Co-ops: New directions, common roots

Jan 08, 2013
Rob Brown sailing in Belfast Harbor.

Belfast — On Monday, Jan. 14, at 6:30 p.m. in the Belfast Free Library join the Cooperative Development Institute and the Belfast Co-op for a free presentation with Rob Brown, who will give an overview of the variety of cooperatives that exist in Maine, the U.S., and across the globe. His talk will examine how cooperatives improve economic and community development, and provide practical information on how individuals can join together to start new co-ops.

Co-ops come in many shapes and sizes but, at root, are business enterprises formed by groups of people who voluntarily develop, jointly own and democratically control the enterprise to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs.

While many area residents are familiar with the Belfast Co-op, they are likely unaware of the larger cooperative community, of which it is a part. According to Brown, “The cooperative enterprise sector nationally is comprised of over 29,000 businesses with over 2 million jobs, 130 million members, $652 billion in annual sales and assets of $3 trillion. Perhaps more than any other policy innovation, cooperative enterprises hold the greatest potential to simultaneously advance economic opportunity, social justice and environmental sustainability, offering fresh thinking beyond the traditional prescriptions of the left and right that usually accompany our country and state’s stale economic debates.” And, he added, “A lot of people talk about sustainability, but there can be no sustainability without broadly shared prosperity. Economic insecurity is the greatest threat to sustainability. Therefore, sustainability initiatives must be built, first and foremost, on an understanding of what the community members economic needs are, and a plan to address them.”

Brown works for the Cooperative Development Institute, the Northeast's center for cooperative business education, training and technical assistance. The Institute's mission is to build a cooperative economy through the creation and development of successful cooperative enterprises and networks in diverse communities in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York. He Lives in Liberty and works with the Institute’s Resident Owned Communities Program, which works with mobile home park residents throughout Maine and New England to form an affordable housing cooperative and buy and manage the parks where they live.

For more information about Cooperative Development Institute's work, visit: For additional information about this event, email Belfast Co-op's education coordinator, Kate Harris, at, or call the Co-op at 338-2532.

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