Curious what we were up to for two weeks in the Bay Area? We’re here to show you, and we’re stoked about it. So get ready.
We start every week off with games. This is not only the most fun way to kick off a week of learning, it also builds rapport within the group and reinforces the values of cooperation.
Every trip comes with a good ol’ classic co-ops 101. We’re very particular about getting students to truly engage with these concepts so they not only remember them, but are able to think critically about them and ask good questions all week. They work together to put the principles in order, arrange the definition of a cooperative like a puzzle, and then fill in a matrix about the cooperative difference.
It’s definitely not a co-op study tour without visiting some awesome co-ops and co-op support organizations. The first visit was the only one that differed between weeks. Week one students got to hear from the multi-stakeholder Energy Solidarity Cooperative while week two students hung out with Maddy, a former Arizmendi baker and current representative of the Arizmendi Association.
We had Tuesday afternoon off, but we had to jam pack our morning first. First stop: Mandela Marketplace and Mandela Foods Cooperative to learn about food justice in Oakland. Then off to a talk about social justice design work with Design Action Collective. Finally, we got silly with Farzana of Cooperative Food Empowerment Directive (CoFED) and learned about their model for improving food access on college campuses.
By Wednesday we knew enough to start making things more complex. We started the day with an interactive workshop with Ricardo of the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) who walked us through the legal aspects of starting a worker cooperative. Then we visited with Leslie at Rainbow Cooperative Grocery and learned about their complicated system of autonomous, consensus-based committees that run all aspects of their grocery store. They have over 220 worker-owners in a completely flat structure!
Wednesday evening really took the cake. Or the pie. The pizza pie. From Cheese Board Collective, of course. And guess who else was hanging out – Hilary from Project Equity, Ricardo from SELC (again!), Zen from Democracy at Work Institute (DAWI), Ada from Prospera, and Amy from the United State Federation of Worker Cooperatives (USFWC). And they shared all the ways they’re working to build cooperative ecosystems in the Bay Area, and also engaged us in conversation about the motivations, inspirations, and challenges therein. What an exciting afternoon!
Thursday evening was for reflecting, playing, and talking next steps. We heard everyone’s highlights and remaining questions. We ran around in the lycra tube (#humanrubberband). We wrote affirmations for each other. It was perfect for setting us up to recreate this excellent experience again soon. Thanks to everyone who helped make this trip a success. We’re so grateful for you!