The Spirit of Cooperation

Want to see democracy in action?? Really in action? Well, the recent fallout from the national election ain't where it's at. No, the best place to find true, fine democracy in action these days is in the struggle and survival of the world's cooperatives. And it stands to reason that one of the world's largest manifestation of the principles of cooperation, the Internet, offers a virtual cornucopia of resources regarding the state and well-being of modern cooperatives (co-ops).

If the hotspots above lured you in, you probably noticed that the preeminent site for info on co-ops belongs to the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives. This site, which offers over 100 direct links within the first few clicks, wends through the history of the co-op movement, presents research manifestos defining the principles of the movement, and provides endless lists of cooperative resources around the world.

Our favorite co-op sites, in fact, are either housed in university websites or enjoy direct links with university communities. Some of the most comprehensive sets of links can be found at: Communications for a Sustainable Future (University of Colorado at Boulder); Common Ground Food Cooperative's Links, which is under the umbrella of the Prairienet website (Graduate School of Library & Information Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), itself an indispensable resource to progressive organizations; food co-ops (a private site maintained by a Library Systems manager at Columbia University); and the granddaddy student co-op network North American Students of Cooperation (NASCO). And through the maze of linkage found on the Web, one can surf socially consciously and learn all about the international boycotts against products and companies which embrace notions that go against the whole grain of the high ideals of cooperation.

Like the resourceful ethos of the very co-ops they highlight, most of these sites and links are not big in the bells & whistles department. They are crammed packed with info and do use the Web for what it does so well: link tangents into a huge Tsunami of information. However, like the Third Wavers of Wheatsville, the Web stocks some products with inclusion in mind. High ideals are applied on a practical and human level: How about starting a Dinner Coop, so that you and 15 of your friends can swap dinner duties and break bread together? Through this same link we connected to some cool food sites, witnessed flaming Pop-Tarts, discovered the essence of Spam, and the velocity of space food.

For what it's worth, this seemingly unlimited Web of wonders turned up precious little info (not counting schools, student centers, and boulevards named for the man) about Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers.

Phew! After our exhaustive excursion surfing globally and nationally, we thought we'd come home to the local scene...

Austin is one of the most active cooperative cities in North America. Coops maintain quite a visible status in our town from

KOOP Radio, to the Intercooperative Council, University of Texas Women's Co-ops, and College House student housing, from retail outlets like University Co-op Society Bookstore, Wheatsville and

Recreation Equipment Incorporated (REI's national HQ) to Utilities & Power.

-- Kate X Messer

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