It was Steven Kelly who started things rolling, about a year ago at the founding Conference of the USFWC. At a plenary session, he introduced himself to all of us as someone who wanted to learn more about cooperative workplaces and bring that knowledge back into the (primarily) housing co-op community of NASCO, the North American Students of Cooperation. Good idea, I thought.
Little did I realize that he had planted a seed of collaboration deep in my mind’s overladen but still receptive soil. It took almost a year, but last March that seed began to sprout. Since then Steven and I have exchanged innumerable emails and phone calls; all of these aimed at envisioning new collaborative relationships among NASCO and its housing co-ops, GEO, and the two North American national worker co-op federations. He invited me to write a short piece for NASCO’s newsletter, Cooperative Voices, seeking input from their members on the desirability of developing educational programs – with and for them – on the wider cooperative movement. In turn, we asked Steven to share his ideas for how to bring the two cooperative sectors closer together. Despite its largely virtual character, the process has throughout been remarkably congenial and seems on track to yield very promising results:
• Steven will be presenting and supporting proposals for joint membership and collaboration on co-op education at the NASCO Board meeting in mid-June (see page ___ below);
• He has also proposed that such educational collaboration could begin this Fall, with GEO and the two national federations coordinating a "worker cooperative track" at NASCO’s annual Institute in Ann Arbor (November 11-13, with the apt theme this year of "Participatory Democracy").
• GEO has proposed that all of the inter-cooperating organizations jointly engage in raising funds to support the development of educational programs on the wider cooperative movement for NASCO’s group housing co-operators. (Frank Lindenfeld has identified several possibly promising foundations, and this information has now been sent to Steven to support his proposals at the NASCO Board meeting.)
• More inter-cooperative news, to come!
NASCO’s students are already experienced in the processes and problems of sustaining cooperative organizations. And many of them, like Steven himself, are far from being strangers to cooperative initiatives in a wide variety of sectors and around the globe. So the questions arise: "What sorts of non-housing cooperative experience, skills, and information do NASCO members already have?" and "What types of ‘educational programs’ would best meet their needs and desires?" These are the same questions I set before the readers of Cooperative Voices and on which I hope to get their responses. They are also the ones Steven responds to in reflecting on his own cooperative journey and the next steps for educational collaboration (see below).
Fortunately, Steven Kelly plans to attend the ECWD Conference this July 15-17 in Manchester, New Hampshire (see insert for this issue) where these two questions as well as nitty-gritty issues around finding funds to support this exciting collaborative initiative can be prominently placed on the agenda and, we hope, discussed at length (and, finally, face-to-face!). To this end, GEO has welcomed his participation in a collective meeting we have scheduled just before the formal conference events begin, on Friday the 15th of July.