Greece: Alternative Economies & Community Currencies Pt. 1


By Niko Georgiades for Unicorn Riot – Athens, Greece – While capitalism and consumerism dominate the culture of the United States of America and the Western world, community currencies are creating a buzz elsewhere. The radical need for alternative economies and community currencies is becoming more commonplace among societies across the globalized world dealing with the crisis of mass poverty and inequality. In part one of our three part series shining a light on some of these alternatives, we look at the Athens Integral Cooperative. In the summer of 2017, the self-organized squat of Embros Theater hosted a speaking engagement discussing community currencies and alternative economies. After the discussion, we interviewed Theodore from the Athens Integral Cooperative (AIC) inside a social center in Exarcheia (Athens, Greece) about the parallel economy they are creating. Theodore gave a run down of what AIC is, the importance of it, as well as its struggles and how it modeled itself after Catalan Integral Cooperative (see our special on the Catalan Integral Cooperative). “We are building a substantial, alternative, and autonomous economy.”

Arkansas Farmers Join Cooperatives to Make Small Farming Possible

Cows on a farm. Photograph courtesy of Bryan Clifton.

By Staff for the Food Tank. In addition to providing fresh produce and meat for families in Arkansas, New South Produce Cooperative and Grassroots Farmer’s Cooperative supply financial and agricultural support for their member farms. Based in Little Rock and Clinton, respectively, these farmer-owned and operated co-ops connect members to distribution networks, provide technical assistance, and help small farmers raise capital as a collective. New South Produce Cooperative and Grassroots Farmer’s Cooperative are providing small farmers with the tools they need to keep their small farms up and running. The farmers in these cooperatives have been able to expand their businesses and reach a wider network of consumers thanks to the cooperative business model.

How Electricity Cooperatives In The US Are Paving The Way For A Renewable Future


By Kevin Stark for Shareable – That’s exactly how the cooperative system is supposed to work, he added. It’s an example of a core tenant of electricity cooperatives: sharing ideas. “It’s a mission. It’s time for us to learn from them and do what they are doing.” Woolery said. Wynn signs on to this philosophy too. In 2017, he wrote an open invitation for any other co-op to copy the program. “It is really hard to argue against energy efficiency,” Woolery says, adding that it’s all about economic development. “We want to create jobs and opportunity and wealth that stays in Appalachia, because so much has been extracted from it.” So far, How$martKY has funneled $2.5 million to local contractors for performing efficiency upgrades on homes, but the program hasn’t reached the same scale as in Roanoke. Still, he’s worked with organizations from California to Arkansas to develop similar programs. He testified on behalf of the program at the Kentucky state legislature in the city of Frankfort. Most recently, Woolery went to the Lausitz region of Eastern Germany for a summit on how coal communities can transition to renewable energy.

Channel Zero: A 24-7 Horizontal Anarchist Radio Station


By Chris Steele. Channel Zero is a newly formed network of several anarchist and anti-authoritarian English language podcasts that launched on August 9, 2017. The 24-7 audio stream and website was organized to make radical podcasts more accessible. Current shows include: The Final Straw Radio, Kite Line Radio, Rust Belt Abolition Radio, the Crimethinc Ex-Worker Podcast, SubMedia, The Rebel Beat, A-Radio Berlin, The Danthropology Podcast, the Solecast, Which Side Podcast, Resonance: an Anarchist Audio Distro and the IGDCAST. According to Channel Zero: Our goal is to expand the reach of anarchist analysis into a larger and more public audience, within a horizontally run organization that is lead by the podcasters themselves.

Everything Old Is New Again: The Long History Of Greenbelt’s New Economy

via Greenbelt Online

By Ajowa Nzinga Ifateyo for In These Times – On a warm mid-June day in Greenbelt, Md., Lore Rosenthal loads 12 yellow buckets into her Prius. In a former life, the five-gallon buckets held pickles for Potbelly Sandwich Shop; now, they’re full of food scraps from the New Deal Café, a member-owned restaurant cooperative. Rosenthal, a volunteer, is driving the scraps to Upper Marlboro, a town about a half hour south, where they can be donated to a county-run pilot composting program. “We have runaway climate change right now,” says Rosenthal, 58. “I’m doing this to reduce the greenhouse gases in our trash.” Decomposing food scraps in landfills are a major source of methane; these emissions can be reduced by composting rather than throwing away. Rosenthal and the New Deal Café are part of what many are calling the “new economy”: a worldwide collection of people-powered groups—cooperatives, nonprofits, bartering networks, time banks and other unconventional enterprises—organized around the aims of environmental sustainability, social and economic justice, and meeting the basic needs of communities rather than prioritizing profit. In recent years, Greenbelt has seen a surge of interest in “new economy” endeavors.

