I write about community-building here, well, when I’m not showing you photos of my dinner.
When you live in a city, even one that’s the size of Vancouver, community can be elusive. Your social circle emerges from the web of your identity and affiliations, but connecting across these lines can be challenging. Co-operatives can be a great way of making these connections. Co-ops can be specific or broad-based, economically-focused or centred around information and education. Most have a sense of social justice built into their structure and when they connect with each other, there’s potential for a movement that supports community-building across interests, identities, and status.
In practice, it doesn’t always work that way. Housing co-ops in popular neighbourhoods can become dominated by white, middle-class people; some small co-operatives can become cliques of like-minded hobbyists. But, at its best, the co-operative movement stands as an alternative to the atomized consumer-culture that many of us find so alienating.
As I’ve mentioned before, we live in a housing co-operative, which gives us a sense of connection across our neighbourhood, and more broadly, our region. We belong to a number of other co-ops, too. They enrich our lives and have the benefit of also being easy on our pocketbooks.
The United Nations has declared 2012 as the International Year of Co-operatives. Throughout 2012, there are going to be events across the world to celebrate the co-operative movement. Here’s a link to the official page and another that’s specifically for Canada:
And here’s a list of some of the co-operatives operating in Vancouver. It’s amazing how many needs the co-operative model can serve, isn’t it? There’s even a motorcycle repair co-op in Vancouver now.
I’d love to hear about your experience with co-operatives. I’d also encourage you to check out co-ops in your area. You might be surprised at how many you find.