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Catalyzing worker co-ops & the solidarity economy

The Co-operative University College of Kenya

The Co-operative University College of Kenya (CUCK), on the outskirts of Nairobi, looks like any other college. Students walk along its manicured paths and drab hallways with their books and phones—alone, absorbed in thought, or in groups, gabbing with each other. Visiting, I felt like I'd been on campuses like this a million times. But I had never been to a college for cooperatives.

Democracy is a skill that must be honed. That is why the government of Kenya—a country where cooperative businesses provide livelihoods for a stunning 63 percent of the population, according to the International Labor Organization—operates a business school just for democratic enterprise. To learn more about the place, I met with its principal, Douglas Shitanda, as well as Esther Gicheru and Kirianki M'Imanyara, the director and coordinator of the Institute of Co-operative Development, respectively. (Gicheru is also a past principal of the college.) They told me not only about the college, but about the complex and diverse ecosystem that supports Kenya's agricultural producer cooperatives and credit unions, as well as its growing housing, consumer, and worker cooperative sectors.

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