New Book on Community, Cooperation and the Commons

Reclaiming the Commons for the Common Good is an overview of the commons heritage which unearths and identifies pivotal commons practices within self-organizing, self-governing and self-informing principles, and brings them to the forefront of society today.

Students will find two comprehensive chapters on the Tragedy of the Commons, as well as eight specific capacity building practices and a manifesto exploring eight historical frames for current activism.

This overview is intended for students studying economics, politics, sociology, environmentalism, and history. Rich in historical detail, Reclaiming the Commons uncovers a denigrated piece of history, selectively culls elements that could be usefully revived today and ends with a vision in which some promising current initiatives, such as permaculture and the Occupy Movement, take on a deeper significance.

Heather Menzies is an award-winning writer and scholar and the author of nine books, including Whose Brave New World? and No Time. She has been awarded an honourary doctorate and the Order of Canada for her “contributions to public discourse.” A mother and grandmother, a gardener and social-justice activist, Heather regularly contributes to journals and newspapers, and is in high demand as a speaker, offering a thoughtful critique of our disintegrating social fabric.

Praise for Reclaiming the Commons for the Common Good

“It’s an admirable, even noble, vision, and expresses very eloquently what will have to be done if humanity is to escape the current race towards disaster. There’s not much time, and it’s a huge risk. I hope that this book has the impact it deserves.”
—Noam Chomsky, linguist, philosopher, political theorist, MIT

“When the great Crash, ecologic or economic, comes, Heather Menzies’ brilliant critique, provides an understanding of why it came about and a path towards a truly sustainable way for humanity to live on the planet.”
—David Suzuki, author, Wisdom of the Elders and The Sacred Balance


Group House Olympics!

Hello Former (& hopefully future) Olympians, Community Junkies, and Potluck Pals:
I hereby light the torch for this fall’s Group House Olympics.
Now in its’ fourth gathering, the GHO brings community-minded folks together for friendly competition between group houses across the DC metro area. This fall’s Games will run from Saturday, October 18 to Sunday, November 9. During these three weeks, participants will gather at events hosted by each house. Yes, there are medals. The podium is secondary to having fun, getting to know each community, and developing relationships that last beyond the Games.
Are you fired up and ready to go? Register your house by Sunday, October 5.
Never participated in the GHO or don’t know what it is? It’s open to anyone and easy to participate:

1. Read this handy dandy flyer:
2. Register your house (or just yourself if you don’t live in group house):
3. After you register your house, fill out the
We hope to see you all for the Opening Ceremonies Potluck and Event on Saturday, October 18 at Noon.
a BIG PS. Please forward this email to others (houses and individuals) that you think would be interested. Let’s widen our circles to include more families, communities of color, and DC area native residents.

in community,

Brett Wiley and the rest of Team Maitri, host of the fall 2014 Games and overall gold medalists of the winter 2014 Games

Cooperative book endorsed by Vandana Shiva

Capital and the Debt Trap: Learning from Cooperatives in the Global Crisis

By Claudia Sanchez Bajo and Bruno Roelants

Palgrave MacMillan (2013)

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.

Vandana Shiva, the internationally known environment activist, recently wrote: “We have been falsely made to believe that competition is the way nature and society work. However, greed and competition are dis-values imposed by corporate rule. Both nature and society work on the principles of co-operation. In CAPITAL AND THE DEBT TRAP – Learning from Cooperatives in the Global Crisis Bruno Roelants and Claudia Sanchez Bajo show us how an economy based on co-operation can address the deep crisis we face.”

Earlier endorsements. Vandana Shiva’s recent endorsement comes after other ones received from a number of academics, among whom 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 book can be purchased directly from the Palgrave website at: The cost for the second paperback edition (December 2013 under a paperback format for the price of 19.99 British Pounds (around 22.7 € or 31.3 US$). For academic institutions in North America, the book can also be ordered through Raincoast or Indigo, or through Ashton Quinn, the Palgrave university representative in North America (

Blog and Facebook page. You are welcome to visit the book blog at , to read new comments and texts on the book, but also to leave your own comments. You can also follow us on facebook at

About the authors:

§ Claudia Sanchez Bajo, PhD in Development Studies (ISS, The Hague), is Chair in Cooperative Enterprises at the University of Winnipeg, Canada. She previously taught in The Netherlands, Germany, Italy, China and several Latin American countries at pre-graduate and MA levels, and published among other titles: “The political Economy of Regionalism – Business Actors in Mercosur in the Petrochemical and Steel Sectors” (2001) and contributed to the book “The Political Economy of Regions and Regionalism” (Shaw, Boas and Marchand. Eds., Palgrave 2005).

§ Bruno Roelants, Master in Labour Studies (ISS, The Hague), is Secretary General of CICOPA, the 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 and Eastern Europe. He coordinated the cooperative organisations in the negotiations in 2001-2002 in Geneva on the ILO Recommendation 193 on the promotion of cooperatives. He has taught on cooperatives and local development in Italy. He has edited “Cooperatives and Social Enterprises – Governance and Normative Frameworks” (CECOP, 2009), and is a co-author of “Cooperatives, Territories and Jobs” (CECOP, 2011).

