Communities are facing economic hardship everywhere, but in the midst of these difficult times the cooperative business model is thriving. The National Cooperative Business Association provides these statistics: ”Worldwide, roughly 750,000 cooperatives serve 730 million members. Here in the U.S. some 72,000 co-op establishments operate, providing more than 2 million jobs and serving 120 million members, that’s 4 in 10 Americans.” The significance of supporting and using this model in our culture today cannot be overstated. Who among us is not “fed up” with giant corporations who care only about their bottom line. Obviously, every business needs to profit, but the co-op business model is about so much more.
Three main types of cooperatives exist: retail, marketing, and worker, but they all function primarily by the Rochdale Principles. To summarize, cooperatives are formed to meet their members’ needs, and are focused more on service than investment. In our rapidly changing world, I believe we need to take a step back, and review some of the principles that were working for communities in the past. I’ve stated several times on this blog, that I do not want to give up our innovations and technology; we are living in an awesome age, this 21st Century. But, sometimes I believe we move too fast, and perhaps discard systems that are working. The co-op model is one that we need to keep alive.
I’ve been a member of a retail food co-op for many years, but I’m becoming aware of myriad other options to be involved as a consumer. I’ve detailed some of them below:
FIND A RETAIL FOOD CO-OP NEAR YOU: Go to this website – Local Harvest
BABYSITTING CO-OPS: Grandparents are babysitting ever more these days, sometimes full time. Find a babysitting co-op near you, or learn how to set up one: babycenter.com
ARTIST CO-OPS: Art Chain or The Sketchbook Project
CAMPING GEAR: Mountain Equipment Co-op
BANKING CO-OPS: Cobank and National Cooperative Bank
Grameen America You must read about the Grameen Bank. It has made a tremendous difference in lives, internationally, and it is now in America.
COOPERATIVE HOUSING: National Assoc. of Housing Cooperatives
The list above is very brief, but will give you a sample of the opportunities available to get involved with co-ops. If you are interested, the links below will provide more information about starting a co-op:
For a detailed definition of types of cooperatives download: The Structure of Cooperatives. Also visit the Cooperative Development Institute. (A great resource) Or, download a Co-op Start-up kit.
We’re all feeling a little uneasy these days. My thoughts often wonder to the future, and what it holds for our grandchildren. A lot of things in life have gone awry since we (The Boomers) were growing up. But, as always it’s a balance, the yin and the yang. We still have the power to affect positive change in our remaining years, to influence the world toward better options. I believe one of those options involves huddling closer, holding onto things like the co-op model, and remembering the value of our local communities. Let’s make sure these options are still viable for those who come after us.