Interviews with cooperatives and mutual aid initiatives from around the world that are creating alternatives to our current economic system.
Understory is a worker-led restaurant, bar, and incubation kitchen in Oakland, CA. In collaboration with Oakland Bloom, they center immigrant, working class, and people of color chefs through pathways to worker-leadership, project support and training, and economic opportunities. It is more than just a restaurant, they offer a platter of ways to physically and socially nourish the community in a co-creative way. You can experience the roots of the workers through their rotating menu of Filipino, Moroccan, and Mexican cuisine, check out local art, attend a dance party, or support an immigrant or refugee chef at their weekly pop-up.In this episode I speak with one of the chefs Florencio Esquivel about how Understory is shifting the narrative of who receives support and amplification in the restaurant industry. They share how the pandemic influenced the restaurant’s formation, process of assuming responsibilities and navigating decision making, impact and intention of their worker emergency fund, importance of preserving indegenous recipes, and their vision for a changed restaurant world that is horizontally structured while honoring the diversity of workers and their lineage.ResourcesUnderstory’s InstagramUnderstory’s WebsiteWahpepah’s Kitchen (Kickapoo Tribe Restaurant in Oakland)
1 hr 20 min
Play Cousins Collective is a Black centered family care network based in Louisville, Kentucky. They are building multi-generational and inter-sectional Black spaces and community resources rooted in ancestral methods of healing and resistance. Through offering programs at every stage of development, from in utero to adult they are able to foster a supported and resilient community.In this episode I speak with executive director Kristen Williams about the significance of building a village amongst the African-American community. She shares how they started with mapping out all of the Black businesses and practitioners in their community, voids children of color experience in educational institutions and communities, tools they are utilizing to affirm Black power and beauty from a young age, decolonization of mentality and practices, the multitude of programs they offer to all ages, membership structure, how they navigate generational trauma and healing, and more! WebsiteInstagramFacebookPost Traumatic Slave Syndrome by Dr. Joy DeGruy
55 min 51 sec
East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative is based in the East Bay of California. They facilitate BIPOC and allied communities to cooperatively organize, finance, purchase, occupy, and steward properties, taking them permanently off the market. Residents, investors, community members, and EB PREC staff then co-own and co-steward the property. It creates a shift toward community controlled assets, and empowering their communities to be ecologically, emotionally, spiritually, culturally, and economically restorative and regenerative.In this episode, I speak with executive director Noni Session about how EB PREC is garnering support to shift real estate ownership from extractive developers into the hands of the BIPOC community in Oakland and the East Bay. She shares the difference between a permanent real estate co-op and land trust, ancestral remembrance of cooperative ownership, how they got the first group of people to invest, their governance structure and multi-stakeholder model, prioritizing inclusivity and accessibility to individual investors, transparency of investment risks and how they mitigate it, and their exciting new venture - a historic Black arts svenue they’ve acquired for Black artists and small businesses at 50% of market rate. Document detailing their direct public offering: https://ebprec.org/offeringEsthers Orbit Room - mixed-use Black cultural venue: https://ebprec.org/esthersCollective Courage: A History of African American Cooperatives
1 hr 5 min
St. Louis Mutual Aid is based in St. Louis, MO. They are a network of organizers, healers, artists, community leaders, and every day people coming together to deliver food and supplies, provide financial solidarity, offer emotional support, and ultimately connect people to their neighbors.In this episode I speak with members Marcus Hunt, Julia Ho, and Carmen Ward about how STL Mutual Aid has built a robust network of care in their community. In this episode we speak about how mutual aid can be used to introduce people to the solidarity economy, peer-2-peer learning between cooperatives and mutual aid initiatives, taking a holistic approach to fulfilling needs, resources of support offered including their no strings attached financial solidarity fund, how to make the distinction between mutual aid and charity, and more.St. Louis Mutual Aid WebsiteSt. Louis Mutual Aid InstagramSolidarity Economy St. Louis
1 hr 13 min
Looms of Ladakh is a women owned luxury wool clothing cooperative based in the Himalayan region of Ladakh, India. They are a farm-to-fashion initiative, focusing on small-scale and high quality production to illuminate and preserve the traditions of the Changpa nomads of that region. Their pashmina, yak, and sheep wool are of the highest quality in the world. It’s sourced directly from the region and handmade by the local women who’ve been using the backstrap loom for generations. In this episode I speak with co-founder Abhilasha Bahuguna about the importance of creating a sustainable source of income to support the Changpa people of Ladakh living in a harsh altitude of 14,000 ft, why their self-sufficient lifestyles are being threatened, the history of textiles in that region, how the co-op is supporting members to reach their full potential, their governance structure, how they received funding, their experimentation with natural dyes, challenges of competing with fast fashion, and their exciting plans for expansion.
