Thursday, January 20, 2011

Community Based Community and Economic Development: Employee Owned Cooperatives

This short post is inspired by numerous projects such as the Mondragon Cooperative in the Basque region of Spain and entities such as the Evergreen Cooperative in Cleveland (see links below). Models such as these have inspired me and the Center for Urban Transformation to consider cooperative opportunities in Chicago and the region primarily cooperative businesses that are rooted in all aspects of a sustainable food system from production to consumption.

See the video of the Evergreen Cooperative Model:

The possibility of creating employee owned food based businesses across the sustainable food sector is compelling for the Center for Urban Transformation. Imagine for a moment an employee owned company consisting of businesses such as produce carts, mobile markets and produce vending kiosks. Or a chain of community based wellness markets that sell healthy grocery items, high quality produce and offers a host of learning opportunities such as cooking, fitness, stress reduction and wellness classes.

Further expand your imagination to a network of farmer cooperatives in urban and rural settings supplying produce, herbs, poultry, fish and meat raised using sustainable and humane practices for the social enterprises mentioned above as well as employee owned companies that produce products from bread to soups to juices.

Couple that with conversations that have taken place in meetings with community based organizations such as Teamwork Englewood where stakeholders from the community talk about renewable energy projects and the creation of green jobs. Or the women at a meeting and film session I attended in Englewood where they started talking about a community garden to educate and demonstrate ecological principles to once they were shown possible business opportunities such as a buying coop operating out of the church began to discuss how to not only create a community garden but expanded their horizons to think of an urban farm that would supply some of the produce for the buying club.

Communities all over the country are on fire and they want to innovate and create new pathways to healthy communities and jobs. We aren’t “Waiting for Superman or Supermarket”. We don’t understand why we subsidize energy companies with heating or energy assistance programs when we can manufacture and install renewable energy systems and renovate and retrofit so that they use renewable energy systems and are energy efficient.

Join the CUT and our partner organizations such as Teamwork Englewood, Angelic Organics Learning Center, BIG, Sweetwater Organics and in creating a new economic reality in Chicago, Illinois and the region with partners from academia as well as other public and private sectors institutions.

Let's  Make It Happen!


Hazel Johnson: The Mother of the Environmental Justice Movement

I want to acknowledge the transition of Hazel Johnson (1935 – 2011), the founder of People for Community Recovery (PCR). Hazel’s work connected me for the first time to my concern for ecological and environmental matters to the activism that was happening globally relative to people of color and the environment. The Center for Urban Transformation because of her work and the work of countless others’ working to eliminate environmental injustices around the world for the most burdened people is founded and dedicated to integrating the principals of environmental justice into all of our work.

We had the opportunity to work closely with Hazel a few years ago and that opportunity has forever shaped our perceptions and is an ongoing influence on our life and work. Hazel will be deeply missed.

The Center for Urban Transformation extends our deepest condolences to Cheryl Johnson and the rest of the family.

Please consider a donation to PCR to continue their work and to assist in defraying the cost of Hazel’s funeral expenses. Donations may be made via PayPal at the PCR web site

Ashe, Hazel Johnson as she is now an ancestor.