The Noah Project

Rebuilding a sustainable world.


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Documenting the most Striking and Inspiring Cooperatives in Five Continents

They say the best way to learn is to teach.  It couldn’t be more true.  Writing a blog post is the process of condensing a lot of information into an easily digestible form.  As a result, I’m learning right along with my readers.  Here’s something I didn’t know:

Cooperatives are not a marginal phenomenon:

  • More than 12% of humanity is part of any of the 3 million cooperatives in the world!
  • The Top 300 cooperatives and mutuals report a total turnover of 2,1 trillion USD, according to the World Co-operative Monitor (2017).
  • Cooperatives contribute to the sustainable economic growth and stable, quality employment, employing 280 million people across the globe, in other words, 10% of the world’s employed population.

You might also be interested to know the Italian researcher Sara Vicari and filmmaker Andrea Mancori, have set a goal of visiting and documenting, in a series of short films, some of the most striking and inspiring cooperatives from different economic sectors in five continents.  They started the aroundtheworld.coop project in January.  You can get more detailed information about the project on their blog,

All the videos will be made available on ICA’s youtube channel


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Are you interested in starting a coop?

From the large amount of material coming into my feed daily, it appears more and more grassroots organizations are springing up around the country dedicated to building a robust cooperative sector.  United States Federation of Worker Cooperatives is just such an organization.

The USFWC was founded in 2004 when a core of worker co-op members came together with co-op developers, scholars, community organizers, and supporters from the broader co-op sector to strengthen worker co-ops through a national, sector-specific organization. Building on growing momentum, this founding event brought together worker co-op practitioners from the existing Western Worker Co-op Conference and the Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy, as well as key players in Midwest and Southern states, to galvanize and support rising interest in the worker co-op business model.

This is a great organization if you want to learn more about cooperatives or are interested in starting a coop. They have many resources available including a Co-op movement study guide.


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This Week’s New Economy News

There are a lot of interesting and exciting things happening on the new economy front this week.  This from New Zealand:

Jan. 24 (BusinessDesk) – New Zealand’s top 30 cooperatives contribute more than $42.3 billion per annum to the economy in revenue, a new report has found.

The report, by industry body Cooperative Business New Zealand and researchers from Massey University and Auckland University, shows the top cooperatives and mutuals have a revenue-to-gross domestic product ratio of 17.5 percent. The data “confirms the importance of the cooperative business model to New Zealand as a country,” said Cooperative Business chief executive Craig Presland. A total of 1.4 million New Zealanders are members of cooperatives.

Yes! Magazine, always a great source for news regarding the new economy has an on-going series exploring innovative local solutions to business problems state-by-state.

In 2009, United Steelworkers … met with representatives from Spain-based Mondragon, the world’s largest worker cooperative, to develop a plan for industrial steel workers to transition into worker-ownership. Cooperatives, they believed, would put more power in the hands of workers.

The partnership sparked an idea with labor organizers in Cincinnati. And in 2012, labor representatives founded the Cincinnati Union Co-op Initiative (CUCI), a union co-op incubator that nurtures startups, aiming to create an integrated network of union co-ops that sustain and support each other.

Another interesting concept is Platform Cooperatives:

‘Just like traditional co-ops, platform co-ops are organisations that are owned and managed by their members,’ says the Open Co-op’s Oliver Sylvester-Bradley. ‘While traditional co-ops are normally based around a physical community of members, platform co-ops live online and are normally populated by online communities of members.’

If you are interested and can attend, Open 2017: Platform Cooperatives will be holding a conference in the UK on Platform Cooperatives.  The dates are February 16th and 17th. Organizers of the event promise a gathering of “thinkers, practitioners and new ideas around the digital economy.”

To find out more about the event, and for the full programe, visit 2017.open.coop


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Honey Cooperatives Help Afghan Women

I ran across this inspiring article from the Deccan Chronical on how honey cooperatives are helping Afghan women, in a formerly Taliban region, take control of their lives.

In the mountainous central province of Bamiyan, one of the country’s least developed but most liberal regions, beekeeping complements its only other commercial crop, potatoes, and gives rural women the chance to become entrepreneurs.

Four beekeeping cooperatives have been set up here in recent years, backed by NGOs and foreign aid. Starting from scratch, they now employ around 400 people, half of them women, and produce 14 tonnes of honey a year.

