From Radar.Oreilly.com - The government releases a boatload of scientific data: "the White House responded to a We The People e-petition that asked for free online access to taxpayer-funded research. As part of the response, John Holdren, the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, released a memorandum today directing agencies with 'more than $100 million in research and development expenditures to develop plans to make the results of federally funded research publically available free of charge within 12 months after original publication.'”
From OpenSource.com - A scientist foresees more open boatloads of scientific data on the horizon: "PLOS, and later PeerJ, are pioneering new approaches to scientific publication, along with efforts such as altmetrics to redefine metrics applied to scientific output and career progression. The Insight Journal was created as a platform for reproducible papers describing software algorithms with the core principal of ensuring reproducibility of computational methods. New services such as figshare make data, figures, and tables citable work, and promote sharing and reuse through liberal licensing."
From OpenSource.com - A neuro-hacker explains why we need those boatloads of scientific data: "For research, open is just more true. In this world, it seems like everyone and everything has an agenda. When it comes to research, an agenda that conflicts with the truth of that research is just plain evil. Too many people lie and fudge research because it means more money, fame, etc. So if it's not open, we can't grow as a society or even as a civilization. We need research to be open, or else good ideas will get lost in the marketplace in favor of quicker, cheaper, faster, shinier ideas that aren't necessarily better or 'the right thing.'"
From TheAtlanticCities.com - A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators moves to help neighborhoods: "A new bill introduced today in Congress could change all that. The Brownfields Utilization, Investment and Local Development Act of 2013—or BUILD Act for short—would help local governments and other entities clean up and revitalize brownfield sites. Brownfields cleanup drives economic growth while giving local governments the flexibility to pursue projects they need the most. The BUILD Act has bipartisan support—noteworthy in and of itself in this Congress—and its sponsors hail from a broad array of states, each with their own brownfield challenges."
From Streetsblog.org - A bunch of bikers converged in the capital: "For the second year running, the Women’s Bicycling Forum kicked off the National Bike Summit in Washington, DC. About 300 people attended, and Streetfilms got to take their pulse on the state of bicycling for women and collect some suggestions about how to grow the number of women who ride. Here’s a sampling of what we heard, set to cycling scenes in a dozen cities throughout the U.S."
From TheAtlanticCities.com - A new tech start-up makes open data more efficient: "The recent push from cities to release open data is great for residents, but it can be a boon for municipal governments, too. ... Enter CityScan: a start-up that integrates public information on local codes with advanced street-mapping technology to perform the regulatory oversight cities often can't manage with their own small staffs. The company has a unique access agreement with Nokia-owned NAVTEQ, a map developer that drives more or less every mile of road in the United States collecting data through an imaging technology called LIDAR — light detection and ranging — capable of creating incredibly precise maps. By matching up LIDAR results with open permit data, CityScan can spot gaps in local licensing revenue or major safety hazards."
LIFE WITHOUT MONEY: Building Fair and Sustainable Economies: The End of Money @ Vienna Solidarity Ec
Entrevista a Jem Bendell
Entrevista a Jem Bendell, ponente de la VI Jornada Anual del Instituto de Innovación Social de ESADE "Promover la Innovación Social mediante la Colaboración"...
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Kirk Anderson of the "Backwards Beekeepers" shows you how to capture a swarm of feral bees.
Just over a year ago I was given a ‘community cake’. A cake tin full of all the ingredients needed to make white chocolate and blackberry cake. All the ingredients that is, except for one cup of sugar. It was a birthday cake and my challenge was to ask a neighbour I didn’t know for a cup of sugar.
I have to say my initial reaction was one of fear. I thanked my friend, but I was also angry that she’d put me in the position of having to follow through – you can’t do a PhD on neighbourhood sharing and then chicken out of asking a neighbour for sugar!
I’ve been studying the way in which sharing is conceptualised and practiced by Australian suburban residents for nearly four years now. I’ve talked with suburban residents from Melbourne, Australia; some were members of thethesharehood.net (a not-for-profit neighbourhood exchange network whose members tend to be based in the inner suburbs) and others were residents of new housing developments on the edges of Melbourne who displayed no obvious interest in sharing.
It turns out that Australians love the idea of sharing. It taps into a deep seated nostalgia for the imagined (or real) suburban existence of the 1950s. Australian historian Hugh Stretton once said that one of the key characteristic talents of Australia was to be suburban. After all we invented the Hills hoist clothesline and the Victa lawnmower – symbols of domesticity that are world famous (at least in Australia). And nothing conjures up suburbia like ducking over to your neighbour’s house and asking for that cup of sugar. As one of my research participants explained “Mum used to send us next door to borrow a cup of sugar and you know, all that stuff just used to be very normal in terms of neighbourhoods for us”.
The suburban residents I spoke to long for greater connection with their neighbours. And they think that sharing is the way to get this.
But what does it mean to them to share?
The overwhelming consensus amongst my research participants was that sharing was an act of generosity. It was the altruistic and pro-social act of offering, of giving, of lending a ladder, of mowing the neighbour’s lawn, baby sitting local kids, and handing over that cup of sugar.
Yet very little was said about the asking or receiving of such favours.
In turns out that deeply entrenched in the Australian suburban culture is an inability to ask for anything. To do so is to seem weak, to be, in the words of one of the political leaders of the post war era Robert Menzies – a leaner rather than a lifter. Thus in discussions of sharing, very little is said to acknowledge that in order to give, someone must receive. The problem, as one research participant so eloquently explained is that “In some ways, it is harder to receive with an open heart, than it is to give with an open heart”.
I want to argue that all sharing relationships and exchanges are for-profit. Just not necessarily for financial profit. Hidden beneath this façade, this thin veneer that sharing is an act of generosity is a calculating and clamorous economy of social capital. (For those more interested in the nerdy academic side, sociologist Pierre Bourdieu’s work on social capital and the interested cultural economy is worth a peek).
It is within this unspoken economy in which the power of non-monetised sharing lies. Although much of the emphasis on sharing in popular media is on the giving side of sharing,in practice there must be just as many receivers as givers. Non-monetised sharing relies on trust and on shared understandings of social norms and obligations. Without acknowledging it explicitly, the person who is the receiver is also often the giver.
