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Catalyzing worker co-ops & the solidarity economy

An Invitation from the Austin Co-operative Business Association

(EDITOR'S NOTE: We received that as an email and are passing it on to our readers. The formation of regional co-operative associations is a major development in the co-operative and solidarity economic movements. These are happening in western Massachusetts, Madison, WI, the Bay area, and elsewhere  as well as in Austin, TX with the ACBA. In addition, some valuable information about financial co-operatives follows thier invitation.)

Hello friend of cooperation!

The 2nd annual Austin Cooperative Summit is scheduled for April 4th and 5th, 2014. This year's summit is called Towards Shared Abundance and Prosperity. Our keynote speaker will be Dr. John Park, the Roy G Davis Professor of Agricultural Cooperatives at Texas A&M University.  Topics will include the role of cooperatives in the food system, a look at the many types of cooperatives, an overview of cooperative development resources, an update on advocacy efforts in DC and Austin, and how you can get involved in the cooperative movement.

The opening reception will be held Friday evening, April 4th from 7-9pm.  It will be free to attend and will include a panel of employees of cooperatives talking about their careers and the value provided by their co-op for their members and the community.  Snacks and drinks will be provided.

On Saturday we will be meeting on the University of Texas campus from 8 am to 5:30 pm for a full day of presentations and panel discussions.  Breakfast will be served from 8-9 am followed by the keynote presentation, and breakout sessions in the morning.  Lunch will be at 1pm.  In the afternoon we will all meet together to talk about advocacy efforts including the farm bill in Washington and plans to improve the worker coop statute in Texas in 2015.  Finally we will discuss ways to get involved with ACBA and the cooperative movement in central Texas and beyond.  The registration fee for the conference is $50 or $25 if you are a student.

This year we will offer a networking dinner at the Sustainable Food Center from 7-9pm.  Our chef will be Johnny Livesay of Black Star so you know the food will be scrumptious and locally sourced as much as possible.  There will be an additional fee for the dinner and seating limited so RSVP early!

You can reserve your place for any or all of the events on our new website:

On Financial Cooperatives

People have been pooling their resources for mutual benefit since the beginning of human society.  The first modern credit union was created in Germany in 1850.  The concept arrived in North America through the work of Alphonse Desjardins in Quebec in 1900.  He also helped start the first credit union in the United States in Manchester, New Hampshire in 1909.  Massachusetts passed the Massachusetts Credit Union Act in 1909 to become the first state to officially authorize financial cooperatives.  The Massachusetts law served as a model for other states and the Federal Credit Union Act passed in 1934.

Credit Unions have grown steadily as a reliable way for people to access inexpensive financing.  Credit Unions have always been limited in who they serve by their designated field of membership.  For instance in Austin A+ served teachers, University served people associated with the University of Texas, and Amplify served IBM employees.  In the 1990’s restrictions on field of membership were relaxed and now most people in Austin are eligible for credit union membership. 

At the same time credit unions were limited in the amount of lending they can do to businesses.  Commercial lending is limited to 12.5% of a credit union’s total assets.  This limits credit unions’ ability to loan money to cooperatives.  But it can be done!  In 2012, the Inter-Cooperative Council moved all of its debt to University Federal Credit Union; which was, at the time, over a million dollars.

Credit Unions are not the only type of financial cooperative.  Some Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) have adopted the cooperative principles too.  A CDFI is an unregulated non-profit that receives investments from the public and lends these funds to businesses with a charitable purpose or to help economic development in communities in need.  CDFI were created by the congress in 1994.  Only a few of the CDFI’s in the country are also cooperatives.  Northcountry Cooperative Development Fund in Minneapolis and the Cooperative Fund of New England are two examples that serve cooperatives exclusively and have helped launch or expand many cooperatives around the country.  Credit Unions may choose to become CDFIs, also known as community development credit unions allowing more of their lending to go to businesses like cooperatives.

For more information about the history of credit unions check out the NCUA history page:

To learn more about CDFIs check out Wikipedia’s article:


Featured Cooperative: Cornerstone Credit Union League

Cornerstone Credit Union League is the latest organization to become a founding member of the Austin Cooperative Business Association.
Cornerstone Credit Union League is committed to protecting its nearly 700 member credit unions while promoting their growth, strength, and unity.

Cornerstone is positioned to deliver upon the industry’s current and future needs by providing and investing in essential services and resources. In order to shape the credit union operating environment and strengthen institutions throughout the country, credit union leaders are looking for real value in League membership, value that comes with large, robust, and relevant organizations with a full suite of products and services.

Cornerstone has combined the talents and resources of the Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas leagues to provide enhanced and expanded products and services to credit unions, maintain a critical focus on advocacy and regulatory and compliance support, and increase its influence at a national level.

Cornerstone is committed to providing educational and networking offerings with premier speakers and critically relevant topics, assisting small credit unions, and providing access to a premier league service corporation and a nationally recognized charitable foundation.

Upcoming Community Events

Friday January 24  7pm
Gar Alperovitz - The Quietly Deepening Political and Economic Crisis: Possibilities for an America Beyond Corporate Capitalism - at University United Methodist Church (24th & Guadalupe)

Saturday January 25  8am-5:30pm
Next Economy Conference - at the Scottish Rite Theatre (18th & Lavaca)

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