Jessica Gordon Nembhard on the history of cooperatives and the civil rights movement

Jessica Gordon Nembhard
Jessica Gordon Nembhard

Our friend and colleague Jessica Gordon Nembhard will publish her new book, “Collective Courage: A History of African-American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice” in May. She spoke to about this critical, but often overlooked, part of the Civil Rights Movement.

Continue reading Jessica Gordon Nembhard on the history of cooperatives and the civil rights movement

Sitting in Metacom’s Chair

View from Metacom's Chair
View from Metacom's Chair
View from Metacom’s Chair

Going out to Metacom’s Chair, which sits overlooking Mouth Hope Bay, the City of Fall River, Massachusetts, and what was once all land that my Pokanoket and Pocasset Wampanoag ancestors inhabited, was a frequent occurrence throughout my childhood. It’s been over 400 years since Metacom, the Sachem of the Pokanoket tribe and also known as King Phillip, sat in that chair to see the land and bay. Over the past 400 years the landscape has shifted drastically, much of it due to the colonization that has taken place, which also impacts the increased shifts in climate change. If one is to sit in that chair today the current view is something like this.

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This weekend: Building Solidarity Economies in North Carolina through ReWeaving!

ReWeaving North Carolina

People from across North Carolina are headed to Greensboro this weekend for the ReWeaving NC conference. This event brings together people interested in building a new economy based on solidarity, cooperation, and sustainability.

ReWeaving North Carolina

Several staff of the Fund for Democratic Communities are presenting, along with our friends from PB Greensboro and the Renaissance Community Coop. It will be a great space to think and dream and plan together about the North Carolina we want, and have already begun, to build.

Continue reading This weekend: Building Solidarity Economies in North Carolina through ReWeaving!

Ed Whitfield on why the “teach a man to fish” parable is a “mean spirited lie.”

Ed Whitfield at 2013 reRoute Conference

Ed Whitfield spoke on the opening panel of the reRoute conference in Boston a few weeks ago. He used his “water holes and fishin’ poles” metaphor to discuss how the current economic system we operate within is fundamentally designed to prevent communities from developing their own wealth and directing their own future.

You can view the entire panel discussion here, and more from the conference here.

Thanks to Eli Feghali of the New Economics Institute for editing this piece out of the longer panel discussion from reRoute.

Credit unions face threat from Congress

Don't Tax My Credit Union

Don't Tax My Credit Union

Many more people are members of cooperatives than you might think. There are energy cooperatives providing electricity to people across the country, there are health care cooperatives providing more affordable insurance, and if you bank at a credit union, you are a member of a cooperative! Credit unions in the United States are created as non-profit organizations “owned” by their members, who generally receive better services and lending rates than traditional banks. There is an effort underway in Congress to end the tax exempt status credit unions enjoy. The Credit Union National Association writes:

The bankers want to use the tax reform process – still going on behind the scene, with bills scheduled to be introduced in September or October – as a means to raise your taxes and tax credit unions out of existence in the process.

The American Banker Association has even launched a website and grassroots campaign asking Congress to tell credit unions, “It’s Time 2 Pay.”

Well, we think the 96 million Americans who rely on their credit union every day pay enough already. We know that a tax on credit unions is just another tax on those same 96 million credit union members.

Find out more about this effort at the Don’t Tax My Credit Union website set up by the Credit Union National Association (CUNA). Credit unions play an invaluable role in protecting individual and community wealth – particularly in a period of economic instability. These community-based financial institutions are beginning to invest more heavily in small businesses, competing with bigger for-profit banks. Learn more about this from CUNA at their website, here.

Who is a city for?

Sign announcing teen curfew in downtown Greensboro
Sign announcing teen curfew in downtown Greensboro
Sign announcing teen curfew in downtown Greensboro

One thing I do a lot is think about urban planning, place-making, and public space. Something I do just as much is ask questions. So the question I’ve got on my mind as of late is:

“Who is a city for?”

Are cities meant for people? Are they meant for businesses? Are they meant for young people, or old people, or the wealthy, for houseless people, renters, recent immigrants, generational residents, artists, people of specific or varied racial identities, or any of the many different kinds of people?

Here in Greensboro we must ask ourselves this very question. Who is Greensboro made for? Who is it currently being made and envisioned for? Who is Greensboro? Part of the answer is connected to whom we ask this question, and who is allowed to answer.

We are in a critical place in the development of Greensboro’s identity, which will be formed and reformed whether intentionally, haphazardly, or with little consideration for all those it will affect.