Let me explain. If I approach you to borrow your lawnmower I am asking you to do me a favour and lend me one of your possessions. At the same time, I am offering you a kind of ‘obligation ticket’. According to Australian social norms and conventions (and I can only assume that at least elements of this hold true for other Western contexts) if I receive a favour from you, in order to maintain my social status, I need to be obviously able and willing to reciprocate. Thus on agreeing to receive a favour, I am giving you the freedom to ask of me in return. And in doing so, I am offering you something more valuable than access to my ladder or my hedge-trimmer; I’m offering you the opportunity of an ongoing relationship.
If on the other hand I had borrowed your lawnmower and on returning it I paid you $20, I am essentially ending the transaction and escaping our social contract. According to social protocols I am no longer in your debt (assuming I paid enough) and you no longer have the ‘right’ to knock on my door and ask for a reciprocal favour. The beans have been counted and the exchange is over.
Of course, that’s not to say that you can’t come and ask me for something, in which case you would then owe me. But it is the unpaid obligations that are what creates the rich weave of social life. Sure, we might hate them sometimes, but without obligation, without a debt to pay, without a requirement from our community, we can never have the strength of community bonds that we desire. With meaningful connection comes vulnerability and it is this vulnerability we need to embrace.
Neatly defined and bounded transactions are exactly what the monetised sharing economy is about (although there is great diversity in the monetised economy – I won’t go there today but I think we need more terms than simply monetised and non-monetised). My own experiences of Airbnb suggest that real connections are made between people that wouldn’t have been made had I stayed at a hotel or a hostel. And these are good relationships that deepen my connection with the world and with the people in it, leading me to a more thoughtful inhabitation of my space. While these relationships are positive overall, they are fleeting and the risks are less. It’s easier to move on to a new Airbnb host than to move house. Yet Airbnb is not completely clear cut, you can rate and review people and interactions with individuals need to be negotiated.
Other monetised sharing programs, such as Zipcar, however are a step removed again. Many are run by large corporate organisations and according to the study by Bardhiand Eckhardt for many users it is used purely as a convenience, with no interest in community connection.The relationships between users are clearly defined, the lines solidly drawn. (Shareable published a criticism of the Bardhi and Eckhardt study for drawing overreaching conclusions based on its limited sample size – yet their work is a reminder that not all participants in the sharing economy are alike.)
From my perspective these solid lines, while greasing the wheels of exchange efficiency, function almost as hard boundaries stopping meaningful social connection from developing. Think of making a piñata, the sculpture holds together much more cohesively when the paper is ripped. The ripped edges are messy and fibrous. Using paper that has been cut on the edges, the boundaries neatly defined, the edges squared, it is much harder to create a cohesive whole. We need blurry edges in the creation of a congruent whole; we need blurry boundaries in our communities and not just on our piñatas. Yet the creation of blurry edges goes against so many of our social protocols. As Australian social commentator Hugh Mackay observed in one of his works of fiction:
Conventional wisdom says death is the last taboo in Western societies; in suburban culture, the last taboo is direct, confrontational, investigative conversation. We are more inhibited by our obsession with privacy – our own and each other’s – than by any of the lurid sexual repressions that are supposed to cripple us. The so-called respect for privacy constrains our forays into each other’s worlds to such an extent that most of the treasures on offer are never unearthed (Winter Close, page 131).
And so a year on, I am still dithering on my doorstep. I can no longer put off asking for that cup of sugar. If for no other reason than I need to report on my experience as a nice way of ending my PhD thesis. Yet the social norms that dictate what behaviour is acceptable make it difficult for me to knock on a stranger’s door and ask. Yet as rock icon Amanda Palmer explains, “Through the very act of asking people, I’d connected with them.” And thus in knocking on a door with an empty cup I am extending a hand of connection to the people who should be my community.
In building resiliency and establishing emergency provisions and preps, finding good values and quality products are an important part of the process. We evaluate our basic needs and look over resources like the WSID Guide and books like When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the
Is it a house? An office? A meeting place? A community space?
Casa Netural, in the Italian city of Matera, is all of the above and much more. It's the first collaborative, coworking space in Southern Italy’s Basilicata region. An experiment born through passion for social innovation, creativity and the need to develop a sense of community, Casa Netural has become the poster child for change in a rural setting. (Netural isn’t a typo, it stands for rural networking.)
Encapsulating the principals of coworking and the spirit of rural living, Casa Netural is a project directed at building the Basilicata brand from the inside out. In essence, it is an unassuming, typical Italian stone home set in a small “vicinato” or courtyard environment. But even this social unit ambience resonates with the themes of the space by encouraging interaction among the residents and a shared approach toward overcoming challenges and everyday life.
A Collaborative Space that Evolves with Its Community
Casa Netural is a blank canvas on which locals and visitors are prompted to design a more sustainable future for the region. This can be achieved in a multitude of ways. By doing, by teaching, by learning or simply by discussing what the issues are and brainstorming possible solutions. The space is warm, inviting, steeped in heritage but fresh and modern in its flexible layout. There are couches, tables, a kitchen, Wi-Fi, reading material, whiteboards, pens and pencils to literally facilitate discussions, meetings and networking.
But what Casa Netural offers as a physical space does not stop there. It is an evolutionary place where the community is constantly involved in the changing shape of the home, sometimes through workshops to reuse, recycle and recreate furniture and everyday objects that are now spread throughout the room. The people who use the space are encouraged to mold it to enhance their creativity and courage to be social innovators. It is unlike the traditional idea of coworking where freelancers rent a desk in a shared office environment but work independently on their projects. The spirit of Casa Netural is to collaborate—to network with like-minded individuals, building a team of experts from near and far who can offer skills, experience and an alternative perspective.
Choosing Matera: An Isolated Wasteland?
