Connecting co-ops in North America

2 minutes

As a network of co-ops builds in the US, redefining economics is resulting as well—a topic I’ve mentioned in several previous blog entries. There’s a mandate to develop an economy that includes solidarity. Other terms on the topic are: a sharing economy (which is defined differently depending on who you ask), or a generative economy. Efforts around the country are piecing together inchoate ideas for now, but show great thinking and promise.

In April, RIPESS North America (Intercontinental Network for the Promotion of the Social Solidarity Economy-N. America) initiated a forum in Detroit to discuss solidarity in economics. The efforts to develop this forum exemplifies the solidarity of organizations to address progressive economics. RIPESS North America joined with the U.S. Solidarity Economy Network (SEN), the Canadian Community Economic Development Network (CCEDNET) and the Chantier de l’économie Sociale in Quebec to create the forum. RIPESS-NA formed a Coordinating Committee that also includes the Democracy Collaborative, the New Economy Coalition, the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung and Detroit organizations, including: the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership, the Center for Community Based Enterprise (C2BE), the East Michigan Environmental Action Council (EMEAC), and the Conscious Community Cooperative. It’s a mouthful, I know!

Beyond the forum, one visual approach is to map the solidarity economy. At their site US Solidarity, an interactive map shows “individual solidarity economy practices and the solidarity economy as a whole. This has benefits for participants, publics, and policymakers alike. Particular emphasis is placed on the cooperative and community-centered nature of the economic activity.”

In Massachusetts, The Greater Boston Chamber of Cooperatives has formed with the mission “dedicated to strengthening and expanding the greater Boston cooperative economy through education, advocacy, and collaboration among its member organizations. Through shared resources and cross-sector collective action, we are working to build a more just, democratic, and sustainable economy.”

With so many groups involved, these perspectives on economics can appear overwhelming. But the work of small efforts can combine and form larger impact together—in solidarity. The results won’t necessarily translate to an overarching economic policy that we’re used to. These many groups working together demonstrate that small can be a solution because they bring diverse thought, different answers for different people. I like to quote the great E. F. Schumacher and say that in regards to economics, “small is beautiful.” But uniting is the current challenge for solidarity economics and cooperatives.


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