Dear Richard,Look forward to hearing from youBest wishesHazel Ashton
Vera B wrote:
Hi Richard, a few bits of feedback re your latest. I like the section on local money… I had an uneasy feeling that maybe a system that demands voluntary “fiscal prudence” has a fatal flaw… then I remembered the Guernsey pound. 🙂 What is the track record there? 150 or so years of fiscal prudence?Would local money be allowed to persist if it become successful, sweeping into the mainstream? That is the big question. In Wörgl, they had to employ the army to crush local money… but crush it they did.Best —Vera
Hi RichardWhat happens when ‘the common good’ isn’t seen as common by the whole community? The vocal minority are great for initiating change but it may not reflect either the majority or even best practice. In some ways it’s a pity that the most active people are those who don’t ‘work’. For example, I’m retired so my intellect is less sharp than when I worked daily with a wide range of intelligent people. But, if I vote across a large population, not just local, there is a greater chance of finding intellectually qualified people to articulate a more inclusive ‘common good’ and a better chance of ending up with a wider balance. Size has its uses.How can members of a local community best balance working for the group with working for the nation and world on which they are equally (or more) reliant (eg for scarce skills: doctors and teachers, or scarce resources: cat scanners, road maintenance, telecoms, trade offices, disarmament initiatives)? Some seem to expect to get these services for free ‘on the dole’.How do you tell a local tradesman his quality is poor if you don’t know what outside suppliers can offer? We have some great local providers but a couple are pretty poor. On the other hand they need to live too and someone has to support them. Could we persuade outside suppliers to improve our local skills if it will reduce their market?How do local community members keep up to date with world ideas, changes and standards if the extra time they work locally (maybe doing things they believe in but may not be good at, eg growing local food) reduces their time available to understand the world and other people’s experiences and ideas? Our local activists are in contact with some really forward thinking on the things that interest them but aren’t as current with things outside their focus – eg nutritional value of foreign foods, need of developing countries to sell their products to survive, what we’re finding in Antarctic ice cores.How do we limit the risks of local money (like our time bank)? It’s good for bartering locally available skills but a contributor may find nothing locally that (s)he needs so they get nothing in return. Like sovereign debt and currency markets, a local currency’s value is either limited to local goods and services or dependent on outsiders’ perceptions for combating risk and bartering non local goods and services (Greeks want to buy fish but can’t buy oil to catch it).I would welcome your views. Sue
There are several kinds of co-ops, including worker-owned co-ops, consumer-owned co-ops, and co-ops whose members are other enterprises, such as a marketing co-op for local farmers. Co-ops provide both economic and cultural benefits to the community, and to co-op members.
Culturally, co-ops bring local people into a collaborative relationship, and they give them experience in managing their own ‘community affairs’, within the microcosm of the co-op. In these ways co-ops help build a sense of community, and a sense of empowerment, among community residents.
The initial funding for co-ops typically comes at least in part from the members themselves, which minimizes start-up indebtedness, and motivates the owner-members to make a success of the venture. And without non-participating investors, a co-op has the flexibility to operate on a break-even basis if that best serves the interests of the members and the nature of the co-op. In these ways, the co-op form is complementary to the goals of local self-sufficiency and community empowerment.
Consumer co-ops are a means of leveraging buying power, getting goods at wholesale prices, being able to control the quality of the goods, and being able to choose the suppliers. When people shop at a local co-op, wealth isn’t being drained from the community, as it is when they shop at corporate outlets. And the co-op can give preference to local suppliers. Unfortunately, while cheap foreign imports are still so readily available through corporate outlets, consumer co-ops can have a hard time competing in the local marketplace.
Co-ops whose members are enterprises can be leveraging either buying power or marketing budgets, depending on which side of the supply chain the co-op is operating on. These kinds of co-ops can be of considerable benefit to small local businesses, increasing their competitiveness by reducing their costs, while at the same time providing them with broader access to suppliers and markets.
Local worker-owned co-ops can be very beneficial to both the workers and the community, particularly if the members were formerly unemployed or under-employed. In these cases, the worker benefits significantly, and the community economy also gains from the productive contribution of formerly wasted local talent. Local talent is a local resource, and as with all local resources, if it can become more productive, that contributes to both community prosperity and community self-sufficiency.
Mondragon provides not only a successful model of local funding, but also a very successful and highly evolved model for worker co-ops, as described in the documentary video referenced above. They have developed a set of guidelines, and organizational mechanisms, that make for a very healthy enterprise.
Under their system, the management team is empowered to do its job on a day-to-day basis, while at the same time the owner-workers are effectively represented at every level of the organization, ensuring that the co-op is managed in the best interests of all concerned. Ongoing communication across the levels of the organization is maintained, by means of various councils.
A participatory spirit of ‘being on the same team’ is very important to the sound functioning of a worker-owned co-op, and at Mondragon they have learned that this spirit becomes difficult to maintain if a co-op grows too large. Rather than adding a new division to an existing co-op, for example, it often makes more sense to spin off a new autonomous co-op.
A sense of team participation not only makes for productive and efficient operation, but it makes it easier for members to work out an equitable arrangement in bad economic times as well: Mondragón Worker-Cooperatives Decide How to Ride Out a Downturn.
• Harmonizing community concerns