Matera is of course not the metropolitan center where most people might expect to find a coworking space. It is also not the most isolated or abandoned of towns in the Basilicata region—which is also the focus of the project—but it was the optimal place to start. The benefits of establishing Casa Netural in the UNESCO listed semi-city were two-fold. First, the town already has a great capacity to draw in visitors from near and far because of its spectacular Sassi dwellings. The Sassi and the Park of the Rupestrian Churches of Matera were inscribed into the World Heritage list in 1993 for its preservation of unique homes, cisterns and tombs that were carved into the soft calcareous tufa rocks in the Palaeolithic period. Although Italian authorities endeavored to evacuate the area in the 1950s by passing legislation to dislocate people living in the ancient township, the population resisted and retained the structure and spirit of the city. Today, this means tourism gold with new people, new ideas, new perspectives and in turn, new opportunities in the area. Engaging these travelers in the environment they are experiencing is, of course, a challenge but a critical part of the picture to improve the economic, social and environmental sustainability of Basilicata.
The second reason for picking this location is that it gives local residents a reason to stay in, or return to, Matera. A town that has ample infrastructure and ambiance to support a thriving community, it has traditionally been deserted in search of a more prosperous future. Now there is hope that, through the establishment of a place where forward thinkers can gather, interact, share and create in a flexible environment, Matera will no longer be seen as a wasteland devoid of innovation and profit potential. If people can see that their ideas and projects can not only be born in Matera but they can find the resources, advice and support necessary to launch them, there will be a greater incentive for them to stay. And it’s not just the young up-and-comers being targeted. It is also entrepreneurs and people who have been displaced by collapsing industry who are being inspired to transform their skillsets into a new enterprise.
Although isolated by tourism standards, Matera is the center-point of the southern central Italian region of Basilicata and also has good links to nearby Puglia (the heel of the Italian “boot”) where economic development is progressing. This is also important for the potential of Casa Netural to be realized so that it can be used as a launch pad to explore the area. In the future it is anticipated that Casa Netural will host informal tours of Basilicata, with the assistance of local guides, to show Materans and visitors the hidden gems, undiscovered social innovators and economic possibilities within the south of Italy.
Exporting Casa Netural
Casa Netural is itself an experiment and a living business plan for coworking and collaboration in regional areas. It will be a model that can later be exported to other rural districts worldwide that are vulnerable to emigration and degradation. An investment for its founders, the project is not intended to be profitable within itself but instead profitable for the community in which it stands. This in turn will draw in more members for association, making it self-sustainable and the product of the collaborators who use it. The goals are for the community to understand its strengths and available resources, to create a sense of empowerment and also a more participatory approach to fostering a sustainable future outside of metropolitan centers.
Here are some astounding facts about inequality, clearly presented and easy to understand, but very disturbing.
Thanks to the New Economics Institute for sending it along.
- Downscaling complexity and increasing local sourcing through efficient net-energy means will be the hallmarks of the future
- Suburbia has three likely destinies, none mutually exclusive: slums, salvage, and ruins
- What elements to look for in sustainable town/city designs
- Why "managing contraction" will be society's main focus for a long time to come
If you have not yet read Part I: Why Our Current Way of Living Has No Future, available free to all readers, please click here to read it first.Smaller, Closer, Simpler
First, circumstances imply that we have to downscale just about everything that supports civilized life – the size of enterprise (both private and public), the length of supply chains and distribution webs, the amount of capital expenditure, the complexity of organization. We’ll have to grow our food differently as industrial agri-business flounders on non-cheap oil. We’ll have to rethink transportation as commercial aviation withers and Happy Motoring enters its twilight. We’ll have to do commerce differently as the Wal-Mart model unravels. We’ll have to inhabit the terrain differently.
Second, as a consequence of the foregoing, we’ll see economies become much more local and regional again, as the current episode of globalism unwinds in the face of rancorous competition for increasingly scarce vital resources. Contrary to Tom Friedman of the New York Times, globalism is not a permanent fixture of the human condition; it was an episode of history. The world is getting less flat and more wide again.
Another is that...
All of the sordid and spellbinding rackets working their hoodoo on the financial scene have obscured a whole other dimension of the fiasco that America finds itself in, namely the way we have arranged the logistics of everyday life on our landscape – the tragedy of Suburbia.
I call it a tragedy because it represents a sequence of extremely unfortunate choices made by our society over several generations. History will not forgive the excuses we make for ourselves, nor will it shed a tear for the tribulations we will induce for ourselves by living this way. History may, however, draw attention to our remarkable lack of a sense of consequence in transforming this lovely, beckoning New World continent into a wilderness of free parking. In any case, we’re stuck with what we’ve done, and the question naturally arises: What will we do now?
Starting a Free Store is easy and fun! Variously thrilling and/or threatening to the uninitiated!
The following are step-by-step suggestions. They are ONLY suggestions. Free Stores are autonomous zones -- rhizomatic, ever-expanding -- giving capitalism a run for their money.
1- Finding a Location
Factors to consider are traffic flow, weather condition, population, and convenience - particularly yours. Chose a place where you frequent at least every few days in your regular routine. If not your Free Store may become a burden.
The location is an important decision. In some ways it determines whether it will succeed, what will be exchanged, who and how many people will use it.
Whether you seek permission from the authorities who has claims over your location is entirely up to you. If you ask they may become confused, upset, and say no. Or they might become interested and become a part of the project.
We prefer not asking permission. Because a) it means that the Free Store explicitly refuses to acknowledge the State's authority over land - public OR private; b) because then a true Autonomus Zone is created.
If you choose this option, be prepared that your Free Store may be rudely disrupted. If it does do not be discouraged. It is easy to start another Free Store. Also in our experience, the 'disruption' stage can often result in inspiring exactly the opposite - namely a community of outraged supporters.
In any case, resistance is delicious.
2- Marking the Free Store Zone
Once the location is determined, you will need to somehow define the space of the store. The most obvious is by creating an actual display unit that clearly demarcates the perimeter of your store. It can be an existing piece of furniture or one you bring. A shelf, a table, a cart, a corner of a room, etc.
It is important that your 'shoppers' know where your Free Store begins and ends. Claim your Anti-Capitalism Zone in some way. Expand your zone later as needed.
In our experience, clear signage is VERY important. With a clear sign, almost anything can become a Free Store. (maybe even the White House)
Suggested Language for Free Store Sign:
- Free Store An Anti-Capitalism Project
- Everything Here is Free.
- Take, Leave, Whatever...
Have fun with your signs. Change them often if you can. Delight your shoppers with your wit. Inspire them with the Great Potential of Free Exchange.
