It was a cooperative in Puerto Rico's Guayama prison that changed his life. Growing up, Roberto Luis Rodriguez Rosario was surrounded by violence, and lived most of his pre-teen years in foster homes. "By the time I was a teenager, I was filled with anger," he remembers. "I became a rebel, and lost my way in drugs and alcohol. I stopped going to school at 14, and began getting arrested at 15.

Grace Lee Boggs was born in 1915, the child of Chinese immigrants, above the family’s restaurant in Providence, Rhode Island.  By 16, she was at Barnard College, and by the age of 25 had her Ph.D. in philosophy from Bryn Mawr. I asked her how she became an activist:

  1. Co-ops and co-op members need to have higher expectations of professional behaviour from other co-operators. This is a movement where we have an obligation to create amazing workspaces filled with rich community, deep interdependence, synergy, collaboration, open communication and positive-sum thinking. It's often not.

Back in the day, factory workers at the Chicago-based Republic Windows and Doors were simply told what to do. That wasn’t unusual. Workers might have seen ways to improve the production process, but at Republic their supervisor wasn’t interested, said former employee Armando Robles.

Initially, people pooled resources to buy each other’s freedom when we were enslaved. This was simple, but meaningful, as we didn’t own ourselves. Most people didn’t have a way to earn money, but sometimes there were skilled laborers who were allowed to earn a little extra money on a Sunday.

Originally, Skoros emerged as a response to an increasingly commercialized and consumerist (Athenian) society. It represented an experimentation with doing things differently: by gifting, sharing, and exchanging; and by foregrounding the values of communality, degrowth, solidarity and social justice.

Most meals on Temple University's main campus are served by a huge, multinational food-services company, Sodexo.

WASHINGTON (October 1, 2015) – National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson today hailed the nation’s many and varied cooperatives, noting that they have brought both political and economic might to family farmers, ranchers and rural America for over a century.

Before launching The Next System Project, we sat down with historian and economic activist Jessica Gordon Nembhard to learn what the tradition of Black cooperative economic development and the long struggle for civil rights could teach us about system change and system models.  What follows is an edited transcript of that conversation.



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