Fortress World Of Capitalism vs. Beautiful Possibilities Of Cooperation


By Cynthia Kaufman for Common Dreams. Our beloved world is entering an increasingly unstable period, full of dangers and also full of possibilities. In many countries, old political parties are crumbling faster and anyone thought imaginable. Old geopolitical alliances have come unglued as the US comes to exercise its role as world hegemon in new and unpredictable ways. The development of the internet, of mobile phones and of apps has led to incredible disruption of many aspects of many societies: from how we pay for and listen to music, to how we consume and propagate information and news, to how we shop for almost anything. All that is solid is melting into air. At this crossroads it is possible that the global community will move in the direction that the dominant social forces seem to be pushing us towards.

On International Day, UN Promotes Cooperative Solutions For Social Inclusion

Coffee Handlers at Cooperative Café Timor Sifting Coffee Beans. Photo: UN Photo/Martine Perret

By Staff UN News Centre – 1 July 2017 – Cooperatives help to build inclusive economies and societies, and can help to eliminate poverty and reach the other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the head of the United Nations labour agency today said, marking the International Day of Cooperatives. “Let us draw on the strengths of cooperatives as we pool efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda and make sure that no one is left behind,” the Director General of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Guy Ryder said, referencing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which includes the SDGs. Decent work is a fundamental mechanism for inclusion and social justice, Mr. Ryder said, noting that decent work is embedded in the SDGs. “It means being particularly attentive to the situation of working women and men who are at risk of exclusion and poverty, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, migrants and refugees,” he said, highlighting this year’s theme for the Day, which is to ensure that no one is left behind. Cooperatives allow people to create their own economic opportunities through the power of the collective, the UN has said, but there are still more areas where cooperatives’ potential can be explored.

Replacing TrumpCare and ObamaCare with Co-opCare


By Paul Glover. Few are satisfied with America’s medical insurance system, but many resist abrupt change. Conservatives want smaller government and more individual responsibility. Liberals fear abandonment of the poor and elderly. Everyone dreads premium increases. Yet there is a path that’s both liberal and conservative, which relies on a genuinely free market to achieve low-cost, high-quality health care for all. This process revives the American tradition of mutual aid co-operatives and fraternal benefit societies. One hundred years ago most health insurance was provided through these organizations. Their members built hospitals, orphanages, old folks’ home, paid sickness and death benefits. For pennies per week they delivered health care that was affordable, democratic and humane. Today, a national network of such local and regional co-ops could operate as mutual medical savings accounts, from which national coverage can evolve.

Small Marijuana Growers Create Marijuana Coops To Scale Up

Amber and Casey O’Neil, founders of the 40-member Emerald Grown cooperative, help independent farmers lower their costs by working together. (James Tensuan for Leafly)

By Paul Roberts for Leafly – Markets, like ecosystems, respond to massive disruption with a wave of experimentation and adaptation—and that’s certainly been the story in California’s cannabis sector. Ever since legalization upended the decades-old status quo, players have scrambled to develop new business strategies to exploit the chaos—or simply survive it. By coordinating harvests and pooling crops, co-op members can deliver the bulk shipments that wholesalers increasingly demand. Some, like Jai Malloy, have scaled up. Others, like Sam Edwards in Sonoma, have moved to the other end of the scale continuum with a “craft” strategy. Yet the reality is that many existing cannabis farmers lack the resources or expertise to carry off either of these strategies—or, at least, carry it off all on their own. For many of these growers, the solution has been a strategy that borrows from both large- and small-scale producers—the cannabis co-operative. A case in point is Emerald Grown, a forty-member co-operative located in the town of Laytonville, in the Emerald Triangle’s Mendocino County. Founded three years ago by farmers Amber and Casey O’Neill, the co-operative follows a strategy of adaptive mimicry: using collective action to achieve the scale efficiencies of larger operators. By sharing seeds, expertise, and other resources, for example, co-op members can significantly boost their individual yields.

Co-Ops Lead By Putting Communities In Charge Of New Housing Projects

Mehrs als Wohnen won a World Habitat Award last year

By Anca Voinea for Coop News – Co-operatives, community land trusts and other housing models are coming together to help communities design their own homes and neighbourhoods. The new concept – known as a platform for social production of habitat (SPH) – means locals are involved in projects, so they meet their own specifications rather than those set by the private market. Based in Switzerland, the project began when a group of community-led housing practitioners met to discuss the formation of a global network to increase visibility of the model and support local efforts through peer exchange, workshops, solidarity finance and campaigns, and a regional awards program linked to the World Habitat Award. The partners are the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights, Building and Social Housing Foundation (BSHF), Co-operative Housing International, Grounded Solutions Network, Habitat International Coalition, Slum Dwellers International, and UrbaMonde. UrbanMonde co-ordinates activities bringing together the six housing groups from different regions around the world. They focus on helping them to share practices and experiences.

