A couple of days ago I went to a Co-op Summit here in Indiana. This was a day-long meeting of people within the cooperative business sector, from credit unions to rural electric co-ops, food co-ops, producer co-ops (wine and cheese) and so on.
This is a relatively new event, only 2 years old. My co-op, Bloomingfoods, catered the (delicious) food. I talked with people from Paoli IN who started their own food co-op, Lost River Community Co-op (also known as Lost River Market and Deli); with a woman from Terre Haute who is helping start Terre Foods; with someone from Indy who is working on a start-up food co-op there; with Patty and Gwen, who helped start the Community Farmers Market of Owen County, and others.
Okay, the world was falling apart around us: crazy economic news. But not in that room. The people from the credit unions said "We have money in the bank – ah, make that CREDIT UNION – and money to lend." (If you don't bank with a credit union, you may want to make the switch: profits go back to customers and not down the golden parachute drain.)
Our lunchtime speaker, Brent Hueth, Director of the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives, talked about how his team is creating the first census of cooperatives, to help assess their impact on our economy. So far the number is about 1 trillion dollars, or the size of AIG.
It was really fantastic to be in that room, and to hear people speak who are optimistic, smart, and dedicated to the improvement of their communities through the power of cooperation.
To learn more about the cooperative business model, a good place to look is Go Co-op. And did you know that October is Co-op Month? (I love this logo, designed by the very talented Pat Thompson, of Triangle Park Creative.) Don't waste time despairing about the fact that the sky seems to be falling – educate yourself about co-ops, and take heart (and action)!