Co-operatives

Developing Cooperative Enterprises in Brockton, MA

The Brockton Interfaith Community (BIC) has been building cooperative economic expertise for the greater Brockton area of Massachusetts since 2018. To further advance the initiative, BIC has organized a group called the Co-op Cultivators of Greater Brockton (CCGB). The CCGB aims to build not only cooperative businesses in Brockton but a cooperative ecosystem.

Brockton Interfaith Community (BIC)

Brockton is not the only city building cooperative ecosytems, and the CCGB has followed the work of successful cooperative movements in cities around the country. One successful movement is in another Massachusetts city, Springfield, where the Wellspring Cooperative movement includes an impressive five cooperative businesses. In San Francisco The Arizmendi Association of Cooperatives has developed multiple co-ops including six bakery co-ops as well as a landscaping and construction co-op. The CCGB has also been in touch with the Cooperation Jackson movement in Mississippi which is championing democratically self-managed enterprises.

This month BIC and the CCGB have taken a significant step toward cooperative ecosystem development. United with other stakeholders in Brockton, BIC applied for, and received, a Community Empowerment and Reinvestment Grant awarded by Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The grant provides $318,000 to contribute to the startup of two cooperative enterprises; an affordable housing cooperative is being developed as well as a worker-owned construction cooperative. In addition, funds will support the development of a training course about cooperatives.

BIC is partnering with the Boston Center for Community Ownership for cooperative business training and technical assistance with co-op development. Also involved is People Affecting Community Change (PACC) – a training and service organization led by and serving those affected by incarceration. A curriculum will be created for PACC to introduce cooperative business principles.

The BIC cooperative initiative was able to bring together nonprofit, government, lending, training, and policy stakeholders. The project is driven by local Brockton community leaders following years of organizing to build relationships and networks. “I am very excited to be working with Brockton Interfaith Community on a truly transformational project that will bring a whole new level of ownership to our City and our community,” said Rob May, Brockton’s Director of Planning and Economic Development.

BIC sees co-ops as an economic solution to address pressing economic issues in Brockton including housing insecurity, a lack of jobs with dignity, and numerous buildings in need of replacement or repair. BIC looks to demonstrate the potential of cooperative enterprises to empower marginalized people and democratize Brockton’s economy.

Update: The CCGB group was formally known as GBCC but changed its name out of respect for the Greater Boston Chamber of Cooperatives (GBCC).

Janelle Orsi and the Sharing Economy

If you’re trying to determine what the new economy means, author and attorney Janelle Orsi can do a lot to help. In her book Practicing Law in the Sharing Economy, Orsi gives compelling insight into the practical application of law to solve, or attempt to solve, the challenges of a new way to function economically. I’m inspired by this approach that Orsi puts on the shoulders of transactional law. Human interaction is the point at which Orsi sets her sights. (more…)

Slow Democracy and Co-ops

I recently read the book Slow Democracy by Susan Clark and Woden Teachout, published by Chelsea Green Press. Slow democracy empowers communities with inclusive, diverse, and locally based organizing. Central to the concept is deliberation on community decisions by community stakeholders. With broad representation, inclusive deliberation allows for participation, listening, understanding, and confrontation of difficult issues. Co-ops are a kind of slow democracy with well-developed deliberative processes that can contribute to, and learn from, the slow democracy movement. (more…)

Co-ops Explained in Sixty Seconds

A co-op can be difficult to explain. But KingBird Content has ventured to do it in sixty seconds. See the video below for the most essential aspects of co-operatives. Information collected in this video comes from the ICA definition of a co-op, and the ideas of Janelle Orsi, Marjorie Kelly, and Stacey Cordeiro. (more…)