Based on the study of the early cooperative communitarians, the anthropological study of indigenous and historical cultures, comparative economic systems, the Mondragon system and other modern cooperatives, and the assessment of our current situation, I have devised somewhat of a new paradigm for the funding of cooperative community development organizations.
At the core of the concept is the Neighborhood Improvement Fund. I can visualize neighbors forming eco-villages and coming together in larger neighborhood cooperatives. The neighborhood cooperatives would then form a union on the regional level and various regional organizations (Unions of Neighborhood Improvement Funds or UNIF) would form an alliance with the
other regions in the world. The organization(s) would be based on the following principles:
* cooperation (economic democracy)
* community stewardship
* peace and tranquility
* production and access to essential goods and services
* primacy of the pedestrian/walkability/new urbanism
* economy and humanity of scale
* risk diversification
* life long education
Most discussion and work in the area of community development finance relates to lending and micro-enterprises. The trouble with such strategies is that small businesses have a very high failure rate because they cannot compete with capitalist conglomerates. They are at an acute disadvantage with respect to economy of scale and risk diversification (i.e. conglomerates who are making good profits in one division can afford to forego profits in another endeavor in order to survive a period of intense competition). The problem with the emphasis on lending is that highly leveraging a business is usually a bad strategy since lenders have the first claim on revenues/profits.
What I propose is the formation of equity unions that give community members and workers the opportunity to invest in the ownership of the production and distribution of essential goods and services, and amalgamated/conglomerate cooperatives that would help make the local cooperatives competitive. My proposal is as follows:
Start in our (and all) neighborhoods, a Neighborhood Improvement Fund.
Each adult resident in the neighborhood would voluntarily invest in a mutual fund to be held in local credit unions. The purpose of the fund would be to create access to necessities (food, housing, household goods, clothing, hardware, building supplies, office products, appropriate transportation and energy and conservation, health items and services, education services, etc.) at the local level (i.e., within walking distance of all residents). The mutual fund would make investments only in community- and worker-owned (hybrid) cooperatives. All decision making would be democratic with a one-person, one-vote system, democratically elected Board, and a referendum system.
There would be an association or union of NIFs and we would encourage more wealthy neighborhoods to donate to poorer neighborhoods (perhaps through a 501(c)(3) vehicle). Through the Union of NIFs (UNIF), the NIFs would cooperate to achieve the benefits of economy of scale and bulk purchasing. Involvement in many business segments would create the competitive advantage of risk diversification.
cooperatives , cooperative , counter-economics