Cooperatives, Direct Democracy, and Sustainable Business Enterprises
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The unsustainability of advanced capitalism is no longer in doubt, with environmental degradation accelerating at unprecedented rates along with massively widening wealth inequality on a global scale. Worker-owned cooperatives offer an alternative model of entrepreneurship that bring direct democracy and genuine accountability to business. In what ways can worker-owned cooperatives be more sustainable, even regenerative, for the environment and for the various communities (at all points of the food chain) that they work with and affect? What potential do cooperatives have in creating a more socially and ecologically just world? What roles can cooperatives play in facilitating equity among historically marginalized groups?
In this program, we will examine the history of worker-owned cooperatives in the U.S. and internationally, along with contemporary case studies, with an emphasis on collective enterprises in the area of food and agriculture. Indeed, given the rising prices of prime farmland, prohibitive startup costs, unpredictability, and labor-intensive nature of agriculture, worker-owned cooperatives offer a more sustainable path towards starting and maintaining successful farm-based enterprises, with recent research indicating that worker-owned cooperatives are more productive than conventional businesses.
Cooperatives must be effectively managed using sustainable and sound business management principles. In this program we will examine the legal structures of entities and their tax implications, operationalizing of business plans and the general management of cooperative enterprises including accounting, human resources, marketing, payroll and income tax planning.
Historical and contemporary case studies include: 19th-century labor utopian cooperatives, African-American cooperatives from early to late 20th century, The Evergreen Cooperatives of Cleveland, Green Worker Cooperatives in New York, Cooperation Jackson, Mondragon in Spain, the Zapatistas in Southern Mexico, the horizontal cooperative movement in Argentina, urban agriculture collectives in Cuba, and small farmer cooperatives in India. Other topics of study include comparisons between family and monopoly capitalism, solidarity economics, and social entrepreneurship. A community-based learning component will include site and work visits to cooperative businesses in the Olympia area.
This offering will prepare you for careers and advanced study in:
Agriculture, Entrepreneurship, Sustainable Development, Urban and Rural Planning, Coooperative Enterprises
Credits per quarter
- Hybrid Online Learning - This offering delivers < 25% of its instruction online, rather than via face-to-face contact between you and your instructors.
$150 per student to cover entrance fees for tours of coops, gardens, farms, and museums, as well as for any miscellaneous supplies needed for these day trips.
Class Size: 50
Scheduled for: Day
Final schedule and room assignments:
First meeting:Sunday, March 29, 2020 - 9:00 am
Located in: Olympia