We at TESA are proud to have played a role in building the cooperative movement for the past 12 years. (Whew – that number feels weird to say!) In fact, since we first started working with organizations, co-op developers, city governments, community groups and more – we’ve helped build the cooperative movement locally, nationally, and even internationally.
Probably most famously, we created and published Co-opoly: The Game of Cooperatives, which is now in its fourth edition! It’s also been translated and localized in Malaysia, South Korea, Argentina, and now Brazil. Tens of thousands of people have played the game all over the US and the world; giving them the chance to learn about cooperatives and playfully practice cooperation.
In addition, we’ve also worked with people currently experiencing incarceration and those who were previously incarcerated to help them launch cooperatives for stable employment and affordable housing. We co-produced a free, 20 minute documentary on how to start a worker-owned cooperative that’s been viewed 60,000 times. We collaborated to design a nine-month program that helps launch childcare cooperatives. We’ve worked with cooperative experts and developers to overhaul their training programs so that they would be more participatory, interactive, and engaging (like co-ops themselves!). We built a gamified-curriculum for a cooperative dog-walking agency in New York City that wanted to better onboard new members of their team. We provided technical assistance to a BIPOC-led farming collective focused on increasing diversity in farming, working with them to build their co-op structure, governance system, and business plan. We’ve written and reflected on how co-ops build a better world as well as how we can work to better build the cooperative movement. Honestly, this is all just the tip of the iceberg – which, humblebrag, is actually kind of cool when we think about it all at once.
All of this is to say we’ve learned a lot during our time working with amazing cooperators and inspirational cooperatives. And to put it frankly, while cooperatives aren’t puppy dogs and rainbows (just like any systems made out of human interrelations, they have problems and experience issues), they are powerful organizations and tools that can fundamentally change lives, communities, and maybe someday – the world.
So based on our years of experience, here’s 10 reasons we think co-ops rock:
Here’s the list in text form:
- Cooperatives are democratic businesses and organizations equally owned and controlled by a group of people. In a cooperative, on member has one vote. There are worker co-ops, consumer co-ops, producer co-ops, financial co-ops, housing co-ops, and more.
- Because cooperatives are democratically owned by community members, co-ops keep money and jobs in their communities.
- Cooperatives aren’t a far off theory. Cooperatives offer achievable and practical solutions to many economic, environmental, and social problems that can be implemented right now.
- Cooperative aren’t charity; they’re an empowering means for self-help and solidarity.
- Members equally share the burden in hard times and equally share the benefits in good times.
- Cooperatives are more resilient in economic downturns and in impoverished communities. When other businesses might shut down or lay off workers, co-op members pull together to work out solutions.
- Cooperatives are an international movement. There are thousands upon thousands of cooperatives around the world that are making major differences globally and locally.
- Cooperatives strive to make people’s lives, communities, and economies more just, equitable, and democratic.
- There’s no one right way to do a co-op. They can be flexible to fit different community and individual needs. There are small co-ops with only three members, and there are big co-ops with thousands of members.
- Cooperatives are viable and just alternatives for meeting our social and economic needs in contrast to corporations that exploit the people and the planet.
To celebrate these reasons, we wanted to create some cool swag and apparel that lets people show off their co-op pride. There is of course our classic Co-opoly, and in addition below you’ll find some new merch: a t-shirt, canvas bag, and even a onesie for the young cooperators in your life!