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The emerging cooperative counter-economy in the U.S.

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“While mainstream America is hoping for federal economic reform, some social justice organizations have a radically different idea, and are organizing low-income communities to build a new economy from the grassroots up. Tired of asking for change from the top down, they are taking their economy into their own hands. Social justice organizations, having a strong membership base rooted in community, are ideal spaces to cultivate alternative economic projects, as relationships of trust and solidarity have been nurtured over time through education and a history of taking action for justice. Here are some exciting examples of grassroots alternative economy projects for social justice.

The emerging cooperative counter-economy in the U.S.

Michel Bauwens
P2P Foundation
19th August 2011

Mira Luna writes in Shareable:

“While mainstream America is hoping for federal economic reform, some social justice organizations have a radically different idea, and are organizing low-income communities to build a new economy from the grassroots up. Tired of asking for change from the top down, they are taking their economy into their own hands. Social justice organizations, having a strong membership base rooted in community, are ideal spaces to cultivate alternative economic projects, as relationships of trust and solidarity have been nurtured over time through education and a history of taking action for justice. Here are some exciting examples of grassroots alternative economy projects for social justice.

Folks at the bottom of the economic pyramid are not only finding ways to individually climb the path to realizing the American Dream. They are building ladders for others and organizing to flatten the pyramid, sharing a collective dream in which no one is left out and everyone is happier because of it. It is also becoming increasingly obvious that for most poor folks, the only way up is together. What would the economy look like turned upside down? As these experiments demonstrate, it might look a lot greener, more cooperative, participatory and fair.”

Amongst the examples she cites are the following models:

“A more communal twist to entrepreneurial development is popping up across the country: worker cooperative incubation programs for low-income folks. Third Coast Workers for Cooperation, a new nonprofit in Austin, is helping start-ups through a through a mentoring and 16 week training program, the Cooperative Business Institute and Co-op for Community Development program. In their first year, it helped incubate a women’s catering cooperative called Yo Mamas, a food cart coop in Houston, and the Workers Defense Project, a construction coop. Operating on a shoestring budget, TCWC uses volunteer but experienced worker-owners and professionals with technical skills to give these new coops a much needed boost.

Green Worker Cooperatives is another social justice organization “dedicated to incubating worker-owned and environmentally friendly cooperatives in the South Bronx.” Their website states, “Our approach is a response to high unemployment and decades of environmental racism. We don’t have the luxury to wait for new alternatives. That’s why we’re creating them.” Green Worker Cooperatives offers an aggressive 80 hour coop boot camp, which includes a combination of training, coaching, and technical support like legal incorporation, graphic design, and website development. IDEPSCA, an immigrant and worker rights organization in the Los Angeles area also incubates green worker cooperatives such as Magic Cleaners, a green home cleaning service, and Native Green, a sustainable landscaping service focused on native plants.

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