CoopEcon 2012: Building Democratic Ownership in the US South
This July 27-29 brings the second Southeast-wide gathering sponsored by the Southern Grassroots Economies Project.
People from across the South who are determined to take control of their economic futures will convene in Epes, Alabama at the Rural Training Center of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives for CoopEcon 2012. Joining them will be co-op developers, business experts, and individuals engaged in building community-based enterprises who will share their skills and knowledge for two days in the heart of the South.
There is a vibrant and rapidly growing movement of community-based and worker-owned businesses across the United States, and internationally. SGEP is connecting to this movement and helping spark it’s growth in the South. We are bringing people and organizations with long histories of cooperative and community-based business development together with those just getting started. We are starting to build collaborative resources and tools to help us expand our work. And we are building trust with each other—a currency that will be increasingly vital as the economic structures that many now take for granted continue to crumble and fail our communities.
Who is the conference for?
This conference is for people who live in the US South* and are:
- interested in launching a cooperative business OR
- planning to transition an existing non-cooperative business to a cooperative model OR
- already employed in or own a cooperative business.
*Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia,
- Creating a shared understanding of the social, political and economic realities of the South, placing it in a broader context.
- Expanding participants’ knowledge and skills related to building cooperatives and the solidarity economy for the purpose of creating jobs and community wealth.
- Building a welcoming cooperative environment that begins with existing relationships and expands the SGEP network.
- Developing a vision and plan of action for building an ongoing movement around cooperative economics in the South.
Conference Structure: Two tracks of training and Open Space Technology
CoopEcon 2012 features two tracks of training to create a structure for the skill-building portion of our work that recognizes two broad, but distinct areas of needed skills. The first track looks at the skills required to bring a cooperative business into existence. Due the state of the economy and the state of development of co-operatives in the South, there are many people who are newly interested in building cooperative enterprises but do not know where to start, the steps to take, nor where to get additional assistance. People will leave Epes armed with a clear idea of whether building such a business is right for them and if so, some concrete knowledge of how to begin that process and sources of the assistance that they will need. Carlos Perez de Alejo with Cooperation Texas and Melissa Hoover of the Federation of Worker Cooperatives will coordinate Track 1.
The second track will address the ongoing needs of existing cooperative enterprises for further development. The goals of that development need to be outlined. These might include expanding employment, increasing wage levels to living wage standards, improving management processes, improving governing processes, gaining access to funds for expansion, etc. The best argument for developing worker-owned-cooperative businesses is the existence of transformative examples in communities that exemplify the principles and ideas that we are sharing. Many of the existing cooperative businesses are struggling with the challenges of remaining and becoming more successful. This track should boost the work and help with creating some new relationships as well as opportunities to share best practices and things to be avoided. Tom Pierson from the North Country Coop Development Fund and Myra Bryant from the Mississippi Association of Cooperatives have agreed to coordinate Track 2.
Both tracks will be “nuts and bolts” discussions about how to do what is needed at the existing stage of development of cooperative enterprises. We will know from the registration information into which of these two tracks attendees should be placed.
Open Space Technology will provide the setting for numerous additional learning and networking opportunities. In particular, there are planned discussions on Cooperative financing, regional horizontal and vertical networking in rebuilding southern clothing and textile manufacturing, and other topics both planned and spontaneously arising from attendees. Click here to read more about what Open Space Technology is and how it will be used at CoopEcon 2012.