Interview with Executive Dir. of The Cooperative Development Foundation on 9/25 at 10:30 am WOL 1450 AM

This week Vernon interviews Leslie Mead, Executive Director of The Cooperative Development Foundation (CDC). Vernon and Ms. Mead will discuss the 2014 Cooperative Hall of FameThe Co-op 5K Race/Walk, and other initiatives of CDC.

Mead has 30 years of experience with cooperative organizations, most recently serving as president of The Cooperative Foundation, a private foundation based in St. Paul, MN. She began her career with the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, and served as the executive administrator of the Association of Cooperative Educators, an international organization of cooperative educators and developers.

She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from Drake University in Des Moines, IA and a Juris Doctor degree from Indiana University School of Law — Bloomington.  She lives in Arlington, VA with her husband and two sons.

Vernon Oakes is President of Oakes Management Inc. As President, he has renovated and managed his own properties, and those owned by other entities since 1985. Mr. Oakes is the immediate Past President of the National Association of Housing Cooperatives, and serves on several boards to advance the interests of cooperatives. He is also a former coordinator of the MBA program at Howard University, and an MBA graduate of Stanford University, who has used his business acumen to benefit the community by providing quality housing for all populations. Vernon is a consummate advocate for cooperatives.

Don’t miss this opportunity join a lively informative conversation. Click Here To find out more about The Cooperative Development Foundation. To listen live online Click Here!
or Click Here! to Listen on your cell phone with Tune-in Radio

DC Time Bank Meet Up

Monday, September 22, 2014 from 6-8
Busboys & Poets, 5th and K St NW (Chinatown)

Love the idea of Time Banking? Jumped in already? Ready to jump in?

Come mingle with your local Time Bank community! Time Bankers from across the DMV are welcome to join us at Busboys and Poets in Chinatown where great finger foods and non-alcoholic drinks will be provided. (Donations towards the cost of the food are gratefully accepted). There will be fun activities and plenty of opportunities to meet others who share the same values!

Meet Time Bank Founder, Edgar Cahn, who will open this event of learning, sharing and getting-to-action.

Around the globe, Time Banks are helping to grow and drive the new, sharing economy movement, “one hour at a time.” Through Time Banking, people have given and received millions of hours to build an economy of kindness. Now Time Banking is growing here, in DC!

If you have joined any part of Time Banking in the DC metropolitan area, if you want to know what others are doing, if you want to do more…join us! If you haven’t signed up as part of a Time Bank yet, members will help you learn more about the movement and get signed up online!

Come join us. Be inspired. Meet others. Be ready for action. Keep the growing going! Help us build community through mutual exchange.

To learn more visit!

2nd Annual DC Co-op Clinic

There are a couple weeks left until the 2014 DC Co-op Clinic! The Clinic is sponsored by the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Community Development and member organizations who work year round to support DC housing cooperatives. They have been planning a one day clinic for months  that provides resources specifically geared toward cooperatives. The details are below. If you haven’t already please RSVP to; or (202) 722-7423 ext. 108.
Event: DC Co-op Clinic
Date: Saturday, October 4, 2014
Location: 3047 15th St NW
Time: 8:30 am – 3:30 pm
Who: YOU and your fellow Co-op members

New Book on Worker Co-operatives and Regional Economic Development

Amherst, MA – September – 2014 – Levellers Press, a worker co-operative, announced the publication of Building Co-operative Power! Stories and Strategies from Worker Co-Operatives in the Connecticut River Valley.

Building Co-operative Power (BCP) introduces the history and concept of worker co-operation and relates past and present stories of worker co-operatives in the Connecticut River Valley. It is grounded in 50 field interviews with former and current worker co-operators and the regional development model of theValley Alliance of Worker Co-operatives (VAWC). This book is a guide and inspiration for building worker co-operatives as well as co-operative economic development through inter-cooperation in any region in this country.

Janelle Cornwell (Worcester State University), Michael Johnson (Grassroots Economic Organizing Newsletter) and Adam Trott (Valley Alliance of Worker Co-operatives and Collective Copies) co-authored the book. Julie Graham had led the team before her untimely death two and a half years ago. (See their bios at the end of the article.)

You can see the Table of Contents and read the Introduction on the book’s web page. At this time you can purchase BCP from the Levellers Press here. Soon it will be on Amazon, and later will go into large scale distribution.

Building Co-operative Power does two specific things. First, it gives a sense, a feel, even a taste of what it is like to be part of worker co-operative.

Second, after describing and exploring the consequences of the cultural invisibility for cooperatives and alternative political economic projects generally, it lays out the coherent strategy the Valley Alliance of Worker Co-operatives (VAWC) is using to address this major obstacle. In short, VAWC’s strategy involves worker co-op led development and regional co-operative economic development through inter-cooperation of all cooperatives in the area.

