Not Simple to Grow the Cooperative Economy
The Evergreen Cooperatives initiative in Cleveland has gotten a lot of notice for its vision of urban revitalization based on a complex of worker cooperatives in partnership with supportive local institutions. But most of the praise of the Evergreen project has been based on shared enthusiasm for the values and intentions rather than its actual accomplishments. Five years after the project’s founding, there is adequate evidence for a more realistic appraisal. The earlier enthusiasm has been tempered by the difficulties of launching capital-intensive industries where economy of scale is critical, compounded by failure to perform market analysis. As the current chief executive says, this problem applies equally to the cooperative laundry and to the cooperative greenhouse operation. Follow this link to a very valuable discussion written by a sympathetic outsider, Steve Friess, a journalism teacher at MSU: http://www.takepart.com/feature/2014/05/30/co-op-businesses-in-the-us-evergreen-cooperatives.
For broader discussions of issues in cooperative development and the Mondragon-inspired visions of worker ownership, see the several good contributions at Grassroots Economic Organizing under the theme of “Scaling-Up the Cooperative Movement” – there is a great deal of food for thought for cooperators here, as we continue to consider how to grow a cooperative economy: http://www.geo.coop/content/reflections-fagor.