LEFT OUT: Cleveland, A New Model?

In this episode we’re going to Cleveland, Ohio to explore the Evergreen Cooperative Initiative.  Launched in 2008 as part of the broader University Circle Initiative, the three cooperatives that make up the Evergreen network are tied together by a non-profit organization called the Evergreen Cooperative Corporation.  The utilization of surrounding institutions historically rooted in the community known as ‘anchor institutions’ play a central role in acting as both initial benefactors and customers of the coops as well.  This novel structure has inspired other cities around the country to adopt what has come to be termed the “Cleveland Model.”

The initiative has offered an alternative to how community and economic development is approached by integrating cooperatives with a 501c3 that promises not only steady employment, but provides an opportunity to begin building wealth through worker-owners’ equity within the enterprise itself.  At the same time, Evergreen has legitimized cooperatives as a vital form of development and introduced a more democratic arrangement that accounts for the interests of workers themselves.   

Evergreen has not come without its own set of unique problems.  Although any business start-up faces challenges getting off the ground, Evergreen’s particular structure presented difficulties that have forced many involved with the initiative to look inward and come up with dynamic responses.

We got in touch with John McMicken, CEO of the Evergreen Cooperative Corporation, the non-profit that links together all three coops.  We were also able to speak with Nicholas Zingale, associate professor at Cleveland State University and Gar Alperovitz, co-chair of the Next Systems Project and co-founder of the Democracy Collaborative, an organization that provided initial support for the Evergreen project.

  • Evergreen’s website contains information about its formation, the three cooperatives, and their overall mission for the city of Cleveland.
  • Professor Nicholas Zingale’s paper “Loose Change and Governance” explains the context of the Evergreen initiative and how deindustrialized spaces provide fertile ground for a project such as Evergreen.
  • Gar Alperovitz has written extensively about what a post-capitalist future may look like and all his work as well as the organizations he is involved with can be found at his website here.  


Showing 3 comments

  • David Axtell
    commented 2016-07-22 14:05:18 -0400
    Just finished listening to this podcast. Two comments:
    1> The comment is made at the end that these cooperatives are trying to become more independent. Isn’t that the wrong approach? My understanding is that the strength of the Mondragon Cooperatives lies to some extent in their cooperation with each other! They have a shared cooperative bank, a shared cooperative university, and who knows what else. They share institutions and support one another. It seems to me that trying to split up and become more independent is the last thing the Evergreen Cooperatives should be trying to do.
    2> If the cooperatives need money, why don’t they set up a credit union or bank, like the Mondragon people, and open it to outside depositors, like they do. Just don’t give those outside depositors any kind of control over the bank. That bank could then be used to fund the creation of other cooperatives. The bank could pay interest on the deposits to keep the depositors happy.
  • David Axtell
    followed this page 2016-07-22 14:05:12 -0400
  • Martin Screeton
    followed this page 2016-07-21 00:10:00 -0400

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