Recently in Greensboro the city council voted to impose a curfew on people under the age of 18 when they are in the downtown of the city. This is an example of several things; the shaping of Greensboro’s identity without everyone’s input; of closing off the commons, an already scarce resource in Greensboro; and the permission for police profiling. This curfew answers the question of who this city is for, as it seems to indicate a lack of trust in young people. This is occurring at the same time that young people are championed as the “future”. The curfew is a tool to perpetuate the villainization of and in turn criminalization of youth, specifically black youth, brown youth and working class youth. Holding onto young people in this city is something that Greensboro claims it wants to do. But which young people do we want? Is it only young professionals, middle class folks, and mostly white folks that are valued and invested in, that the city is conceived for?

This curfew also runs the risk of creating a Greensboro brain drain. If young people aren’t allowed to participate in the use of a city, in the creation of a city, then it only makes sense that we’ll feel unwelcome and policed, and keep to certain parts of the city; parts of the city that aren’t being invested in the same way as downtown, lest we forget that the city is not confined to just the downtown. Or we leave the city all together and contribute our creativity, energy, and passion in other places where there is opportunity and where we are welcome and encouraged to create. This will inevitably affect the face of our city.

When thinking about who a city is for, it is critical that we understand that we all have a right to the city, both in its physical space, but also in its creation. So I challenge each of us to go further, to demand of the city, and enact in our daily lives what it would look like to draw young people in, to draw all sorts of people in to the conversation and creation of what we each want the city to look like. We’re all responsible, but as I said everyone has to be allowed to answer these questions, to have their voice heard, instead of being pushed out by such exclusive practices like the curfew. Greensboro, what will we do?

Looking forward to the Eastern Conference on Workplace Democracy

Eastern Conference on Workplace Democracy
Eastern Conference on Workplace Democracy
Eastern Conference on Workplace Democracy

Here at F4DC we are really excited about the upcoming Eastern Conference on Workplace Democracy! This event, held every two years, brings together people from across the eastern half of the United States to learn about democratically run workplaces and cooperative economies.

The conference takes place at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA from July 26-28. This year’s conference them is “Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities:”

Democratic Community Economic Development Through Worker Ownership

We have a voice in our own communities’ economic development through democratic workplaces! Democratic workplaces – such as worker-owned cooperatives – are growing in many ways as a viable alternative to a society that lacks meaningful humanizing jobs and democracy in everyday life.

As we seek to grow in response to the massive need for workplace democracy, let’s take time to explore how we can best thrive – as individual members, as cooperatives, as communities and as a movement. We can help each other understand just what it means to grow sustainable democratic workplaces. Exploring how to grow healthily is even more important in democratic workplaces for building relationships and solid processes.

Let’s discover together how we can cultivate and maintain our democracy while reaching out to share this opportunity with others!

The conference features great speakers, panels, and an amazing variety of workshops. Check out the official website for more information and, if you’re interested, register today!

Food Co-op Initiative Announces Grant Opportunity

Food Co-op Initiative Seed Grants

Our friends at the Food Co-op Initiative are making grants to new food co-op startups. Below is the press release they issued yesterday:

Food Co-op Initiative today announced they are accepting applications for grants up to $10,000 for development of new grocery co-ops. The Seed Grant program provides a cash award along with proven resources to help organizations achieve success. Food Co-op Initiative advisers will work closely with awardees throughout their organizing process, including making at least one in-person visit to the community.

Food Co-op Initiative’s Seed Grant program is designed to streamline the startup process to foster the maximum number of successful, sustainable co-ops. These competitive grants must be matched by the co-op with funds raised locally. Grants may be used for payment to professional consultants, registration fees and expenses to attend training opportunities, and initiatives supporting member recruitment, capital-raising, community outreach, or other aspects of organizing the co-op.

Food Co-op Initiative was founded in 2010 in response to a continuing wave of interest in establishing new retail food co-ops. The Initiative provides a range of services to the hundreds of volunteer groups working to bring improved access to food and the other economic and social benefits of cooperatives to their communities.

In 2012, Food Co-op Initiative awarded $100,000 to 14 organizations in 12 states. Grants are funded by the USDA, Blooming Prairie Foundation, and the kind support of cooperators nationwide. Applications and guidelines are downloadable at Deadline for applications to be received is August 1st. Awards will be announced by September 1st.


About Food Co-op Initiative: Food Co-op Initiative is a non-profit foundation created to provide resources and support for communities that want to start new food co-ops. Food Co-op Initiative provides support, referrals, and training to help communities nationwide create successful grocery cooperatives.