Share Exchange shows Californians how to own the economy

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The Share Exchange, a Local Economy Center based in Santa Rosa, California is hosting a seminar to show local people how to start a co-op enterprise.

The seminar, on 26 January, will begin with a general introduction on co-operatives from co-op developer Andrew McLeod and continue with an emphasis on worker ownership, looking at worker-managed businesses. Participants will get the chance to find out how to start a co-op in their community.

Business Development & Sustainability Consultant at The Share Exchange, Rebecca Valentine said: “The Share Exchange is pleased to bring together co-op business development expert, Andrew McLeod, and presenters from some of our region’s most innovative companies to discuss their experiences along the co-op and worker ownership trail.

“We are excited to have Alvarado Street, Community Market, Community First Credit Union, Spiral Foods Co-op and other local companies join us at the workshop to have a robust and lively conversation about co-ops.”

“We really hope that this workshop will help participants take pro-active steps toward creating more co-op businesses in our communities." She added the financial crisis has boosted co-operative development. 

"As people have watched the Wall Street mess unfold, there seems to be a growing and renewed interest in the co-operative business model,” said Ms Valentine.

The main presenter at the seminar, Andrew McLeod, said he also believes the co-op model can prove to be a good alternative.

Speaking of the challenges co-ops might face at the very beginning, Mr McLeod said it is often harder to get a co-op started than another business. He is currently trying to create a co-op consulting company himself, and he said the various challenges faced when trying to make the project become reality can act as a deterrent. 

However, he said that once co-ops get started they are “very competitive” and "very resilient".

The seminar will also introduce participants to two famous co-operative models the one of Mondragon Corporation and the Cleveland Model. However, Mr McLeod said that local models will also be assessed and gave the example of the Arizmendi Bakery, a successful 15-year-old local co-op of San Francisco, named after the famous founder of Mondragon, José María Arizmendiarrieta. 

He said people in Santa Rosa generally feel excited about co-operatives, but they lack deeper information and this is where organisations such as The Share Exchange can help.

The Share Exchange has offered various events in the past two years to support the  Sharing Economy. It has organised a variety of talks, networking opportunities and public events, on topics like local investing, green business, creating local food security and developing community-based holistic health programmes. 

More details on The Share Exchange’s projects can be found at: www.shareexchange.coop

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