Monday, January 2, 2012

Cooperatives and DC

Welcome to the International Year of Cooperatives! The UN has declared 2012 the International Year of Cooperatives. Cooperatives are businesses owned and democratically controlled by their members, and cooperatives return surplus revenues to their members. Therefore, members of cooperatives control their cooperatives and keep the money made. The money does not go to outside shareholders or investors. In the US, there are over 20,000 cooperatives with more than 100 million members. People turn to cooperatives as a way to create wealth and democracy in communities. Some famous cooperatives are:

Ace Hardware
Associated Press
Best Western Hotels
Blue Diamond Almonds
Cabot Cheese
Land-O-Lakes dairy
Nationwide Insurance
Ocean Spray Cranberries
Organic Valley dairy
REI
True Value Hardware
and credit unions across the country

Some large-scale cooperatives are Spain's Mondragon cooperative, which employs about 83,000 people, and Cleveland's Evergreen Cooperatives, which include an industrial laundry, solar panel factory, and a large greenhouse. On a smaller scale, people can pool their money or other resources (like time invested in day-care cooperatives) to create capital for businesses, while having an equal vote (one person one vote) in the running of the cooperative.

Washington, DC has been a cooperative pioneer. Here is a map of DC cooperatives that I have been putting together:

View DC Cooperatives in a larger map

The map shows cooperatives across the city today. DC is known for its large cooperative housing sector. We have an extensive network of credit unions and of energy cooperatives, including the Capitol Hill Solar Cooperative. The Black Power movement was strong in DC and saw cooperatives as a way to building the economic and political power of the poor. Cooperatives invest in its members, rather than in corporations and their shareholders. Cornelius "Cornbread" Givens was a great proponent of cooperatives in DC. He helped to form food cooperatives in the Eastgate and Barry Farms housing projects. In the Arthur Capper housing project, there was the Martin Luther King Cooperative Food Store No. 2.

If we want to create jobs in Ward 6, how about creating some cooperatives? We could get help if the recently introduced National Cooperative Development Act passes:
which would establish a National Cooperative Development Center to provide capital, training and other resources to foster cooperative development in both urban and rural areas. Addressing economic development though cooperative development will advance the economic stability of local areas; increase the circulation of capital locally; and develop, attract and anchor new productive capital in urban and rural underserved communities.
Of course, we in DC lack Congressional representation. Those living outside DC, please ask your Representative to demonstrate their commitment to strengthening communities and creating jobs by becoming a co-sponsor of this bill. In the meantime, let me know about other cooperatives in DC. Are you working on forming a cooperative here in DC? 

P.S. [6/6/2012] See the Co-op Directory and Co-op DC Group.

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