So 2012, besides being when the world is supposed to end, is also the International Year of Cooperatives. Because, you know, cooperatives are awesome. In my own words, here are the 7 cooperative principles underlying the practices of all us friendly neighborhoods coops:
1.) Bring it on … Anybody who’s willing to do the work and shoulder the load is welcome. No hating allowed.
2.) Power to the People–coops are controlled by their members, like Queens are controlled by their worker bees … wait …
3.) Put yer money where yer mouth is–members contribute their moulah, and control it (see above), and get benefits in proportion to their usage of the coop’s services, which is kind of like working out, when you think about it. (Think about it.)
4.) I ain’t the Man, man. Also known as I do what WE WANT–don’t TELL me what to do! Coops are independent and autonomous, controlled by their members (see above, AGAIN!) Any decisions to get outside cash, etc., has to be democratically decided upon, and reserve the independence and autonomy of the coop.
5.) Education is the Key! Coops provide education, training, and information to their members so they are better informed, educated, and able to convert more independent thinkers to swell the ranks (of their own freewill of course–see above!).
6.) We cooperate–we’re cooperatives! Coops coop with other coops. That worked better in my head … but really, cooperatives, and cooperation, foster local economies and democractic awesomeness, as referenced extensively and somewhat flippantly above. But coops can cooperative with noncooperatives as well (see ‘no hating’).
7.) Our house, in the middle of our street … Coops are concerned with the well-being of their communities, and while looking after member needs, use their cooperative as a vehicle to do good, not evil, in their own communities.
Okay, so reading over those, maybe my wording is slightly more muscular than this credible source. Check out the site, since it is indeed the INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF COOPERATIVES this year.
Which brings me to my next proffered opinion. First, read this, which for those of you who are my slackers out there, describes a video/photo contest involving your favorite cooperative. Basically, you submit your awesome video/photo of your chosen cooperative, people vote, and then if you’re lucky/talented/creative/popular/calculated/or just awesome, you win a prize. Read the rules, because it’s not a normal prize, but if you love cooperatives, you’ll be totally into it. No, it’s not granola. Unless you’re into that.
Here’s the opinion, then: Maine is a pretty incredible place, and I went on record, and the internet, telling the nation that we’re ahead of the curve here in Maine when it comes to food and local economies. Last year’s contest, which was only open to food grocers, was all people from Away. Yes, I include ALL of the rest of the nation in Away. Maine was WAAAAAAAAY underrepresented, and we have a phenomenal bunch of coops, and not just grocer coops, in Maine. I mean, I know we’re Yankees and all, and have that dry understated wit, but we’re also the state that produced Bob Marley, Stephen King, Governor Paul LePage. We can be creative and outgoing too.
So, do me a favor, and start working on your entries. The spring round of submissions is open til April 30 (I know you procrastinators will be fine), with voting ending on May 31. For a state that regularly cords a whole winter’s supply of firewood at the last minute, I have full confidence in you loyal coop members. For those of you who put off everything til the fall, there will be another round then, so get cracking!
Let’s see what we got!
In the meantime, here are a few of my favorites from past competitions:
Tacoma Park Coop, and Friends (it has muppets!)
PS. I’m not talking about Crown O’ Maine specifically when I talk about our coops–we have an amazing number of vibrant diverse coops in the state, many of whom we do business with. They’re pretty stellar, and I’d be pretty psyched to see what they could come up with. Also, I happen to know the semi-secret talents of many of our star coop managers, so let me know if you’d like a hint …