4- Stockpiling the Free Stuff
It takes a while to get people used to the idea of a Free Store. (Because we are only exposed to non-free Stores)
Be prepared to be the only one stocking the Free Store for at least a couple of weeks. You will need to figure out how to get enough Free Things to last til others contribute.
Ideas for Stockpiling:
- look in trash cans
- clean up your office and home
- tell your friends to clean up their offices and homes
- clean up strangers' offices and homes
- go to garage sales when they close and offer to take everything they have not been able to sell. Tell them about the Free Store
5- Open your Free Store
• Be Creative with your Signage
• Be Patient
• Be Observant and Respond Creatively to the Unexpected
• Never be Defensive
• Don't Try to Control Everything
• Trust Life
• Inspire Others to set up Free Stores
This is a sneak preview of an article that will appear on Grassroots Economic Organizing, my base site, in a few days. It's about an effort to bring sharing together at a complex level. michael
On the Tuesday night of February 19th 70 people came together from all the boroughs in New York City for dinner and conference to explore ways they could support each other's work and grow a movement. In the aftermath of the devastating Hurricane Sandy they named the event “Growing a Resilient City: possibilities for collaboration in NYC’s Solidarity Economy.”
The event was the culmination of SolidrityNYC’s Deep Listening Project (DLP). SolNYC is a collective of volunteer organizers, artists, academics, and community members who seek to support, promote, and connect NYC’s Solidarity Economy (SE). Beginning in June of last year members of the Collective fanned out across the whole city to interview and record the thoughts and feelings of 38 leaders in NYC’s SE. Cheyenna Weber, who is the director of Coalition Building and Campaigns for the New Economics Institute, served as project director.
With a team of 11 volunteers, they then transcribed all of these interviews. Working with researchers Olivia Geiger of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and Evan Casper-Flutterman of Rutgers University, the team then studied, processed, and digested all of the information they had gathered into a formal report: Growing a Resilient City: Collaboration in New York City’s Solidarity Economy .
After dinner, catered by the worker co-op I Love Food, and introductions, the 60 participants and 10 SolidarityNYC staffers broke into seven small groups, each discussing one aspect featured in the report. Those interviewed through the DLP had essentially identified four major areas for collaboration:
· Building visibility
· Strengthening our organizations
· Building economic power
· Building political power.
Participants at the event chose to focus on either one of these primary areas or on a sub-area of them. Those most interested in Training, Skill Sharing, and Capacity Building formed two groups, as did those interested in Building Political Power. Others chose to focus on one of the following topics: Space Sharing and Collaborative Administration, Collaborative Financing and Funding, and Resources Needed for Movement Building.
After an hour of discussing everyone re-grouped as a whole. Each group gave its reportback on the outcomes of their respective discussions. Two groups—“Training and Capacity Building” and “Collaborative Financing”—decided on the spot to become ongoing working groups. Before bringing the event to a close a strong consensus emerged to meet again as a whole group in three months.
Niral Shahl of NYU Law School helped Collective members with the facilitation of small group discussions. Kenneth Eudusei of SolidarityNYC and Ben Fuller-Coogins of NYU’s Wagner Institute were floor managers for the event.
(A list of all the organizations represented at the resilient event is at the end of this article.)
In the introduction to the evening there was also discussion of the use of the term “solidarity economy” and its framework. Many solidarity economy practices are framed as “the commons,” “the sharing economy, ” “collaborative consumption, “alternative economy,” “cooperative economy,” “green economy,” “resilient economy,” or the new economy.”
Annie McShiras, a Collective member who also works as the Development Director at the Responsible Endowments Coalition, explained why SolNYC tends toward “solidarity economy:
We organize under the framework of “solidarity economy”, first and foremost, because we stand with the global justice movement that identifies with this term, led mainly by organizers in the global south. The term originated with the Landless Workers Movement (MST) in Brasil and was later popularized at the first World Social Forum held in Porto Alegre, Brasil, in 2001.
We consider our efforts part of the anti-globalization movement that seeks community control rather than transnational corporate control.
We also use the term “solidarity economy” because we see ourselves as allies working in solidarity with communities and practitioners around the world who have been building sustainable economies from the ground-up for centuries. This is not a new concept; it is ages old so we use solidarity terminology to respect those struggles for common land, water, and livelihoods of the global south. Those struggles are also prevalent in our own communities here in NYC, and our work to support and be in solidarity with those struggles must be reflected in how we speak of economics.
Zara Serabian-Arthur, a media maker at Meerkat Media Collective and a member of SolidarityNYC, added:
We identify “solidarity economics” as the ways we collectively meet our needs that utilize values of democracy, cooperation, social justice, ecological sustainability, and mutualism. We believe solidarity is the practice of taking active responsibility for our interdependence and binding our fates together in shared struggle and livelihood.
Caroline Woolard of Our Goods and the Trade School project noted that the collective’s work, which started in 2009 at US-SEN’s Solidarity Economy Conference at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, included “an online map, short films, educational events, and organizing collaborative efforts between groups,” Zara Serabian-Arthur, a media maker at Meerkat Media Collective and a member of SolidarityNYC, pointed out.
The Deep Listening Project
The Deep Listening Project, originally sketched out by Amelia Bryne, another Collective member currently in Sweden, explored the challenges, existing collaborations, & new opportunities in NYC’s solidarity economy from the perspectives of 38 groups from across the city. It had three phases to this project:
1. conducting, recording, and transcribing the interviews,
2. analyzing and digesting the information into the Growing a Resilient City: Collaboration in New York City’s Solidarity Economy report, and
3. bringing participants, staff, and others together to meet each other collectively, celebrate what had been achieved, and identifying next steps.
This project grew out of a desire to see greater economic and political power for the many people involved in alternative economic work. As Michael Johnson, a member of the Ganas Intentional Community as well as the SolNYC Collective, expressed it: “We believe NYC needs grassroots economic development, not top-down development that only lines the pockets of the elite. We want to see healthy and safe communities where we meet our needs in ways which help, rather than hurt, the whole.”