These cooperatives not only provide a source of income for the women, but elevate their status and those of their daughters.

When they get a revenue for the first time it helps to establish their position better in the household”, especially girls who are otherwise seen as potential burdens on their families, explains Sadia Fatimie, a consultant for international institutions.

It is widely accepted here by the society that women can be at the frontline to support the family,” says provincial agricultural official Abdul Wahab Mohammadi. “It’s increasing — people see it as a success story and they are copying it.


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Co-ops Help Lift People Out of Poverty

Laura Flanders is a big proponent of co-operatives.  In her recent article in Yes! magazine, she demonstrates how Cooperative Home Care Associates, the nation’s largest cooperative lifts people out of poverty:

When Arroyo convened a first-of-its-kind hearing on co-ops this February, New Yorkers packed not one but two hearing rooms at City Hall.

Among the co-op members who testified was Yadira Fragoso, whose wages rose to $25 an hour—up from $6.25—after becoming a worker-owner at Si Se Puede, a cleaning co-op incubated by the Brooklyn-based Center for Family Life. Translation at the hearing was provided by Caracol, an interpreters’ cooperative mentored by Green Worker Cooperatives.

By spreading risk and pooling resources, co-ops offer people with little individual wealth a way to start their own businesses and build assets.

The article also talks about the need for government policies, at a local level, that support cooperatives:

New York City is going—in a big way—for worker-owned cooperatives. Inspired by the model of CHCA and prodded by a new network of co-op members and enthusiasts, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Council allocated $1.2 million to support worker cooperatives in 2015’s budget. According to the Democracy at Work Institute, New York’s investment in co-ops is the largest by any U.S. city government to date.

Funding for supportive nonprofits is not the only thing co-ops need from cities. In Spain, Northern Italy, Quebec, and France, robust worker co-ops benefit from laws that help co-ops access capital and public contracts. In New York, even as public dollars flow to big businesses as incentives, public spending is on the chopping block. The first city-sponsored trainings with a new, cooperative-inclusive curriculum started this summer, but passing co-op-friendly laws is going to take political power—of the sort that elected today’s progressive city leadership.

This $1.2 million won’t end poverty, but it’s a step in the right direction, says Christopher Michael of the New York City Network of Worker Cooperatives. “We have all the raw ingredients of a successful policy initiative: engaged groups, a bit of a track record and support in the city council…

“This is just a start.”

 


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UN Praises Role of Cooperatives in Sustainable Development

 

United Nations officials are highlighting the role cooperative enterprises can play in economic development, social justice and environmental protection.

In his message for International Day of Cooperatives, marked annually on 5 July, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that this year’s Day falls at a “critical time” with the UN working to reach the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and adopt a long-range sustainable development agenda, as well as a new climate agreement.
“Cooperatives are particularly important to agriculture, food security and rural development. In the finance sector, cooperatives serve more than 857 million people, including tens of millions who live in poverty,” Mr. Ban said.
Ranging from small-scale to multi-million dollar businesses across the globe, cooperatives operate in all sectors of the economy, and provide 100 million jobs worldwide – 20 per cent more than multinational enterprises, according to 2011 figures from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the UN International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP).
In 2008, the largest 300 cooperatives in the world had an aggregate turnover of $1.1 trillion, comparable to the gross domestic product (GDP) of many large economies, the UN agencies said.


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Profiteers Prosecuted in Malaysia

What a quaint idea – prosecuting profiteers!  In the United States we would celebrate these guys as shrewd businessmen.

Complain Against Traders Profiteering From KR1M Goods Being Investigated
RAUB, Dec 31 (Bernama) — The Pahang Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Office (PPDNKK) is investigating a complaint that unscrupulous traders have been profiteering from Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia (KRI1M) by buying goods in bulk and repacking them to be sold at higher prices.
State Entrepreneur Cooperatives and Consumerism chairman Datuk Shahiruddin Ab Moin said the PPDNKK took a serious view of the unethical practice and if proven, stern action would be taken against the traders.
He said PPDNKK officers should go down on the ground more often to enlighten the public on its role and that of consumers in addressing profiteering by traders.

If you are wondering what KR1M goods are, you can read about them here.