COLAB KICKS OFF THE COOPERATIVE STUDY GROUPA critical mass of students and CoLab staff has begun meeting regularly to collectively explore the importance of cooperatives. CoLab program manager Carlos Javier Espinoza Toro (CJET) convened the group and is facilitating their learning journey. Back in 2007, when Carlos was a student at MIT, he helped put together a course on cooperatives that was taught by Lynn Benander, the President and CEO of Coop Power. Three years later, Carlos is still passionate about cooperatives and so he has organized this study group. In this post, Carlos explains the purpose and meaning behind this endeavor.Q: Why are cooperatives important?
CJET: Cooperatives are important because a democratic component plays an important part in their operations. This democratic component allows for individuals to come together and deliberate on decisions that affect their workplace, their economic well-being and their lives in general. On a side note, I am fascinated with how cooperatives deal with the common bond among individuals, with the idea that what brings people together goes beyond monetary value, and with the belief that this common bond creates a strong community.
Q: What is the cooperative study group?
CJET: The cooperative study group is a platform for research, discussion and reflection around cooperatives as a model to build community wealth. Ultimately the group seeks to inspire pioneering experiences based on the cooperative model.
Q: Why did you convene this group?CJET: I was inspired by my visit to the Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland, OH. During this visit I witnessed different dimensions of a cooperative revival in the US. I met with foundation representatives who have educated themselves in the cooperative model and identified it as a strategic means for wealth generation. I also met with cooperative worker owners who proudly conveyed their experience as start up entrepreneurs. Furthermore, I also met with representatives of well-established institutions who, by doing business with these cooperatives, show enormous solidarity with their local community.
Q: Who is part of the study group? How did they get involved?
CJET: The group is composed of 8 participants and 10 guests. Among these participants there are first and second year MIT graduate students and staff from MIT CoLab. Among the guests, there are leaders of not for profit organizations and MIT alumni. The group formation and growth was based upon informal conversations about the cooperative model as a means for building community wealth.
Q: What are the aspirations of the group for this year?
CJET: This year, the group’s aspirations are diverse and ambitious. Popular education materials curricula for cooperative development, business model for trash pickers, and the creation of an aquaponics and landscaping worker-owned cooperative are just some examples of what participants would like to achieve. My personal goal is for the study group to achieve sustainability within MIT. Even though participants are thinking about their personal goals, the group comes together to further discuss how these goals develop group goals.
Post by Amy Stitely, U.S. Green Hub Program Director at CoLab.