The core idea was to learn how the people who were doing this work were already working together, and hear any thoughts they had about how they might be able to collaborate even more deeply. The interviews succeeded in producing about 45 different ideas for how solidarity economic projects and organizations could work together. The SolNYC team synthesized these different ideas into four main strategies:
1. Building visibility – where we heard strategies for working together to shift consciousness and increase awareness of the ‘other economies’ that already exist by working together on education, outreach, communications, and marketing.
2. Strengthening our organizations – ideas for creating or strengthening financial sources for our work; finding creative ways to share our labor and skills; collaborating on admin and overhead; jointly tackling capacity building and training;
3. Building economic power – ideas for buying more of each other’s stuff, strengthening “value chains,” connecting to each other at all steps of the process, from financing, to production, to consumption, etc.
4. Building political power – ideas for advocating together for policy change that can shift the terrain and level the playing field, ideas for strengthening connections and synergies between advocacy & organizing efforts and efforts to ‘build another world,’ etc.
Interviews included 38 groups from across the city. Overall, interviewers from the Collective talked with leaders from the following SE sectors:
· community development credit unions,
· worker co-ops,
· food co-ops,
· housing co-ops,
· producer co-ops,
· intentional communities,
· community gardens,
· community land trusts,
· time banks & barter,
as well as social enterprise, participatory budgeting, and movement spaces.
SolNYC limited its sample to groups primarily engaged in “economic” activity. “Obviously this was an imperfect process,” said Lauren Hudson, who also works with the NY Writers Coalition. “We know that there are many important organizations working within this new economy that we left out. It was not possible for the project to be comprehensive at such an early stage.”
Weber added that “as we go forward we can plan to continue to bring in groups not represented here, and begin to build ties to other organizations and communities actively engaged in social justice movements.” She said this was an essential part of the long-term project.
SolidarityNYC’s next event is a fundraiser on Friday March 22 at The Commons in Brooklyn. More details to be announced as the event gets closer.
The organizations represented at the Resilient City event included:
A New World in Our Hearts
Black Women’s Blueprint
Brooklyn Queens land Trust
Brooklyn Yoga Collective
Bushwick Food Co-op
Center for Family Life
From Here: Making Our Future
I Love Food Co-op
Jersey City Food Co-op
La Familia Verde
Legal Aid Society
Line Break Media
Lower East Side People’s Credit Union
Meerkat Media Collective
Milk Not Jails
Movement Space Project
Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project
New York City Community Gardens Coalition
New World in Our Hearts
Occupy Wall Street
Park Slope Food Co-op
Participatory Budgeting Project
Prospect Monday/Occupy Sandy
Queens Harvest Food Co-op
Si Se Puede
4th Street Co-op
- The Greek Catastrophe: Three Generations of Greek Workers
- Public authorities rack up nearly $250 billion in debt
- European Shares at Multi-Year Highs on Stimulus Hopes
- Analysis - Older French face slow squeeze in pension reform
- U.S. Tells G-7 to Avoid Currency Intervention Except Rare Cases
- China's Ghost Towns: Deserted Cities Raise Fears of Debt Crisis
- Food banks are thriving, much to the government's embarrassment
- Egypt’s fuel shortages demonstrate perfect storm of economic pressures
- Revealed: The shocking true scale of food poverty
- Report: Record 50,000 homeless now in NYC
- Images of Japan's barren tsunami coast 2 years on
- College could cost over $300k in 10 years
- Wall Street selling junk bonds at record pace
- Why America's middle class is losing ground
- Gross Says Yen to Weaken to 100 Per Dollar on QE Concern
Bernard Lietaer and Jacqui Dunne will promote the “Rethinking Money” book in these cities. Details will follow.
- March 7th, St. Louis: World Affairs Council at noon
- March 10th, Santa Barbara, CA
- March 12th, San Francisco, 10 am, KALW-FM (NPT/RRI) – “Your call”
- March 12th, San Francisco, 2 pm New Dimensions Radio
- March 12th, San Francisco, 6 pm – 8 pm, IONS in Petaluma public conference
- March 18th, Stanford CT: World Affairs Council covered live on C-Span TV
- March 20th, Seattle, Washington state: Town Hall meeting
- March 21st, Portland, OR: World Affairs Council
- March 23th, Los Angeles, Event cancelled!
- March 25th – March 28th, Tucson, AR: Various public events (including Town Hall)
- April 5th, Toronto, Business News Network, 11:15 am
- April 6th, Toronto, 7 pm – 9 pm, Oise Auditorium, 252 Bloor St. W.
Four years ago, as the recession took hold and layoffs around the country were approaching 500,000 a month, a group of workers in Chicago saved a factory and inspired a nation. Fired by their boss, they occupied instead of leaving. Fired by a second boss, they occupied and formed a worker’s cooperative. Now they are worker-owners of a load of equipment and they’re setting up a factory in a new location.
All they want to do is to get back to making and selling windows. It shouldn’t be this hard to keep good jobs in Chicago, but “A cooperative can be a way of surviving, of moving forward,” says Armando Robles, one of the workers.
Robles was one of 250 workers fired in December 2008 without notice or severance by Republic Windows and Doors when the company announced it was closing its Chicago factory. The company said that it could no longer operate because it had lost its line of credit with Bank of America. The irony of the situation was clear. Bank of America had received billions in government bailouts to keep the economy working, and yet the Republic workers were being laid off without their entitled payments and benefits. Supported by their union, the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, Robles and his fellow workers voted to resist. They occupied the plant for six days, winning back pay, severance, and time for a new company to take ownership. Generating thousands of articles and news reports about their fight, they encouraged a downcast nation, even an incoming U.S. president.
At a press conference during the factory occupation, then President-elect Barack Obama declared: “When it comes to the situation here in Chicago, with the workers who are asking for their benefits and payments they have earned … I think they are absolutely right.”
The public relations potential, combined with the prospect of stimulus spending and a green economy boom, spurred Serious Energy of California to take over the former Republic plant in February 2009. Among the investors in the new business was Mesirow Financial, a Chicago-based firm, with close ties to (among others), then White House Chief of Staff (soon to be Chicago Mayor) Rahm Emanuel. With $15 million from Mesirow alone, Serious looked forward to landing substantial federal and city contracts.
