2015 has started with two interesting co-operative events in the Boston area. One was hosted by the Agaric co-op, and the other hosted by the Local 888 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU 888) in support of the Cero co-op.
Agaric hosted a great party on January 9. They are a web development co-op with expertise in the Drupal content management system. They are now based in an equally interesting co-working space in Cambridge, MA, called Industry Lab. This party hosted Richard Stallman who was returning home from a tour presenting his work. Richard is the founder of GNU, an operating system, that is not only the basis for the Free Software Foundation, but is the foundation for the widely used Linux kernel distributions. In fact, developers in the free software community prefer the more accurate name, GNU/Linux, due to Linux being a kernel built onto GNU. Richard Stallman has worked since 1983, before the Windows operating system existed, to make software open to the world. Yet capitalizing on technology has become the norm. I asked Richard what he thinks of today’s web, and he says he chooses not to participate.
Hosting Richard Stallman is part of Agaric’s devotion to bringing together co-operative-minded people, and spreading collaborative energy. I got involved thanks to the impressive outreach efforts of Agaric’s Micky Metts. In addition to this get-together, Agaric hosts Meet-Up events to bring together co-operative minded people. They recently had a Meet-Up event for the co-op A Yard and A Half Landscaping. See Ben Melançon’s blog post about it on the Agaric site blog. Agaric’s outreach exemplifies the co-op value, listed as number 6 of 7 on the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) website: “Co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the co-operative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.”
On January 13, an event was hosted at SEIU 888 to raise money for the co-op Cero, an innovative co-operative business that collects compostable waste from restaurants. The waste is then delivered to recycling facilities. Diverting compostable waste in this way doesn’t just help the environment, but assists businesses in complying with environmental regulation requiring a diversion of compostable waste.
The event included a video introduced by worker/owner Steven Evans. Steven had some moving words observing that people in his community seeking work could be empowered if they knew what a co-op is. Worker/owner Timothy Hall was also present who had previously presented at the CommonBound conference mentioned in an earlier blog post. Timothy noted that today’s consumer is smarter and not just a consumer, but part of the production process as described by Alvin Toffler as a prosumer. Other worker/owners spoke including Evelin Fuentes who spoke passionately about the recycling process and worker/owner Lor Holmes described the business model.
Cero began with crowdsourcing funds to raise $20 thousand to initiate a direct public offering. Their business model provides a living wage for its workers, and also has strict guidelines for paying back investors. It is a balance that Cero is carefully carrying out successfully. Your investment or donation is needed now to upgrade equipment! Invest at http://www.dpo.cero.coop.