We often think of our cooperative "ecosystem" as an interdependent forest. Hover over elements of our forest to see what they represent.
Community Loan Fund
The stream running through this forest is our community loan fund. The non-extractive funding and technical assistance we provide is there to nourish the animals and vegetation. In return, the animals act as stewards of the water for others to benefit from.
The grass in our ecosystem is the popular education on the history and importance of cooperation. The grass is the foundation of our ecosystem, providing nourishment for the plants, trees, and animals.
The "trees" in our ecosystem are the growing cooperative businesses and mutual aid projects. They grow from the nutrient-rich soil and provide the animals and surrounding environment oxygen, shade, fruit and more. Their roots form underground networks with other trees, making them stronger together.
The workers are essential to maintaining the balance of our ecosystem. Their grazing disperses seeds, reintroduces nutrients into the roots & soil, and minimizes the amount of C02 in the air. The land must be healthy enough for the workers to eat from, which in turn strengthens the land, the water, trees, and surrounding workers.
Our communities and their legacies of cooperative practices is the sun and sky above our ecosystem. The sun is our most powerful energy source-- the plants convert sunlight to energy, which is consumed by the animals, who are consumed by other animals and return to the earth. Our histories and ongoing systems of care are the energy we need for this movement.
Cooperatives come from the Black and Indigenous practice of meeting eachother's needs. Cooperation is an ancient practice. For generations, our communities and families have been cooperating to sustain our traditions, our joy, our survival, and our movements of resistance.
Language justice refers to the right everyone has to communicate in the language in which we feel most comfortable. In multilingual communities around the world, dialogue across language difference is only possible through the use of strategies to bridge differences in language. Language impacts us on a multiplicity of levels. Language justice is one of the key components of both racial and social justice. There are crucially important things being said in other languages, by people very different from ourselves, whose contexts and experiences are distinct from anything we might have encountered previously; the considered effort to hear those things and engage with them through direct dialogue and dynamic group conversation is central to manifesting the respect and mutual consideration that are the foundation of any truly cross-cultural or cross-racial work. (Antenna)
A worker owned cooperative is a cooperative business that is owned by the workers. Unlike a traditional business model, where one boss makes decisions on behalf of the business, a group of worker-owners practice the cooperative principles together and work democratically.
Solidarity is an every day form of cooperation. When we live in solidarity with one another, we are moving with the intention of caring for one another, and knowing that our own health and security comes from the health and security of our communities. Solidarity economies center the needs of a region or community over monetary gain. Part of building solidarity in this cooperative movement is shifting our expectations as working class people of how the economy is a resource that should benefit us, not exploit us, and that we can work in alignment with our values without losing our communities.
Extraction is when something is taken, especially by force. Under our current capitalist system, resources are extracted from the Earth, labor is extracted from workers, profits are extracted from the people, sacred space and history and cultural staples are extracted from communities. The people extracting from us gain more power, leaving us and the planet void of the nutrients we need to survive. What little is given to us does not make up for what is taken from us. Non-extraction refers to processes that do not take more from people or ecosystems than they have to comfortably offer. In the context of loans, non-extraction interrupts the exploitative and racially-biased patterns that our current capitalist models promote.