Two years later, those contracts were yet to materialize. The ballyhooed green economy? Chicago’s grand green retrofitting scheme? They were nowhere in sight, and city and state spending was essentially on ice. By the end of 2009, only 20 of the Republic workers had been hired back. In February 2012, Serious announced it, too, was closing the Chicago factory and selling off the machines.
This time, Robles et al. only needed to occupy for a matter of hours before management agreed to a deal. Serious agreed to give the workers the first option to buy the plant’s equipment and 90 days to come up with a bid.“It’s not just about profits,” he says—it’s about sustaining communities, keeping jobs in places where people need them.
“Republic walked away from our jobs. Serious walked away from our jobs, but we are not walking away from our jobs,” said Melvin Macklin, who had worked at the plant for more than a decade. In the time between the first layoff and the second, the workers and their families became aware of other options. As it happens, after appearing together with Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis on GRITtv, Robles and United Electrical field organizer Leah Fried sat down with The Working World, a nonprofit that has helped start and maintain worker cooperatives in Argentina and other parts of Latin America.
With help from The Working World and advice from colleagues in the co-op movement in the United States and abroad, on May 30, 2012, Robles, Macklin and 22 colleagues founded New Era Windows, LLC, a worker-run cooperative incorporated in Illinois to manufacture what they promise will be “quality, affordable windows.”
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Despite the initial agreement, it was not until last August, many months and some intense struggle later, that Serious finally agreed to let New Era buy the factory equipment. The struggle was partly political—Serious had to be pressured to keep its pledge to the workers—but it was largely financial. The new worker-owners decided that they would earn equal wages and have equal votes in decision-making. They also agreed to each contribute a fee of $1,000 to “buy in.” At 58, Macklin borrowed some of his buy-in from a nephew, but he says that the stretch to raise the money was worth it.
“It’s not just about profits,” he says—it’s about sustaining communities, keeping jobs in places where people need them. “There will be no big, fat-cat salaries, no CEOs, CFOs and COOs to pay, so our bottom line will be easier. We already know how to make the best windows. … We don’t know for sure it’ll be successful, but we didn’t know the occupation would be successful—I thought I was going to jail. Unless we step out and try, we’ll never know.”
The workers took the leap, but investors have been less inclined to follow. In spite of preparing a business plan and reaching out to social impact investors, the co-op has thus far been unable to attract venture capital. Even with the collateral of the equipment, the workers have been unable to win any loans. The $500,000 they were able to raise for the purchase came from a single source, The Working World.
“It’s awesome that they’ve done it—this is as grassroots as it gets,” says Brendan Martin, founder and director of The Working World. “But to reverse the rules of capital, you need capital. It’s not enough for workers to realize they have opportunity; resources also have to come to them.”
“There should be governmental help to keep factories open and allow the workers to try to keep their jobs,” says Robles. “When there is no government help, at least there should be social help, community help, anything. The loss to a community is overwhelming when a whole factory closes.”
What's So Good About Co-ops?
Why support the co-ops in your community? The benefits might be further-reaching than you think.
President Obama knew as much four years ago, at that Chicago press conference. The Chicago workers’ experience was reflective of a national situation, he said.
“When you have a financial system that is shaky, credit contracts. Businesses large and small start cutting back on their plants and equipment and their workforces. That’s why it’s so important for us to maintain a strong financial system. But it’s also important for us to make sure that the plans and programs that we design aren’t just targeted at maintaining the solvency of banks, but they are designed to get money out the doors and to help people on Main Street.”
You’d think that helping a minority-run green business in a high-unemployment community would be a smart way to help those celebrated “people on Main Street,” but so far, no money has come out of those doors. Absent a rational industrial policy from the government, and a smart new stimulus package, the New Era experiment is in the hands of the market. For almost a year, the workers have hung on, living off their severance, unemployment, and sweat. Their new factory’s almost set up; they hope to start selling early this year, and they’re looking for customers.
More information at newerawindows.com
Laura Flanders wrote this article for How Cooperatives Are Driving the New Economy, the Spring 2013 issue of YES! Magazine. Laura is a former host of Air America, and founder and host of GRITtv. She is the author of Bushwomen: Tales of a Cynical Species, and Blue Grit: True Democrats Take Back Politics from the Politicians. She writes regularly for The Nation and the Guardian and appears as a regular guest on MSNBC.
- The Cooperative Way to a Stronger Economy
Co-ops—just like people—can get more done together than anyone can do alone. They come in many forms, and are more common than you might imagine.
- The Economy: Under New Ownership
How cooperatives are leading the way to empowered workers and healthy communities.
- From the Culture of Aloha, a Path Out of Gun Violence
Beneath mainstream culture runs a current of domination, individualism, and exclusion that is harming our children. We assume this is normal—but is it really?
“Too often we have seen Wall Street hollow out companies by draining their cash and assets and hollow out communities by shedding jobs and shuttering plants,” said United Steelworkers (USW) President Leo Gerard in 2009. “We need a new business model that invests in workers and invests in communities.”Gerard was announcing a formal partnership between his 1.2-million-member union and Mondragon, a cluster of cooperatives in the Basque region of Spain.
Mondragon employs 83,000 workers in 256 companies. About half of those companies are cooperatives, and about a third of Mondragon’s employees are co-op members with an ownership stake in their workplace. Mondragon companies do everything from manufacturing industrial machine parts to making pressure cookers and home appliances to running a bank and a chain of supermarkets. With billions of euros in annual sales, Mondragon is the largest industrial conglomerate in the Basque region and the fifth-largest in Spain.
The cooperatives use workers’ cash investments as part of the capital needed to finance new projects, and worker-owner co-op members get to vote on strategy, management, and business planning. The highest-paid managers’ salaries are capped at six to eight times what the lowest-paid workers make—as opposed to the United States, where CEOs now make 380 times more than the average worker.Building union co-ops
As manufacturing in the United States continues in free fall, the USW is working to bring the Mondragon cooperative model to the Rust Belt. It aims to use employee-run businesses to create new, middle-class jobs to replace union work that has gone overseas.
A March 2012 report from the USW, Mondragon, and the Ohio Employee Ownership Center (OEOC), lays out a template for how “union co-ops” can function. “A union co-op is a unionized worker-owned cooperative in which worker-owners all own an equal share of the business and have an equal vote in overseeing the business,” the report states."While it may not rebuild labor's ranks ... this model might do something even more important: give working people a way to become true stewards of the economy."
