The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Cooperating Amongst Cooperatives encourages co-op enthusiast collaboration

The setting sun illuminated a group seated in fresh grass, gathered around juniors Ines Sanchez De Lozada and Chelsea Yarborough. Together they led a discussion on diversity within cooperatives on Saturday afternoon as part of the Cooperation Amongst Cooperatives Conference, co-hosted by the Greenleaf and the Cooperative Food Empowerment Directive.

Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the Greenleaf invited members from seven different co-ops, from the southeast to the mid-Atlantic, to spend the weekend engaging in workshops, similar to the one facilitated by Sanchez De Lozada and Yarborough.

“The workshops reflect the Greenleaf’s mission statement,” said junior and conference organizer Sam Metzner. “Some of them are about confronting privilege and reflect the larger Guilford values.”

The conference hopes to support new and established cooperatives alike.

“People are drawn to the cooperative model either from the environmental justice perspective or the social justice perspective, so there’s a lot of business translating that needs to happen,” said Yahya Alazrak ’12, regional organizer for CoFED.

Along with the practicalities of running a business, conference attendees learned about the interpersonal and theoretical aspects of being a member of a cooperative.

“My favorite thing about of the conference was the opportunity to meet people from different co-ops,“ said Sara Wellish, member of Sonder Market at UNC Chapel Hill.

The community is essential to the cooperative model, which many participate in without realizing. REI, Florida’s Natural and many others businesses follow a cooperative business model. So what is a cooperative?

“A cooperative is a democratically run business whether through a simple majority, elected decision-making board or consensus that exists to serve the economic or social needs of its members,” said Alazrak.

This business model serves such a large community that the International Cooperative Alliance lays out seven principles that lie at the core of a cooperative. Among these principles are voluntary and open membership, democratic member control, concern for the community and cooperation with other cooperatives.

The seven principles apply to the three kinds of co-ops.

There are consumer co-ops, such as credit unions and grocery co-ops; producer co-ops, which include farmers who use the same processing facilities; and worker co-ops, which primarily serve the workers’ needs, similar to the Greenleaf.

Guilford embraces the principles of the Greenleaf as a cooperative and how it lines up with many of the college’s values.

If you were surprised to learn how cooperatives work, you are not alone.

“At first, it was a new thing for me,” said junior and conference organizer Jon Macemore. “I didn’t really know what a co-op was, I didn’t have any experience making coffee and it all seemed kind of scary at first. Looking back, I’ve met many of my best friends while being on shift together. I have been educated about things that I don’t think I would have learned otherwise.”

To experience the community and coffee of the Greenleaf, sign up to be a barista or simply visit them in the basement of Mary Hobbs Hall.

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