I recently attended the third annual Slow Living Summit in Brattleboro, Vermont. The Slow Living Movement is the antidote to the fast-paced society we find ourselves in and attempts to offer an alternative means to daily living. Workshops held at the event focused on topics such as slow money, slow design, slow gardening, and slow transportation. I was also very happy to find that there were a few workshops that focused solely on cooperatives. One reason why the cooperative is an important topic is because currently there is a big surge in co-op development in the U.S., with more than three hundred in the formation stages.
Out of the many workshops offered, I attended three on co-ops: “New Models for Cooperatives”, “Cooperatives are Slow”, and “Redefining Ownership: Community ownership means never having to sell out of your values”.
At the first, I heard Erbin Crowell from the Neighboring Food Co-op Association describe the International Cooperative Alliance’s cooperative blueprint which integrates sustainability into its main structure as a goal for 2020.
At the second, the store manager of the Brattleboro Food Co-op, Dick Ernst, shared with us the store’s planning experience before reopening at the new location. He explained that a one-hundred year vision went into this planning phase with environmental and social responsibility as main targets.
The third workshop on redefining ownership, I listened to Daniel Fireside from Equal Exchange explain why shared ownership, which is central to the cooperative, is the most sustainable form of ownership. This is mainly because the financial structure of a co-op’s business model does not offer any incentive to sell out. He also expressed the importance that co-ops from different sectors work together and support each other to build on the cooperative movement.
The talks given at the summit were informative and encouraging. After meeting so many people fully invested in supporting the cooperative movement, I am very optimistic to the coming years in the co-op world. It is also a pleasure to be a part of the Monadnock Food Co-op and see the growth of the store and the impact it has on the community.
Thanks to you for your involvement in this exciting movement.