How can cooperative and alternative forms promote resiliency

Crises like the ongoing pandemic are opportunities to re-examine the taken-for-granted. While some of us re-consider the differential risk of engaging in everyday activities, others of us consider how organizational forms and markets could change to support wider interests. To explore the latter point, Virginia Commonwealth University Prof. Victor Tan Chen and I wrote a Fortune op-ed that draws on research collected in Organizational Imaginaries (2021, Emerald Publishing).

In our op-ed, we outline how cooperative and alternative forms could offer greater resiliency to economies and societies. In particular, we note how the US has a forgotten history of cooperative endeavors:

While cooperatives are well-known in many European countries, Americans may not realize that this model of organizing also has deep roots here. Cooperatives undergirded the early stages of U.S. capitalism, with communities establishing electrical cooperatives, insurance mutuals, and dairy cooperatives as alternatives to government bureaucracies and conventional firms alike. America’s early unions founded hundreds of industrial cooperatives to protect workers’ rights and share the gains of industry more equitably.

We argue that policymakers can help create conditions that promote versatile, adaptable organizations that might better weather various crises ahead:

As Congress takes up an infrastructure bill, policymakers should consider how they might foster what sociologists call “organizational infrastructure”—the local environment of resources and expertise that can nurture diverse forms of organizing. 

You can read more of our op-ed here.

For my latest, favorite example of a newly launched, worker-owned cooperative, see NYC cafe Seitan Rising and its Instagram page! (Gothamist coverage here)

Can worker cooperatives offer the sweet life? Photo credit: Seitan Rising Instagram

Also, check out New School Trebor Scholz, National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International (NCBA CLUSA) Doug O’Brien, and UToronto Jason Spicer’s take on worker cooperatives here!

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