But how do union co-ops differ from traditional worker-owned co-ops? The report explains that the key difference is that workers in a union co-op can appoint a management team (from within their own ranks or from outside the co-op) and then bargain collectively with management. The resulting collective bargaining agreements can set wage rates for all the co-op’s jobs, choose health care and other benefit packages, decide how workers will earn time off, and determine a process for grievances and arbitration of workplace disputes.
In addition to producing the union co-op template, the USW has worked to get pilot cooperatives started in the United States. The union has carefully examined the Evergreen Cooperatives, which were started in Cleveland in 2009 with a blend of foundation money, public funds, and private investment capital. Drawing from Mondragon’s principles of shared prosperity for workers and democratic governance, Evergreen launched a commercial laundry that now cleans more than four million pounds of laundry per year and employs 30 people. It also has plans for a solar installers’ cooperative and a greenhouse that grows high-end salad greens and herbs for the Cleveland Clinic, as well as universities and restaurants. The example was an important one for the USW’s pilot projects, suggesting a blueprint to keep jobs local, tie new businesses to existing city institutions, and give workers a voice in company operations.
OEOC Director Bill McIntyre worked with the Cleveland Foundation on crafting the organizational framework for the Evergreen Cooperatives. At a March 2012 press event at United Steelworkers headquarters, he observed that employee-owners more often kept their jobs during the recent economic meltdown. “Employee-owned companies,” he said, “have more stable, loyal, and experienced work forces, which translates into real cost savings, productivity, and quality advantages.”
Reviving a Pittsburgh laundry
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A group of unions, including the USW, is helping to launch the Pittsburgh Clean and Green Laundry Cooperative, a new industrial laundry. Several years ago, a local laundry closed, leaving more than 100 people without work. Together with the USW, the workers began exploring the idea of creating a cooperative to take over the business. The union has now completed a feasibility study for the business and is lining up commitments from clients such as local hospitals and clinics. A full laundry plant is scheduled to be up and running soon, thanks in part to the support of the Steel Valley Authority (SVA)—Pennsylvania’s publicly funded initiative for saving and creating industrial jobs—and other local foundations.
“Right now, several of the larger hospitals are sending their laundry out pretty far to get it done, so [going local] makes sense cost-wise, and it makes sense green-wise,” says Rob Witherell, the USW’s cooperative organizer and strategist.
“The intent is that the folks who worked at the previous laundry would be the first to join as worker-owners,” Witherell adds.
Under the union-cooperative model, the laundry’s employees would be able to join the union of their choice, and the jobs offered at the plant would provide a living wage, benefits, and a collective bargaining agreement. As worker-owners, the employees would also gain equity in the business.
“The way it works in Cleveland is the folks working at the laundry—if they’re to become owners—have their initial ownership investment financed by the company,” explains Witherell. “Fifty cents an hour is deducted from their wages for a period of three years, until they have met the requirements for ownership.”
Worker-owners vote on decisions about the management of the company. And, as in Mondragon, a share of profits is added to the ownership accounts, so that long-term workers can retire or leave the company having accrued a significant stake. “In Cleveland, they’ve done the math, and they’ve figured out that in eight years—if they meet their business targets, which they have so far—those folks will each have $65,000 in their ownership accounts,” Witherell says.
For the SVA, the model is one it hopes to spread further: It has announced a goal of establishing a technical assistance center and a revolving loan fund to help worker groups that want to use the Mondragon model.Cooperative harvest in Cincinnati
In the past year, the USW has supported work to create the Cincinnati Union Cooperative Initiative (CUCI). CUCI has two projects in the pipeline: a railway manufacturing co-op and a cooperative for retrofitting buildings for energy efficiency. A third project, already in operation, pairs commitment to food sustainability with a worker-ownership model in the Our Harvest cooperative.
Our Harvest is a “food hub” that will allow institutions in the metropolitan region—such as universities, hospitals, and hotels—to buy produce that is grown, harvested, and packaged by worker-owners. Currently, says CUCI President Kristen Barker, the nascent project has an incubator farm for training farmers and food production workers, with two apprentice farmers, a mentor farmer, and three part-time support staff.
The apprentices, who are cardholding members of the United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW), are learning farming and production methods from the mentor farmer and are running a community-supported agriculture (CSA) business from the incubator farm in the heart of Cincinnati. The CSA currently serves 60 residential customers, plus three restaurants and three retail locations.
Our Harvest grows its food on a 30-acre farm in an urban neighborhood. “It’s amazing that that exists,” says Barker. “We’re interested in being on bus lines,” says Barker, pointing out that the co-op considers making jobs accessible by public transit to be part of a sustainable, fair approach to job creation.
In order to serve the large institutions Our Harvest hopes to make the mainstay of its operation, the farm has to expand. “We need to get to 1,000 acres’ worth of production,” Barker says. “To get up to 1,000 requires a ton of skill, and a lot of land.”
CUCI isn’t going it alone in the effort to expand Our Harvest. The Ohio State Cooperative Development Center is doing a study of how Our Harvest can scale up to the 1,000-acre mark. Efforts are under way to house an expanded apprenticeship program at a local community college. And Mondragon is working closely with CUCI to firm up Our Harvest’s structures and locate additional financing.Co-op strengths and limitations
The “union co-op” model imports some of Mondragon’s structural innovations to the American economy: most importantly, it gives workers a say in the direction of the business as well as in their own pay and working conditions. It remains to be seen exactly how workers’ voices will be heard through the union co-ops’ collective bargaining processes, but it will likely have some of the flavor of worker empowerment already in effect at Mondragon.
Michael Peck, the North American delegate for Mondragon, describes the type of decisions employees make within Mondragon’s worker-owner structure: “They vote to lower their salary, they vote to raise their salary, they vote to make sacrifices, they vote to reward themselves if the situation calls,” he says. “They are totally involved, and it’s that kind of participation that produces a successful company that is attuned not only to the marketplace but to itself.”
For the U.S. labor movement, this point is a critical one. A cooperative model places union members firmly in the role of being innovators. It allows the labor movement not only to promote a positive vision of members realizing their best selves in the workplace, but also to provide the skills that will enable people to do that. Therefore, while it may not rebuild labor’s ranks with significant numbers of new union members, this model might do something even more important: Give working people a way to become true stewards of the economy.
