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Worker Ownership Builds Community Wealth And A More Just Society

A recent help-wanted ad for a laundry worker in Cleveland contained some unusual language, asking prospective candidates: “Have you ever wanted to work for a company that is 90 percent employee-owned? What about a company that offers a program to help you become a homeowner?” The ad went on to identify Evergreen Cooperative Laundry as the only employee-owned commercial laundry firm in the country, citing a commitment to building the wealth and careers of its employees. Founded in Cleveland in 2009, Evergreen laundry lies at the heart of a movement that has now spread around the world. This attention to community wealth building is providing a 21st century model for Gandhi’s “constructive program,” which — along with nonviolent direct action — powered his overall campaign to overcome the political and economic oppression of colonialism.

Allied Community And Co-operative Shared Services (ACCESS)

So basically, ACCESS is a shared services platform and it provides a collective of professional services that are aligned with co-ops, nonprofits and other social purpose organizations. And we just have been working on this for the last year and a half. And the kind of the backstory to ACCESS — I was approached by the ED at ACCA, the Alberta Community Cooperative Association, and I was asked if I would be interested in writing a grant. And I think I was a month into the job there, and I wasn't quite sure what I knew about co-ops and, you know, even writing a grant application at that level. But once I saw what the grant was for, I was like, "You know what? I actually really like the whole heart behind this." Having worked in a nonprofit setting for many years, I think capacity — stretching employees beyond their capacity, expecting them to do maybe a little bit more than what they were trained for, or where their passions lie — that was always a piece that I always kind of argued about at the leadership table, or advocated for, like, "why is our bookkeeper writing a newsletter?

Creating Space For Community Imagination

This is a time of year when we have space to reflect and to make resolutions for the coming twelve months, to stop, dream and reorient ourselves. Similarly, in all the work I’ve done over the last couple of years on the importance of imagination, I keep coming back to how vitally important it is to create space for the imagination, what I call ‘What If spaces’, whether in our own lives, our organisations or our communities. In this article, I want to share some examples of what this can unlock, and some thoughts from people doing this work on the ground on how to do it well. One great example of a successful What If space is the work of ‘Think and Do’ in Camden in London. Think and Do grew out of the work of Camden Council in organising one of the UK’s first Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change, in July 2019, the first output from their declaration of a climate emergency a few months earlier.

Queering The Family Farm

Shannon and Eve Mingalone avow that their farmers market booth is “very gay.” They hang strings of pride flags and sell rainbow stickers to help pay for gender-affirming care, like hormone replacement therapy, for Eve. Sometimes, when parents and their teenagers pass the booth, the adults glance, then speed ahead. The kids pause for a second look. Shannon, 34, hopes it means something for them to see LGBTQ professionals out and succeeding. People often share stories. The middle-aged woman who confided that her daughter is transgender. The teen who stood in the middle of the Mingalones’ booth and said, “This makes me feel safe.” “That means everything to me,” Shannon said.

Community Is Central To Building A Post-Neoliberal Future

“What is it that people really want?” Stacy Mitchell, Co-Director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, posed at an event hosted by the Center for Political Economy, Columbia Law School, and the Financial Times. Humans have survived for millennia based on our ability to work together to serve each other’s needs. “Community,” Stacy posits, “is a deeply held biological and spiritual need.” The event, “Rethinking Globalization, Intermediation, and Efficiency,” gathered journalists, academics, and advocates to explore new paradigms for a post-neoliberal world. Stacy explained how neoliberalism has “actively demeaned and destroyed communities as self-conscious and self-governing places. It has stripped places of their economic and political power and it has rendered them subservient to distant entities,” namely powerful corporations.

Rapid Transition To Beat The Heat: Community Resilience

Extreme weather events like the brutal heatwave engulfing much of Europe in July 2022, highlight the urgent need to foster community resilience. Much like the mutual aid groups that sprung up all over the world in the midst of the global pandemic, bringing communities together to build enduring support networks to help everyone through extreme weather events, in all their forms, must be a vital strand of rapid transition. It’s long been understood by people on the front line of dealing with natural disasters that community level work to strengthen preparedness, map vulnerabilities and have the most resilient livelihoods, is the best long term protection, as well as the best way to minimise damage from extremes in the short term.

How Free Stores Fight Waste, Connect Communities And Foster Resilience

For many people, the daily reality is dire: As of May 2022, 58 percent of Americans (approximately 150 million adults) are living paycheck to paycheck. Inflation recently hit a 40-year high, with prices for food, rent, energy, and basic consumer goods increasing by the day. Despite this, the federal minimum wage remains locked in at $7.25 an hour — a rate that hasn’t increased since 2009 — and while wages have been increasing, they aren’t keeping pace with the cost of living. Meanwhile, the mitigation and management of excessive waste is a concurrent issue. As the initial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic wane, families who are downsizing their lives or cleaning out their closets face the challenge of finding a new home for their excess stuff — or simply dumping it in a landfill.

