Growing a Co-operative Economy — Together!
From food co-ops to farmer co-ops, worker co-ops to credit unions, and housing co-ops to energy co-ops, people-centered co-operative enterprises build a better world! And one of the best ways to grow the Co-operative Economy is to seek out and support co-ops in your community, when you shop and where you choose to invest. You can GO CO-OP every day by:
- Joining your local co-ops
- Purchasing co-op products and services
- Investing in co-operative businesses &
- Learning more about how co-operative enterprises build a better world!
Find Your Food Co-op!
The Neighboring Food Co-op Association is a federation of more than 35 food co-ops across New England and New York State. Together, we are building our vision of a thriving regional economy, rooted in a healthy, just and sustainable food system. We invite you to join your local food co-ops (you can join more than one!). For a map of food co-ops in our region, visit www.nfca.coop/members.
Join a Local Credit Union!
Credit unions are co-operatively organized, not-for-profit financial institutions with a proud history of helping people help themselves and each other, building more resilient local communities. Members of credit unions pool their resources that are then used to provide loans and other financial services to one other. Many food co-ops have relationships with local credit unions. For example, members of River Valley Market in Northampton, MA, are eligible for membership in the UMASSFive College Credit Union, while Willimantic Food Co-op in Connecticut has a similar relationship with Northeast Family Credit Union.
To join a credit union near you, visit the Credit Union National Association’s credit union finder.
We also invite you to look for co-op products when you shop at your local food co-op. “GO CO-OP” signs on our shelves identify items that have been supplied by co-ops. You may be surprised by some of the examples that you might find from our region, including:
|Cabot Creamery is owned by a co-operative of 1,200 family farmers in New England and New York. Look for their award-winning cheese, butter and other dairy products. http://www.cabotcheese.coop|
|Deep Root Organic Co-op includes 14 family farm members in Vermont and nearby Québec offering fresh organic produce and fermented vegetables. http://www.deeprootorganic.com|
|Organic Valley is owned by its more than 1,600 farmer members. Look for their organic dairy products including milk — sourced from their 175 New England members — cheese, and butter, as well as soy milk and orange juice. http://www.organicvalley.coop|
For a larger list of co-op products and services, visit www.nfca.coop/co-opproducts.
You can also put your money to work by investing in co-ops and funds that help co-ops grow and serve their communities. Examples include:
- Shared Capital Cooperative (SCC) is a co-operative community development financial institution (CDFI) committed to fostering economic democracy by investing in co-operative enterprises. SCC currently serves more than 170 co-op members in 30 states, including natural food, consumer, producer, housing and worker-owned cooperatives, creating opportunities for co-ops and social investors to invest in the national co-operative movement. For more information, visit their website at www.sharedcapital.coop.
- The Cooperative Fund of New England (CFNE) is a non-profit community development financial institution (CDFI) that serves as a bridge between socially responsible investors and co-operatives, community oriented non-profits, and worker-owned businesses in New England. For more information, visit their website.
- Other opportunities include food co-ops that accept external investment such as NFCA member start-up Dorchester Food Co-op, or other co-operatives in our region such as Artisan Beverage Co-operative, Equal Exchange and Organic Valley.
Looking for resources for education and outreach? Check out “Co-operatives: The Business of Teamwork,” an educational curriculum includes modules for all age groups from first grade to adult, developed by the Farmers Union and the NFCA:
Start a Study Group in your community using a book on the co-operative movement and co-op enterprise:
- Strengthening the Cooperative Community (2021), by E.G. Nadeau, How can we reduce inequality, combat global warming, and become more democratic? The author proposes practical recommendations on how co-ops can become an even more dynamic force for positive change that benefits people and the environment in the 21st century.
- Freedom Farmers: Agricultural Resistance and the Black Freedom Movement (2018), by Monica M. White, expands the historical narrative of the Black freedom struggle to embrace the work, roles, and contributions of southern black farmers and the organizations they formed, including co-operatives.
- From Corporate Globalization to Global Co-operation (2016), by J. Tom Webb, argues that a massive shift to co-operative enterprise is a viable alternative to global capitalism and our best hope for the future.
- Building Co-operative Power (2014), by Janelle Cornwell, Michael Johnson and Adam Trott, with Julie Graham, explores worker co-ops in the Connecticut River Valley, the development of the Valley Alliance of Worker Co-ops, and its collaboration with the Neighboring Food Co-op Association and other partners to grow the co-operative economy.
- Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought & Practice (2014), by Jessica Gordon Nembhard, is a pathbreaking book on the important role of co-operative economics in African American history.
- The Cooperative Solution (2012), by E.G. Nadeau, is a short, readable book on how co-ops offer a solution to our current economic, social and environmental crises.
- The Co-operative Revolution: A Graphic Novel (2012), published by the New Internationalist co-operative, this book “illustrates the history and enduring appeal of this robust business model.”
- EcoMind: Changing the Way We Think, to Create the World We Want, by Frances Moore Lappé, challenges the way we see the world and includes co-ops as a solution.
- Happiness, Democracy and the Cooperative Movement: The Radical Utilitarianism of William Thompson (2014), by Mark Kaswan, explores conceptions of happiness before moving to theories of utility, then to democratic theory, and finally to practice in the first detailed account of how Thompson’s ideas laid the foundations for the cooperative movement, which is now the world’s largest democratic social movement.
- Humanizing the Economy: Co-operatives in the Age of Capital (2010), by John Restakis, is an excellent overview of the history and relevance of the co-operative movement to contemporary challenges.
- Local Dollars, Local Sense (2011), by Michael Schuman, includes a chapter on the “Hidden Power of Co-operatives.”
- Weavers of Dreams: Founders of the Modern Co-operative Movement (2012, 2nd Ed), by David J. Thompson, presents the story of the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers who in 1844 established the basic economic principles that continue to guide the modern co-operative movement.
Take a Course on co-ops. Opportunities in our region include:
- The International Centre for Co-operative Management at Saint Mary’s University offers rigorous and dynamic online degree programs for co-operative management professionals, as well as shorter training and education programs. Choose the 3-year Master of Management, Co-operatives and Credit Unions, the Graduate Diploma in Co-operative Management (20 months) or the Bilingual Certificate in Co-operative Management (10 months), or from a menu of trainings offered throughout the year.
- The University of Massachusetts, Amherst, offers a number of courses on co-ops as well as a Certificate in Applied Economic Research in Co-operative Enterprise. The NFCA is a member of the UMASS Co-operative Enterprise Collaborative (UMACEC), which has helped to develop these programs in collaboration with the Economics Department.
- Visit the NFCA’s Co-op Calendar for upcoming conferences, trainings, and other co-op and food system-related events.