Bronx Home Health Care Cooperative Is Fixing The Field One Aide At A Time


By Claire Molloy for DNA Info – BRONX — Zenobia Hernandez swung the wheelchair in front of her students, demonstrating how to maneuver a patient in it when there is no ramp present. “The first thing I’m going to do is take the brakes off,” Hernandez said, in Spanish, as she flipped a lever below the wheelchair. “I pull the chair towards me and place my leg here,” she pushed her right leg next to the base of the chair. “Then I’m going to use my hip to support the weight.” Eleven women, dressed in scrubs, watched carefully as Hernandez demonstrated proper technique at the Cooperative Home Care Association — which trains them to become home health aides — near Fordham University in The Bronx. The program, which allows students to learning how to help patients out of bed, check blood pressure and look for signs of worsening conditions, is as close to reality as possible, with fake bathrooms in the building, complete with a shower and a tub for training aides how to assist in bathing. In the next 10 years, home care work is projected to add more jobs than any other occupation in the United States due to the country’s aging population. Job quality is one of the reasons people are not entering the field.

Reflections On A Visit To Cuba’s Urban Cooperatives

Screenshot 2017-05-31 at 12.35.40 PM

By Christina Clamp for Grassroots Economic Organizing – Cuba has been of interest to me for many years. I lived in Guatemala and Costa Rica from September, 1974 to December, 1975. During that time, Guatemala was experiencing a low level civil war. As Americans, we were not threatened by what was happening in the countryside. Still we were aware of the violence that was occurring at the time. Costa Rica in contrast was “bucolic” by comparison. My undergraduate senior research paper was on the overthrow of the Ubico dictatorship in Guatemala. Through that research, I learned much about the recent political reality. People in the course of oral history interviews about the past, would at times share stories of the death squads roaming the country in search of dissidents and the armed guerrillas. Cuba represented a place that had successfully freed itself from corrupt old style dictators (caudillos) and a place with a clear commitment to universal healthcare and education. I did not expect that we were visiting a “workers’ paradise.” But I had expected that there would be a broad based commitment to basic needs. What we found on this trip was a work in progress.

How To Set Up A Community Co-Op

by Rebecca Siegal via Flickr

By Stir to Action for Shareable – Before joining the Institute for Solidarity Economics recently, I spent the last five years working for rural communities charity the Plunkett Foundation, an organization which supports the establishment of community co-operatives. Community co-operatives are businesses which trade primarily for the benefit of their community. Controlled by the community themselves, they have open and voluntary membership and, crucially, they encourage people to get involved – either by becoming a member, or by volunteering time or getting involved in another way. By encouraging widespread involvement from their local community members, community co-ops play a really important role in helping to overcome issues like social isolation and loneliness, which can be prevalent, particularly in rural areas. Community co-operatives are set up on a one member, one vote basis, rather than one share, one vote. This is important because it means that all members have an equal say in how the co-operative is run, regardless of how many shares they’ve bought or how much money they’ve invested. In this way, they are truly democratic forms of business. People choose to set up community co-ops for a variety of reasons, from safeguarding local services which may be under threat of closure…

Bay Area Nonprofit Project Equity Transforms Businesses Into Worker-Owned Cooperatives


By Cat Johnson for Shareable – There’s been a lot of talk about where the Baby Boomer generation will live as they age. Several interesting, sharing-based housing alternatives such cohousing and senior villages have emerged as potential options. But what about all the businesses that Baby Boomers own? What happens to those companies when they retire? Project Equity, a nonprofit based in Oakland, California, wants to help those businesses transition to a worker-owned model. According to the organization, “The vast majority (over 85 percent) of business owners do not have a succession plan in place, and increasingly, many are finding it hard to find a buyer when they are ready to sell.” This means they’ll either fold or fall in the hands of larger companies. The group, which was co-founded by Alison Lingane and Hilary Abell in 2014, wants businesses to avoid that fate by turning them into cooperatives. “Good decisions are built into worker cooperatives from the inside out,” Lingane told LIFT Economy. Take the example of Arizmendi Association of Cooperatives, which develops cooperatively-owned bakeries in the Bay Area. The democratic model of the bakeries has not only proved to be sustainable (the Association has been in operation for more than 20 years)…

How To Form A Global Counter-Economy

Commons not Capitalism

By Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis for Open Democracy. We outline a list of six interrelated strategies for post-corporate entrepreneurial coalitions. The aim is to go beyond the classical corporate paradigm, and its extractive profit-maximizing practices, toward the establishment of open cooperatives that cultivate a commons-oriented economy. First, it’s important to recognize that closed business models are based on artificial scarcity. Though knowledge can be shared easily and at very low marginal cost when it is in digital form, closed firms use artificial scarcity to extract rents from the creation or use of digitized knowledge. Through legal repression or technological sabotage, naturally shareable goods are made artificially scarce so that extra profits may be generated. This is particularly galling in the context of life-saving medicines or planet-regenerating technological knowledge. Open cooperatives, in comparison, would recognize natural abundance and refuse to generate revenue by making abundant resources artificially scarce.