I can't blog my tears and what I am feeling right now, but I know now better than I did yesterday why I am committed to solidarity and cooperation.  What else is there to say.
The Centro Ecologico has been promoting environmental sustainability and socially responsible practices for over 20 years in southern Brazil.

The top/down system we seek to change is embedded in us--in our nervous systems, our beliefs, our attitudes, our habits, and our behavior. We are what we are seeking to change.  It is not just out there.  And not only is it in here, but it is out there to a large extent because we, the change agents, re-produce it over and over and over in every kind of relationship we have. This is by no means just a tragic irony. No way. This is a great opportunity.

An early stage of translation of selections from two Portuguese texts about Banco Palmas, a community currency, banking, and entrepreneurship  enterprise initiated by the residents of the low income favela neighborhood of Conjunto Palmeiras in Fortaleza, Ceara, Brazil.

In the recent series on his blog, The Workers' Paradise ,McNamara is very strong on the possibility of the cooperative movement being able to move to scale.  But he wisely directs our attention to the big problems this is going to bring, problems that are already burdening cooperatives.  The primary one he refers to is “the agency problem” (which is pretty much what I mean by “top/down problem”).

...Atkinson brings to life the poignant irony of a blind man returning to the land of vision to show how those like you and me with normal, take-it-for-granted vision can and do manipulate our vision to see what we want and are conditioned to see without seeing that that is what we are doing.  And that we do this regardless of our race, color, culture, gender, sexual orientation, etc.

Listen to this, from the NYTimes:

 "All faiths are welcome to eat a free lunch daily at the Golden Temple, the holiest shrine for Sikhs, in Amritsar, India."

 "Soupy lentils, three and a third tons of them, bubble away in vast cauldrons, stirred by bearded, barefoot men wielding wooden spoons the size of canoe paddles. The pungent, savory bite wafting through the air comes from 1,700 pounds of onions and 132 pounds of garlic, sprinkled with 330 pounds of fiery red chilies.  It is lunchtime at what may be the world’s largest free eatery, the langar, or community kitchen at this city’s glimmering Golden Temple..."

Listen to this, from the NYTimes:

 "All faiths are welcome to eat a free lunch daily at the Golden Temple, the holiest shrine for Sikhs, in Amritsar, India."

 "Soupy lentils, three and a third tons of them, bubble away in vast cauldrons, stirred by bearded, barefoot men wielding wooden spoons the size of canoe paddles. The pungent, savory bite wafting through the air comes from 1,700 pounds of onions and 132 pounds of garlic, sprinkled with 330 pounds of fiery red chilies.  It is lunchtime at what may be the world’s largest free eatery, the langar, or community kitchen at this city’s glimmering Golden Temple..."

In 2005, Johnston Birchall addressed the International Co-operative community. It was the occasion of the the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the Statement on the Co-operative Identity. Prof. Birchall called for the community to "operationalize" the statement. Researchers at St. Mary's University in Halifax have created a tool to help worker co-ops do just that.

The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund on August 19, 2010 honored Alice Walker in Birmingham, AL at its annual dinner attended by more than 400 people.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author and self-proclaimed "daughter of the rural peasantry" was presented the Estelle Witherspoon Lifetime Achievement award by FSC Executive Director Ralph Paige. The largely black organization of farmer cooperatives works to save and preserve black-owned farmlands. 

How do we create a competitive advantage through the worker coop model when we treat ourselves so much better than the workers in our industry and pay for the higher cost of democracy?

One of the great treats at a national worker coop conference is to learn about the incredible stories that exist. It is easy, sitting in our cooperatives at home, to imagine a world where we are the greatest thing since sliced bread. Then we come to a conference and get our mind blown--not just once, or twice, but several times.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I wandered into the meeting room. The description discussed the important role of compassion in dealing with conflicts as opposed to the more common acts of assigning blame.

It was led by Michael Johnson who is part of the Valley Alliance of Worker Cooperatives, GEO and has been living in an intentional community for 30 years. Part of this workshop was based on his real-life experiences in attempting to find more productive methods of resolving conflict.

 There was so many rich quotes from the national worker cooperative conference that took place in Berkeley last weekend.  Many got lost in my unreadable handwriting.

Here are only a few that I was able to capture: 

 

hilary abell

"This isn't for everyone.  Co-ops are awesome."

--Hilary Abell, WAGES Executive Director.

 

patricia Feraud Toxic soil busters

The Evergreen cooperatives in Cleveland, Ohio was the story everyone wanted to hear at the opening session on Saturday Aug. 7, 2010 of the U.S. Federation for Worker Cooperatives conference in Berkeley. 

WAGES is being used as a model by Mexican and Central American immigrants to create their own jobs. Minsun Ji, El Centro Humanitario's executive director in Denver, CO, said when they contacted WAGES to be able to adapt the WAGES strategy locally: "We were so desperate. There were no jobs. We were really, really desperate."

At conferences it is always refreshing to meet great and inspiring people who are creating the change the world needs. Listening to the brass band on Saturday night and chanting "no bosses" was invigorating and refreshing. Thank you to all I had the pleasure of meeting.

I still have a few more posts on the National Worker Cooperative Conference held in Berkeley last week, but this post isn't about the specific workshops, but a general feeling and vibe that I found at the conference (and at other conferences). The work of building a cooperative society isn't quite like other trade associations or business cultures.

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