Celebrating National Co-op Month this October has me thinking about just how many co-ops are out there meeting a wide range of people’s needs. Personally, I get my food, electricity, and outdoors gear from co-ops and do my banking with a credit union, which made me curious about what co-ops my co-op savvy co-workers belong to.
When 9 = 25
As it turns out, there are only 9 of us on staff at The Energy Co-op, but collectively we have over 25 memberships in a dozen different co-ops. Not surprisingly, the co-op we have most in common is The Energy Co-op (we’re not just staff, we’re members too!). Closely following our very own beloved organization is the ever-popular REI and then PFCU. We belong to food co-ops and other credit unions in our neighborhoods as well. The Energy Co-op itself is a member of two co-ops: NCBA CLUSA on the national level and PACA to support the growing local co-op movement. And that’s just us. Some people I serve with on PACA’s steering committee have closer to a dozen co-op affiliations just as individuals!
Obviously there must be something each of these co-ops has to offer its members that makes so many of us join more than one. The primary reason for most people is that we belong to co-ops that fulfill different purposes in our lives, like food, energy and banking, or housing, employment, and childcare, or others. In another post I talked about how co-ops exist in all industries and why cooperatives are flexible enough to be used as a model for almost anything you can think of. To illustrate, here’s a list of existing and emerging co-ops in our area alone:
|Consultants||Taxi Drivers||Green Builders||Artists||Purchasing|
With so many different co-ops around, it’s almost hard to imagine not being a member of more than one.
When 4 > 4
Exploring this a little more, it becomes clear that another reason for belonging to more than one co-op is movement building. Now this is not likely to be the top reason many people have several co-op memberships, but it is an exciting idea. It works like this: when I choose to be a member of and to shop at my local food co-op, I’m investing in this local business’s success. The more successful my local food co-op is, the more likely it is to be in a position to practice Principle 6, cooperation among co-ops. This may mean providing essential seed money for a start-up co-op, or helping to educate another co-op’s board in governance practices, or to share marketing dollars to promote several co-ops and the whole co-op movement at once. Knowing that cooperation isn’t just good business (although it is), but is part of a co-op’s cultural DNA, makes choosing co-ops first an easy decision. My four co-op memberships suddenly feel like so much more.
More fun co-op math:
To celebrate Co-op Month, we’re giving out EXTRA Referral Rewards. For each new member that signs up and mentions you, we’ll send you $30 (that’s enough to pay for 2 YEARS of membership). Learn more»
You + Me + You = Us = Co-op!
Thinking about how many great co-ops are here in Southeastern PA makes me also think about new ones that would be welcomed additions to the local co-op landscape. One cooperator and Energy Co-op member, David Woo, has often brought up the idea of a cooperative newspaper as a way to help democratize and finance local print media. What about a tutoring co-op or a cooperative restaurant? Since co-ops are created by their members to meet the needs of those members, and since co-op members can be households or businesses, employees or residents, or just about anyone with common interests, there’s no limit to the kinds of co-ops that could be created.