Sharing Ownership: Why Cooperative Businesses are Good for Women

What makes cooperatives different? Why are women and people of color drawn to them? How do you start one? Where can you get help? If you’ve ever wondered how exactly this different business model could help you and your community, keep scrolling.

We asked the experts at our latest Zoom of Our Own all about cooperatives—Jamila Medley, an independent co-op consultant working with black women’s co-ops, and Georgia Kelly, who coordinates trainings with Mondragon Cooperatives in Spain, the largest Co-op Corporation in the world, joined AEOO founder Rickey Gard Diamond, author of Screwnomics: How Our Economy Works Against Women and Real Ways to Make Lasting Change and the “Women Unscrewing Screwnomics” column at Ms. magazine, and founder of AEOO for the conversation.

As some feminist epistemologists (Gilligan, Belenky et al.) have taught us, seeing and seeking connections seems to be women’s ways of knowing. Our economics is lived in real complex communities. Our goal is to model how women can talk together and learn together about traditionally male territory still new to most women.

Our Zoom of Own Series brings women (and men!) together to construct a fuller knowledge and set of values now omitted from the mainstream “free market.” Together, we’re flipping the script on a racist, sexist economy.

These are the resources for this conversation.

DEFINITIONS

Corporation: A legal entity or “body” that stands separate from its owners. Whenever a company must be held accountable for wrongdoing, the blame falls only on the corporation, protecting the owners, or “shareholders,” from liability. Corporate governance is controlled by shareholders, who have invested capital expecting a profit; they consider workers an expense, not assets. The corporation’s profits may be re-invested in the corporation’s development — and/or distributed among stockholders in the form of “dividends.” Any losses can be written off taxes by shareholders and the corporation itself.

from Screwnomics: How the Economy Works Against Women and Real Ways to Make Lasting Change. Rickey Gard Diamond, SheWritesPress, 2018.

Profit: the financial benefit resulting from a business activity that generates more money than its expenses and any taxes involved. Profit is calculated as total revenue less total expenses. Any profits earned are returned to business owners, who choose to either pocket the new cash or reinvest it in the business.

Cooperative: a farm, business, or other organization owned and run jointly by its members, who share the profits or benefits, and manage expenses and the enterprise operation and governance. There are different types of cooperatives, including: consumer co-ops that jointly purchase goods or services needed; worker cooperatives, producer cooperatives, purchasing or share services cooperatives, and multi-stakeholder cooperatives. Members who are also owners may be either individual or business consumers, producers, workers, or investors.

The Seven Cooperative Principles

BOOKS, ARTICLES, AND VIDEOS

Ôwning Our Future: Journey to a Democratic Economy. Marjorie Kelly. (Barret-Koehler Publishers, 2012.)

The Case for Investing in Employee Ownership, Stanford Social Innovation Review.

FiftybyFifty report on Next Generation Enterprise, mission-led employee-owned firms as the best of the best.

Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice. Dr. Jessica Gordon Nembhard. The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2014. 311 pages.

AEOO board member Crystal Arnold, with Post Growth Institute, interviewed Dr. Jessica Gordon Nembhard for her podcast series, Money-Wise Women. Listen in on “Cooperatives for Economic Justice in Black America,” and ask yourself if cooperatives and economic justice wouldn’t be good for your community.

Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance has produced a self-guided webinar for the Philly region, but we think it’s an exciting introduction anywhere! Check out About Cooperatives: Co-ops 101: Philadelphia Edition.

Capitalish: An inspiring and educational video on Worker Co-ops in Philadelphia

How the cooperative model got started: Rochdale Pioneers

The Ujamaa Hour Archive. This is a monthly webcast sponsored by the New Economy Coalition, and hosted by Michael Tekhen Strode, exploring the Black social and solidarity economy thought intimate, informal conversation. Among the archive are voices and stories from contemporary Black women from across the United States working at the intersections of solidarity economy building including topics of food justice, cooperatives, shifting capital, real estate, and more.

Healing Music for the Movement Spotify Playlist. The importance of joy and healing in our cooperative work cannot be overstated, says AEOO’s Jamila Medley. Cooperative and collective movements have a long history of using arts, music and culture as a form of activism and changemaking. Join this legacy and check out these joyful tracks curated by another cooperator in the struggle!

Geo.coop — catalyzing worker co-ops and the solidarity economy

Take Back the Economy; An Ethical Guide for Transforming Our Communities. J.K. Gibson-Graham, Jenny Cameron, and Steven Healy. University of Minnesota Press, 2013.

And a special invitation! From May 15–21, 2022, Praxis Peace Institute, and the Educational Department of the Mondragón Cooperatives in Spain are offering a 5-day learning experience at the world’s largest consortium of 105 worker-owned businesses with nearly 80,000 worker-owners. For detailed information on prices, accommodations, and travel, visit praxispeace.org/mondragon.

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