Jackson Rising conference brings together social justice and cooperative activists
While the words “co-op” and “civil rights” do not commonly appear in the same sentence, with more than 300 cooperative and social justice activists gathered in Jackson, Mississippi, last weekend, the question was hard to avoid.
Founded in 1934 by a small group of teachers who pooled their funds to make loans to other teachers, Westerra Credit Union now has more than 90,000 members and total assets exceeding $1 billion. Through its school grant program, Westerra has remained focused on supporting teachers by providing small grants to help teachers purchase materials and cover costs related to afterschool and other programs. The credit union also provides free financial education programs and sponsors a range of community events.
With roots back to 1940, Connex Credit Union now has assets valued over $450 million, more than 45,000 members, and 7 branches across the New Haven region. Committed to improving the lives of its members, Connex supports a range of charitable and community programs, including its Coins for Change initiative, which donates 100 percent of the small fee required to use its coin cashing machines to community nonprofits. Connex also offers free financial education workshops and special accounts targeted towards teens and students.
The international co-operative movement has seen a series of catastrophic failures of large scale co-operatives in recent decades, such as the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, retail co-ops in Germany, France and Atlantic Canada, banking in Austria and the near meltdown of the Co-operative Group in the UK. Yet our co-operative culture has not been one of seeking to understand the factors which are common in these events and which, if understood, could be used to prevent such collapses in the future.
Democracy at Work Institute, The Democracy Collaborative
On June 13 and 14, 2016 in Washington, DC, many of the nation’s leading experts in employee ownership, sustainable business and finance, community and economic development, and philanthropy came together in a Learning + Design session. Co-hosts for the meeting were Marjorie Kelly and Jessica Bonanno of The Democracy Collaborative and Camille Kerr of Democracy at Work Institute. The purpose of the session was to discuss how to achieve unprecedented scale of employee ownership by focusing on achieving an audacious goal: 50 million U.S. employee-owners by 2050. This report summarizes and expands upon the June meeting:
In this article for The Hill, Democracy Collaborative Executive Vice President and Senior Fellow Marjorie Kelly describes the growing movement toward broad-based ownership and how communities are coming together to take control of their local economies. Kelly highlights some of the innovative strategies used by communities on the ground, such as the cooperative ownership business conversion, which is poised to achieve expanded scale in the near future:
Established in 1930 as Dallas Postal Credit Union, Neighborhood Credit Union is the oldest credit union in the Dallas-Fort Worth region. The credit union currently has assets greater than $325 million, 10 branches, and over 30,000 members, the majority of whom are underserved by traditional banking institutions. With a goal of helping North Texans improve their financial health and wellbeing, it gives members access to free financial coaching and education. Read more about Neighborhood Credit Union...
Founded in 1931 by a small group of Dallas teachers, Credit Union of TX (CUTX) now has over $1.2 billion in assets (ranking it as one of the largest credit unions in the country), more than 120,000 members, and 12 Dallas area locations. The credit union remains focused on supporting education by providing scholarships to area students pursuing higher education and by supporting area schools. Read more about Credit Union of TX (CUTX) ...
Established in 1942 in a small cubbyhole in the basement of the old City Hall, City CU now has over $320 million in assets, more than 40,000 members, and 7 Dallas area branches. Committed to “People Helping People,” the credit union provides free financial counseling and educational classes for all community residents (including non-members). Read more about City Credit Union...
This second paper in Citi Community Development’s Building the Inclusive Economy series focuses on scaling worker cooperatives as a means to create quality jobs and wealth-building opportunities for low-income workers. Authored by Hillary Abell, Co-founder of Project Equity, and Melissa Hoover, Executive Director of the Democracy at Work Institute, the report draws from the experiences of Cincinnati, Ohio, Madison, Wisconsin, New York City, the San Francisco Bay area, and western North Carolina to develop a framework for understanding the successful components of a “cooperative growth ecosystem.” These include collaboration across sectors, diverse funding streams, and a “guiding coalition” to create a strategic vision: