Gleanings

Jessica Gordon-Nembhard, Ph.D., Professor of Community Justice and Social Economic Development, and author of Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice discusses the her book and upcoming projects with host, Vernon Oakes on Everything Co-op.
 
During February, Everything Co-op celebrates Black History Month by focusing on the Association for the Study of African American Life and History's Theme.

I want to tackle today what I think is quite a difficult question.  It’s this:  what responsibility do ordinary members of a co-operative have, if their elected directors are not making a very good fist of things in terms of governance and member democracy?

Cost-of-capital is central to economists’ thinking about how firms should (and do) invest their financial capital, and to measuring the value of a firm. Brent Hueth will argue that the cost of “equity” capital for many co-operative businesses is, if not zero, then close to it. He will interpret the relevance of this finding in the context of private capital structure and investment decision making, as well as public tax and regulatory treatment of co-operatives.

Relatively little attention has been paid to democratic and critical approaches that look into the embedded power dynamics that influence who is allowed access to organizational decision making: whose voices get heard and whose get left out. Where practice is concerned, we see a “democratic deficit” in board governance—that is, an absence of democratic structures and processes.1 Many nonprofit boards fall short of being broadly representative of the public.

It is becoming increasingly obvious to people that profit maximization has very little to do with meeting actual human or ecological needs. According to the Economic Policy Institute and other researchers, corporate profits and worker productivity rise independently of workers' real wages. And increases in corporate profit are more likely to enrich shareholders than to be reinvested in new jobs with good wages. We need better ways of doing business.

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