‘World’s First Library Farm:’ Home To Gardens And Community Innovations

With food costs at near-record prices, the idea of growing your own food has never been so attractive. But food production requires space, and space can be a precious commodity — even a rarity — for people who live in urban areas. For decades, communities in cities around the U.S. have created urban farms and gardens. These spaces make use of empty lots to grow low-cost produce or flowers for communities. These urban farms are not always in high-profile or easily accessible places, however. But, what if your urban farm was in a central location? Perhaps your local library? The Cicero Branch of the Northern Onondaga Public Library (NOPL) in Upstate New York has explored precisely this question. In 2011, they created the Library Farm — partly the brainchild of Meg Backus, then the adult programming director and public relations coordinator.

Repair Cafes Build Community Across All Social Divides

Transition Berkeley has cultivated a community of practice that hits close to ground zero – a “culture of repair,” that demonstrates a way to live with more humility, making do with what we have by sharing knowledge and skills, one repair at a time.  Repair Cafes harness a library-system supported methodology that touches a diversity of people and interests. The bells that ring on the repair grounds throughout an event celebrates the completion of each repair – and total up to 100 in any four-hour event. Repair Cafes and fix-it clinics produce an excitement not unlike a dopamine-pumped day at the derby with your besties. This elegantly simple community-based solution draws support from people across all cultural, gender, age and socioeconomic lines and provides a unique opportunity for them to gather, connect, and build relationships.

The Challenge Of Integrating New Members

Sometimes the older folks forget what it was like to be a newbie—even though everyone was one once. For most new folks, joining an intentional community is an adventure unlike anything they've done before. So much so that it's unreasonable to expect them to even know what questions to ask. This task is further complicated by the richness of community culture. While it's one thing to create and disseminate to new arrivals a book of agreements (it's a good idea for everyone to have a copy BTW), that's just the tip of the iceberg. The vast majority of norms or customs will not be delineated in a handbook—which means that someone has to be available to offer community in translation, or you are essentially deciding that it's OK for the new folks to figure it out by trial and error. (Hint: this is a poor choice.)

Building Communities For A Fascist-Free Future

On August 17, 2019, a coalition of antifascist and progressive groups in Portland, Oregon organized a rally to protest a Proud Boy event planned in the city. The rally had a carnivalesque atmosphere created by PopMob — an antifascist group of concerned Portlanders which seeks to “resist the alt-right with whimsy and creativity” — and brought on a diverse range of organizations, from labor and religious groups and civil rights groups like the NAACP to more militant organizations like Rose City Antifa. During the protest, the latter, along with autonomous black bloc organizers, acted as a buffer between the crowds at the carnival and the hundreds of Proud Boys amassing at the other side of the waterfront park both groups were occupying.

Unions Are Not Only Good For Workers

We know that unions promote economic equality and build worker power, helping workers to win increases in pay, better benefits, and safer working conditions. But that’s not all unions do. Unions also have powerful effects on workers’ lives outside of work. In this report, we document the correlation between higher levels of unionization in states and a range of economic, personal, and democratic well-being measures. In the same way unions give workers a voice at work, with a direct impact on wages and working conditions, the data suggest that unions also give workers a voice in shaping their communities. Where workers have this power, states have more equitable economic structures, social structures, and democracies.

Falling In Love With Your Community

Today's world is complex and messed up. All the suffering among the great majorities for many people is just one more number while an increasing number of human beings are or feel isolated, depressed and alone, burdened down by the social consequences of decadent capitalism. However, in this hostile context Nicaragua, physically small but morally gigantic, is making real efforts to rebuild the country's neighborhoods as social and political units, a mutual support network based on solidarity. Many people who have grown up within the walls of residential or prestigious districts the world of the barrios is a distant, hostile and even scary place. However, for those of us who grew up and live in these neighborhoods, the barrio is our native territory, the place where we all know each other and greet each other, eye to eye, the place where there are no secrets because people have natural journalistic insight.

When Will Minneapolis Start Listening To The Whole Community?

Minneapolis didn’t get here alone. The actions and decisions of many people created the challenges facing the city. Solving them will require the work of many people, too. But before anything changes, people need to start listening to each other. Imagine if Derek Chauvin had listened to George Floyd and let him breathe. A 46-year-old man and father of five would not have died. Minneapolis would not have burned. The city would not have had over $1 billion in damage. And communities would not have had to deal with the fallout of the most expensive civil disorder in U.S. history. After Floyd died in police custody on Memorial Day at 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis, the site of his death turned into a memorial to honor Floyd’s life.

Brothers EMpowered Is Building That Village We All Need to Thrive

Charles Caine has a dream. Just like Martin Luther King understood civil rights include economic rights, Caine wants to give all people an opportunity to prosper. That mission starts with his two sons (ages 16 and 13) and the other youth he mentors in North Minneapolis as the president and executive director of Brothers EMpowered.  Caine founded the community mentorship organization in 2014 to help men of color overcome the barriers in their lives and the lives in their communities. His inspiration came from years of struggling as a young Black man in urban America. After overcoming many challenges and barriers in his life, from gang violence to chemical dependency, the turning point came when he became a father.
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