Overview: Outside the U.S.

While the mission of Community-Wealth.org is to serve as an information platform for community wealth building within the United States, the forces driving these efforts — most notably, economic globalization and growing fiscal constraints on government — are hardly unique to the United States. It should therefore not be surprising that the community wealth building approach is not unique to our country. Indeed, while the growth of U.S. community wealth building strategies over the past three decades is impressive, international achievements are in some instances even more far reaching.

For example:

  • In Spain, the Mondragón Cooperative Corporation is the world’s largest network of worker cooperatives, with more than $20 billion in annual sales and over 80,000 employees.
  • In Great Britain, The Cooperative Group, which can trace its roots to an initial food co-op in Rochdale (near Manchester) with 28 “pioneer” member-owners, today is the world’s largest cooperative with 7.9 million member-owners, with over 4,800 retail outlets and 325 bank branches, among other industries.
  • In Japan, Seikatsu Club Consumers’ Co-operative Union, founded in 1965 as a buying club by 200 housewives in Tokyo, has grown to have over 340,000 members. Together, network enterprises have an annual turnover of US $1 billion. The network also includes 600 worker co-ops that employ over 17,000 people in such businesses as food distribution, food preparation, catering, recycling, childcare and education.
  • In Bangladesh, the Grameen Bank, which shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 with its founder Muhammad Yunus, has helped create the international micro-lending movement. In 2011, the bank had more than 8 million lenders and had more than 75,000 outstanding loans.

The international community wealth building strategies reviewed here provide illustrative models that suggest possibilities for future efforts in the United States. While we cannot be comprehensive of our coverage of international developments, the links and information sources here provide a good starting point for looking at exciting developments in asset strategies throughout the world.

Key Facts & Figures

# of cooperatives in the UK (2012) vs. # of cooperatives in the UK (2008) 

6,169 vs. 4,820*

Percent increase in the # of cooperatives in the UK (2008-2012)

28 percent*

# of cooperative memberships in the UK (2012) vs. # of cooperative memberships in the UK (2008)

15.4 million vs. 11.3 million*

Percent increase in co-op memberships in the UK (2008-2012)

36 percent*

# of credit unions worldwide (2012)

55,952*

Assets held by credit unions worldwide (2012)

$1.7 trillion*

Estimated # of cooperatives and credit unions in Canada (2014)

9,000*

Estimated # of members of cooperatives and credit unions in Canada (2014)

18 million*

Amount disbursed by Grameen bank since inception

$14.8 billion*

Total number of houses built with Grameen housing loans

695,557*

Community-wealth.org houses an extensive collection of resources focused on community wealth-building initiatives outside of the U.S. Below is a glimpse of the rich array of materials you will find as you explore our site:

Our Support Organizations section features major organizations that are working to promote community wealth-building around the world. One such group is the International Co-operative Alliance, an independent, non-governmental organization established in 1895 to unite, represent, and serve cooperatives worldwide. Today, it has members from 100 countries, representing one billion people.

Our Best Practices section showcases exemplary organizations from across the globe working in the community wealth-building field. For example, Mondragón, located in the Basque region of Spain, is a network of 289 companies, over a third of which are worker cooperatives. With over 80,000 employees, Mondragon’s core goals include job creation, the human and professional development of its workers, and social responsibility.

Our Research Resources section highlights internationally-focused, web-based resources related to community wealth building. For example, the New Economics Foundation is a London-based “think-and-do tank” that aims to transform the economy so that it works for people and the planet. Its website includes a range of research reports focused on the economy, environment, and social issues, including democracy and inequality.

Our Articles and Publications section includes links to a diverse selection of articles, reports, and papers focused on community wealth-building efforts around the world. One such book is The Co-operative Model in Practice: International Perspectives, which includes essays examining how the cooperative business model functions within diverse cultural and social contexts.

Lastly, our Toolbox features resources designed to help on-the-ground practitioners working in this field. There, you can access Diarmuid McDonnell, Elizabeth Macknight and Hugh Donnelly’s Co-operative Entrepreneurship: Co-operate for Growth (2012), which aims to guide entrepreneurs through the process of cooperative development.