovic and Webb eds., Zed Books 2014).
Bruno Roelants firstname.lastname@example.org, Master in Labour Studies (ISS, The Hague), is Secretary General of CICOPA, sectoral organization of the International Cooperative Alliance for industrial, handicraft and service cooperatives, and its European organization CECOP CICOPA-Europe. He was previously responsible for cooperative development projects in China, India and Central-Eastern Europe. He coordinated the cooperative organisations in the negotiations on the ILO Recommendation 193 on the promotion of cooperatives in 2001-2002. He edited “Cooperatives and Social Enterprises – Governance and Normative Frameworks” (CECOP, 2009) and “Cooperative Growth in the 21st Century” (ICA, 2013); he is a co-author of “Cooperatives, Territories and Jobs” (CECOP, 2011) and “Cooperatives and Employment: a Global Report” (CICOPA-Desjardins, 2014).