Bob Cohen via Buckeye Farm News explains how cooperatives can help navigate the difficult economy.
The Cooperative Development Center at Kent State University has worked in the support, training, and development of many cooperatives, including Select Machine and the Evergreen Cooperatives, since the Center was established in 2009.
The AllBusiness website has an interesting article on the use of employee-owned cooperatives in small businesses. The article highlights a number of companies, including Cleveland’s own Evergreen family of cooperatives, who have used the cooperative model to empower and motivate their employees. A few have even used the model as a tool for ownership succession.
The article restates a familiar objection to cooperatives:
Co-ops have long been dismissed as touchy-feely experiments in business socialism, but with growing pressure on many traditional companies, the co-op model is getting increased attention — not just as a political statement of owner-worker solidarity, but as a fresh approach to business success.
For some people, cooperatives may indeed conjure up negative images of “socialism.” But for the many cooperative members around the country, the idea that they are engaging in some form of Utopian exercise would be some fresh news indeed (we cover this and other misconceptions about cooperatives in a previous post on our blog.)
It should be also noted that the author throws different types of cooperatives into the same jumbled bag. Employee cooperatives are part of a broad family of cooperative businesses, which include agricultural co-ops like Land of Lakes or Agland, which are owned by their farmer members (as mentioned in the article); credit cooperatives like credit unions, which are owned by their depositor members; mutual insurance companies like Nationwide and State Farm, which are owned by their policy holder members; and consumer co-ops like some natural food stores, which are owned by their customer members. For many of these other types of cooperatives, the employees may or may not also be owners of the business.
The OEOC has an extensive practice in setting up new employee-owned cooperatives, as well as significant experience with ownership transitions to employee-owned cooperatives. If you are interested in exploring this option in your company, drop us a line.
The Democracy Collaborative at the University of Maryland recently published a new survey, Growing a Green Economy for All, and made it available as a free download. The survey focuses on green jobs and “green ownership.” In other words, ESOPs and cooperatives. The book highlights two Ohio companies/initiatives: The EBO Group in Sharon Center, and our very own Evergreen Cooperative Initiative in Cleveland.
We recently put together a video on the Ohio Cooperative Solar story, one of the Evergreen family of cooperatives. What’s better, the video is now available on YouTube via the Cleveland Foundation’s YouTube stream.
The Evergreen Cooperative Initiative had as a source of inspiration the Mondragon Corporation cooperatives in the Basque region of Spain. Also on YouTube is a two part video detailing some of the history and scope of the related companies. (Part One, Part Two).