Saturday, December 31, 2011

2012 – the International Year of Cooperatives

The United Nations has named 2012 the International Year of Cooperatives. It's good timing, because these days, we need solutions and not just complaints about the state of things. Co-ops are a business model that works within capitalism in a new way, one that can work for Occupy as well as Republicans.

Lately I've been finding out about the work of historian Gar Alperovitz. Among many other things, he's been pitching in on the formation of the Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland. Evergreen provides a range of services, including dry cleaning, solar power, and locally grown food, to hospitals, universities, and the city.  Recently, Alperovitz had this to say about it:

The attempt is to use the quasi-public market - the anchor institutions, in this case - to help stabilize these cooperatives and undercut some of the driving forces that they encounter as necessary pressures of the open market. I use "somewhat undercut" because I think you can't do it totally or you will end up with the problems of traditional socialism, in which the market is so stable, so guaranteed, that there's no incentive to innovate. So, there's a balance that we're trying to achieve where there is partly an external market which includes the usual market forces. But there is also a more stabilizing market - that's the role of the quasi-public market. So, we're looking to try to do that, and I think it's an important principle to experiment with, develop and define further.
The Twin Cities are known as a co-op haven when it comes to retail food stores, but there are a lot more ways co-ops can make community ownership and democratic control of business a reality in 2012.

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