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Catalyzing worker co-ops & the solidarity economy

The organic elements in co-operative/solidarity economic development

April 14, 2016
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(Movements Moving Together 20)                

One way to get a good grasp of cooperative/solidarity economics is to see how four key elements—ecosystem, ground-up, longterm, and transformative learning—work together in the process.

1. Ecosystem

Think Rain Forest

If cooperative/solidarity economics is going to thrive it must be as a regional ecosystem does. Great diversity working together in great complexity for mutual benefit. Isolated alternative enterprises are strictly marginal. They won’t make any kind of systemic difference.

2. Ground up

Think grassroots.

Organic development begins at the ground level in our communities where ordinary people live and some still work. Development can scale up and out from there as these core elements integrate and mature enough to reproduce at greater scale without losing their essential qualities of trust and transparency.

3. Long term

Think several generations to become a major realm of economic and political activity.

Starting here and now we have to think where we want to be in 30-40 years. Keep the dimensions person size for now. And keep adjusting that picture according to changes in what is happening and what is wanted. We don’t need a Master Plan to get to where we want to go. We need two things.

  • A deeply embedded understanding and appreciation of the key dynamics and how they are essential to each other.
  • Second, constant but relaxed attention and deep listening to what is happening and what is wanted so we can keep discovering how our cooperative/solidarity enterprises and projects can work well. Eternal and transparent consulting and negotiating feeds and sustains this kind of attention.
4. Transformative learning

a. Think new kinds of people.

  • New kinds of producers and distributors for whom working, owning, and deciding together is the conscious core of their identity as workers.
  • New kinds of consumers who consciously spend their money for their personal welfare, to satisfy their values, and for the welfare of the communities and natural systems that sustain them. Who know in their hearts and souls that enough and a little more is all they need, not more and more.
  • New kinds of investors who consciously want to use their abundance for the development of the whole they are know they are a part of. For the development of mutuality not oppression.
  • New kinds of people who can relate out of a sense of abundance and joy rather than scarcity and desperation. Who experience themselves as good enough. Who do not live in a compulsive rush to keep up. Who are not afraid to risk taking action for their dreams. Who know that they are power and are confident they want to use it to make things work well.

b. Think culture.

  • An emerging culture of belief that senses these kinds of possibilities can become real because they see them emerging.
  • A culture of empathy with that becoming, more and more, dominant in our child-rearing and educational practices. In our consulting and negotiating.
  • A culture that believes deeply that learning comes primarily through a great diversity of experience and deep reflection in interaction with others, and that seeks to develop the best ways for furthering that kind of learning.
  • A culture that knows and values that all of us are sexual, spiritual, economic, political, social, and artistic beings all the way up and all the way down. We are so much more than workers. So much more than citizens.
  • A culture in which all of us are continuously learning that personal fulfillment comes through shared fulfillment far more than through winning.
  • A culture that welcomes the inevitable problems and conflicts as opportunities for development and innovation even when the struggles involved get to be really, really hard.
  • A culture that treats and cherishes leisure as inseparable from work, achievement as inseparable from struggle, fear as inseparable from courage, creativity as inseparable from vulnerability, loss as inseparable from love, and death as inseparable from life.

We are all worth all of this and nothing less.

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