Under New Ownership
How cooperatives are leading the way to empowered workers and healthy communities.
But union co-ops don’t address some difficult issues. For instance, they do not directly address the forces of global competition that have been undermining the U.S. manufacturing base. In particular, by adopting NAFTA-model “free trade” agreements, the United States has encouraged corporations to seek out competitive advantage in places with the lowest wages and fewest environmental regulations. At best, co-ops such as the Evergreen co-ops in Cleveland work around this problem by limiting themselves to making goods or providing services that cannot be offshored, like growing heirloom salad greens for local consumption.
When asked about how the model union co-ops might take on the offshoring issue, Peck acknowledged the difficulties, but he also expressed hope. “Now there’s a renewed interest in manufacturing as labor wages rise in developing countries,” he says. Moreover, he believes the recent economic crisis has also expanded public receptivity: “Even in the outer regions of the Midwest, where I spend a lot of time, people know that they’ve been victimized,” Peck says.
“Most people don’t want to be victimized again and they are interested in trying new models.”
“At Mondragon, we have a saying: ‘This is not paradise and we are not angels.’ I think that’s important, because there’s a tendency to gush up Mondragon as this perfect ideal in the sky, when it’s not perfect and it’s not in the sky. It’s in factories. it’s in valleys, it’s in making things. But our story has a happier ending because people feel engaged in the process and they see the equality of opportunity, which is missing in more vertical structures.”
Amy Dean wrote this article for How Cooperatives Are Driving the New Economy, the Spring 2013 issue of YES! Magazine. Amy is a fellow of The Century Foundation and principal of ABD Ventures, LLC, a consulting firm that works to develop new organizing strategies for social change organizations. Dean is co-author, with David Reynolds, of A New New Deal: How Regional Activism Will Reshape the American Labor Movement. You can follow her on twitter @amybdean, or she can be reached via amybdean.com.
- How Workers Laid Off From a Chicago Factory Took It Over Themselves
When their boss tried to fire them, the workers of Republic Windows and Doors occupied the factory. Now they own it as a cooperative.
- The Cooperative Way to a Stronger Economy
Co-ops—just like people—can get more done together than anyone can do alone. They come in many forms, and are more common than you might imagine.
- Dear Bank of America, We're Not Leaving Our Homes
The fight against unjust evictions just got fiercer as the national Occupy movement joins forces with community anti-foreclosure groups.
This article originally appeared on Community-Wealth.org and is republished with permission. It was authored by Sarah McKinley.
In 2012, credit unions passed an important milestone: collectively, these cooperatively owned, one-member-one-vote financial institutions hold more than $1 trillion in assets. Taken together, they would equal the fifth largest U.S. bank, knocking Goldman Sachs out of the top five (keep in mind, this does not include other sectors of cooperative finance, which, if taken all together, would comprise one of the largest banks in the country).
Nationwide, there are more than 7,100 credit unions with more than 92 million members. Like all cooperatives, credit unions are democratically controlled by their members, giving each member a vote and equal say in how the institution is managed. Many credit unions also have a community development mission. They have helped provide credit, technical assistance, and other financing services, historically, to low-income individuals and communities.
The 92 million credit union members account for more than $1 trillion in assets. Photo credit: 401(K)2013. Used under Creative Commons license.
Now, there are currently three bills before the House of Representatives that affect how credit unions are able to serve their members. On February 22, the National Cooperative Business Association — dedicated toensuring that cooperative businesses, such as credit unions, have the same opportunities as other businesses — came out in support of all three. These bills grew out of the advocacy work of the Credit Union National Associationand the National Association of Federal Credit Unions.
This latest legislative activity represents a move by credit union activists to remove barriers to operating a credit union, raise awareness of the benefits of credit unions, and improve the performance of credit unions in their communities. The three proposed bills will help facilitate this by reducing regulation to make it simpler to operate a credit union with the goal of stimulating economic growth. As our economy falters, there is growing awareness that putting “people over profit” and community involvement at the forefront makes the best economic sense. These bills may help credit unions do just that.
The U.S. House of Representatives in session. Photo credit: Nancy Pelosi. Used under Creative Commons license.
Here is a little bit more about the three bills:
The Credit Union Small Business Jobs Creation Act would allow well-capitalized credit unions operating near the business lending cap to increase their business loan offerings to 27.5 percent of total assets, if they receive approval by the National Credit Union Administration. The current cap of 12.25 percent of total assets was imposed by Congress in 1998. Credit unions could lend an additional $13 billion to small businesses, helping them create over 140,000 new jobs in the first year after enactment.
This legislation would modify the definition of credit union net worth to include supplemental forms of capital for credit unions and allow the regulator to develop risk-based capital standards for the purposes of prompt corrective action.
The Eliminate Privacy Notice Confusion Act would require a privacy notification be sent to a member or customer only when the policy changes, rather than every year — even when nothing may have changed — which is currently required by law. This Act is a common sense regulatory relief measure that would make privacy notifications more meaningful for consumers and reduce the amount of diverted time and resources that a credit union’s staff could be using for more important services to its members.
Sarah McKinley is a consultant with The Democracy Collaborative. McKinley has a master’s of planning from Cornell University and a background working in the field of community development. She has worked with a number of community groups, including Martha’s Table in Washington DC and the Greater Southwest Development Corporation, a Chicago-based community development corporation, as well as with the National Alliance of Community Development Associations.
We know that there's wealth inequality in America. But it turns out, it's even worse than we thought. A study of 5,000-plus Americans found that perceptions of wealth distribution are not nearly as extreme as the reality of it.
This video, which is making the viral rounds at a breakneck pace, shows the truth of the matter: that income inequality is so severe, so outrageous, that it is, quite literally, off the chart.
A nice campanion to this video is a recent Demos report, "Stacked Deck" which details "how the dominance of politics by the affluent and business undermines economic mobility in America." What's clear is that a political solution to wealth inequality may be slow coming, all the more reason for us to create our own jobs, enterprises, housing, currencies, banks, education, and Internet access while the politics get sorted.