Xavier conference takes deep dive into local & national co-op movement

Xavier University hosts a conference April 21-22 on “The Cooperative Economy: Building a Sustainable Future” to bring together national experts and local practitioners in the cooperative movement.
Xavier has become increasingly interested in the co-op movement in Cincinnati over the past year or so. Much of this interest has been sparked by involvement with Community Blend Coffee, a two-year-old employee-owned co-op just down Montgomery Road from the university in Evanston.
That involvement led Xavier to the idea of a three-part exploration of co-ops with the help of local players in the co-op movement like Interfaith Business Builders, which helped Community Blend get started, and Cincinnati Union Cooperative Institute. This week’s conference is the second part of that series.
“This is largely in response to what we see as a growing movement of co-ops around Cincinnati,” says organizer Gabe Gottlieb, professor of philosophy and Director of the Ethics/Religion and Society program at Xavier. “Because of the nature of co-ops, they tend to have values, like a concern for workers and the environment, that are in line with what we do at Xavier, so it was a natural fit for us to develop an educational program around co-ops.”
The conference will bring together academics and practitioners, including two keynote speakers. The first keynote will be given by Jessica Gordon Nembhard, a professor at John Jay College who’s written a book on the history of African-American co-op movements. Nembhard will also present a workshop on economic justice, co-ops and criminal justice.
The second keynote will be given by Melissa Hoover, a national expert in the co-op movement who has worked with organizations like the U.S. Federation of Worker Co-ops and the Democracy at Work Institute. Her address will focus on the state of the co-op movement nationally.
The rest of the conference’s workshops and panels will explore topics ranging from the basic “What is a co-op?” and “How do I start a co-op?” to more complicated topics like funding models and fiscal sustainability. The conference is geared to the Xavier University community but also free and open to the public, and Gottlieb says it will be perfect for those already involved in the co-op movement as well as for someone who might have thought of starting a co-op but wants to learn more first.
“What I think is really interesting about co-ops is that they offer not a supplement to businesses or even nonprofits that you already see,” Gottlieb says, “but offer alternatives to those models that are often underexplored and can meet the needs of a community in a different way.”
Gottlieb feels the conference has the potential to really push the co-op movement in Cincinnati forward by allowing individuals to learn more about co-ops and by helping co-ops find more opportunities to work together. The title “Co-operative Economies” reflects a theme of co-ops working together, creating economic impact from their shared reach and success.
Registration for the conference remains open until Thursday’s session begin.
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