How do we empower ourselves, the middle class, and extend a hand to those who have fallen from that rung, or never reached it?
Our economic system is rusted shut. Done in by greed and corruption. It is beyond obvious that creative, robust remedies won’t be coming from our federal or state governments any time soon, although there are signs of creativity at the municipal level. Perpetually running for office leaves politicians beholden to their backers and bereft of ideas to relieve suffering and give a leg up to ordinary people.
Clearly, we have to create our solutions at the community level because help is not coming from the outside. Fortunately, the grass roots has plenty of talent, ideas and energy.
Here’s an idea: Locate a vacant, structurally sound, commercial building that needs repair. Work with the city and the landlord to convert it to a community center. Repairing the building in exchange for cheap rent and tax breaks up would employ people, teach valuable skills and create the conditions for neighbors to engage with each other as they create durable solutions with real benefits for ordinary people.
The community gets a gathering place that functions as an anchor. People get jobs and training. Landlords get improved buildings. The city will get more tax revenue from a recovered building that generates jobs than it does from a blighted one. Everyone wins, right?
Every community has a wealth of good, decent people who will be much stronger when they connect with each other and create their own durable and creative solutions.
Cooperatives are an effective model to provide the goods, services and housing that the “marketplace” does not find profitable. Cooperatives are member owned, operated and governed. If we have a mind to, we can create adequate housing, better food, child care, elder care and even health care.
Although co-ops make a huge economic contribution–own over $3 trillion in assets and generate $654 billion in revenue–the model is neither widely known or understood. Cooperatively, we can create this shift one community at a time. To do that, lots of people need to get off the couch and show up with an open heart, willingness and commitment. Together, we can create durable, resilient, cooperative communities that are far greater than the sum of their parts.