Life in a worker co-op

Green Mountain Spinnery. photo by Marti Stone

Parts I and II focus on the realities of worker co-ops. Part I has three chapters that draw the voices of 50 former and current worker-owners into a narrative showing the everyday and long term realities of being in a worker co-operative and running a business with no employer/employee dynamic. The opportunities for fulfilling productivity and the challenges of relating cooperatively are explored, such as co-op governance, management, communication, conflict resolution, the painful process of firing, and more. Tales of personal transformation run throughout all of the narrative.

Part II continues this focus on showing what life in worker co-ops is like. It presents the profiles of 11 worker co-ops, both former and current ones, from Western Massachusetts and Southern Vermont. These stories include both inspirational and cautionary tales for start-ups and conversions. Each story gives a strong sense of the unique history and character of each one of these worker co-ops.

This section also shows how worker co-operatives occupy a business place in a very wide range of industries: printing, solar installation, bicycle transportation services, website hosting, weaving, perfumes, local and organic food distribution, education for change services, holistic health, and cotton diaper services.

Promoting the “co-operative difference”

Building Co-operative Power addresses the obstacles and opportunities for building a co-operative economy throughout a region, and making worker co-operatives an increasingly important part of the U.S. economy.

Like any other business co-operatives produce and sell commodities, borrow money, employ workers, and own private property. However, they differ fundamentally from mainstream businesses in their organizational structure, principles and values and even their very purpose for existing. This is what is known as the “cooperative difference.” Here’s one way the authors describe this crucial factor:

…co-operatives, across all sectors and industries, subordinate capital to the interests of the users (consumers) and members of the enterprise rather than risking capital to make greater wealth for a few…It means co-operatives eliminate the antagonistic relationship between users and owners that is institutionalized in capitalist models. (p 159)

In the first chapter of the Part II Building Co-operative Power explores the significance of “co-operative difference” and how it manifests in practice. The following chapter explores the “cultural invisibility” of all co-operatives and virtually all alternative political economic projects in this country. It shows how such a powerful political and economic business model can be virtually unseen or very misunderstood by the public in general, policy makers, economists, business schools, and even the millions of members of co-operatives.

The third chapter in this section focuses on the crippling consequences of this invisibility to the democratic and economic potential of co-operatives. The authors zero in on four specific ones. Invisibility translates into

  • potential patrons and co-opreneurs not being able to make informed choices about where they could be buying and the kinds of businesses they could start
  • a lack of co-operative and collective management skills
  • a lack of investment and understanding of co-operative development, and
  • widespread public policy ignorance and neglect.

Pioneer Valley PhotoVoltaics (PV Squared)

The final two chapters of the book focus on how VAWC’s history and its strategies for overcoming the problem of invisibility and its crippling consequences. Theirs is a slow march, but that march is underpinned by a well thought-out strategy for advancing cooperative ideals and values through both the worker co-op sector and regional inter-cooperation among all co-operatives.

Their tactics and strategies include joint marketing, public education, developing expertise in governance and management, providing technical support and solidarity for start-ups and conversions as well as using a development fund fed by a small percentage of member co-operatives’ annual surplus.

The authors describe VAWC’s “everyday vision:” how someday people in their region will be able to go through a whole day taking care of all their needs and desires through a network of co-operative businesses. In 2011 they took a major step in this direction by forming the Valley Cooperative Business Association with the Neighboring Food Co-operative Association (a network of more than 20 food co-ops), the UMass Five College Credit Union, and Cabot Creamery.

Addressing the need for special training programs VAWC, in 2009, began working with faculty in the Economics Department at the University of Massachusetts to develop a co-operative curriculum and certificate program. Together they co-founded the University of Massachusetts Co-operative Enterprise Collaborative (UMCEC). UMCEC developed curriculum and internships in the economics of co-operative enterprise as part of a Certificate in Applied Research in Co-operative Enterprise.

Adam Trott, one of the co-authors of Building Co-operative Power and the VAWC staff person summarized the overall project in this way:

The sky is the limit, really. Systems are in place that bring co-operatives together among and across sectors. They approach issues that individual co-ops won’t or can’t deal with alone. They’re expanding a major strength of the co-operative model: the ability to marshal scarce resources for the benefit of members and their communities.

Readers can access the book’s Introduction on the web site as well as praises for it from John Curl, Gar Alperovitz, J.K. Gibson-Graham, Nancy Folbre, and E. G. Nadeau.

To purchase the book: click here, or contact Levellers Press (phone: 413-992-7408; )


Adam Trott is the Staff for the Valley Alliance of Worker Co-operatives, where he supports, develops and educates about and for worker co-operatives.  Adam has been a worker/member of Collective Copies since 2004 – a collectively-managed worker co-op and union shop. He serves on the board of the Co-operative Capital Fund, the Valley Co-operative Business Association, the Co-operative Enterprise Collaborative and the United Electrical Workers for Co-operation.