1 hr 31 min
Fairmondo is an online-marketplace owned by its local users currently based in Germany. It is an ethical alternative aiming to compete against Amazon’s extractive model. With a membership of around 2,200, they are steadily expanding towards their goal to create a global cooperatively owned online marketplace. They prioritize fairness, respect, commitment to transparency, and fair trade products.In this episode I speak with founder Felix Weth about the online marketplace they are creating to give buyers an option to engage with an economy they can trust. He shares the voids they are filling in the current marketplace, their multi-stakeholder membership structure, what kind of products they offer, how they raised capital, and how they plan on increasing scale to compete with Amazon.
56 min 8 sec
O+ is a festival created in Kingston, NY to support the health of underinsured artists and musicians through the exchange of art making and performances for wellness services. Festival goers can experience the medicine of art through everything from murals, films, installations, and live music. At the clinic, artists, musicians, and volunteers can receive free care from allopathic and alternative practitioners including dental, bodywork, mental health, and much more. The greater community is supported with Narcan and CPR trainings, health and wellness expos, classes in the healing arts, healthcare forums, and cycling events.In this episode I speak with executive director Holly Kelly and art director Lindsey Wolkowicz about the festival’s evolution and the ongoing needs it fulfills. They share what the process is for contributors to join, how they receive funding, creating equal value between health practitioners and artists, recommendations to support artists' health needs outside of the festival, and advice on starting an art for medicine exchange in your community.
51 min 44 sec
Woodbine is a DIY volunteer-run community resource hub located in Ridgewood Queens, NY. It’s all encompassing of solidarity, intended to cultivate the practices, skills, and tools needed to build autonomy. They host workshops, lectures, discussions and serve as a meeting and organizing space. They offer a multitude of ways to get community members' needs met like through their seed library, trades and services directory, english classes and much more! In this episode I speak with one of the co-founders Matt Peterson and volunteer Amoga Sahu about the creation and sustainability of this mutual aid hub. We speak about how they gathered the funds to get started and how they managed to not only sustain themselves but move into a bigger space during the pandemic. They’ve been around since 2014 and most DIY spaces don’t last in NYC so this is pretty major. You’ll learn about some of the free events, tools, and resources available to the community like their recently installed Mesh internet network. Matt shares an interesting perspective on decision making structures and accountability within a volunteer-run space which tends to be the one of most difficult aspects of running a collectively run space. At the end there’s some tips offered on how others can build an autonomous community centered space in the city.
1 hr 6 min
Essential Food and Medicine is a mutual aid initiative based in Oakland, CA that started during the pandemic but has done an incredible amount of work in a short period of time. The co-founders integrated their love for community connection, food security, sovereignty, plant, and holistic medicine to create a resource to meet all of those essential needs for people. They reclaim surplus and locally grown produce to make juice, soups, smoothies, and natural medicine for underserved communities for free. In this episode I speak with co-founders Xochitl Moreno and AshEL Elidrige. In the first half of the conversation we speak about Essential FAM as a whole -- like the voids they are filling, how they built the partnerships needed to supply the resources, how they distribute the medicine, and then we start to talk about Cob on Wood, a community built with cob they co-created in a homeless encampment. It has a free store, free health clinic, kitchen, bathroom, and community events to empower residents and have a safer environment. We speak about the history of Wood St. benefits of building with cob, how they raised money to build, the impeding and rapidly increasing issue of homelessness in CA, why they are facing eviction and how you can help.
1 hr 36 min
VinziRast-Mittendrin is a co-housing building located in Vienna, Austria where students, formerly homeless, and refugees live amongst each other. It houses bicycle, woodworking and sewing workshops, a restaurant, and event spaces. It’s a collaboration between students involved with the Vienna Audimax occupation, VinziRast which is a volunteer-run organization that offers housing to formerly homeless and refugees, as well as architecture firm Gaupenraub+/- .In this episode I speak with architect Alexander Hagner who was responsible for the adaption of the building. We speak about the event led to the co-habitation of formerly homeless and students, how they received funding for the building, the intentionality and functionality needed when designing for formerly homeless, changing the stigma around homeless individuals, how they mitigate conflicts, what resources/skills are offered to empower the formerly homeless, and why the residents make ideal housing mates.Resources:Gaupenraub+/- Architecture WebsiteVinziRast Website Design for the Real World Book
1 hr 36 min
Horta Inteligente (Intelligent Garden) promotes environmental education to children in the oldest favela in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. As a volunteer-run initiative, they collectively create new ways of inhabiting and relating to the city through agroecology, art, community-based education, and creating spaces for cultivating food. In this episode I speak with project partner and environmental engineer Lorena Portela about the history of favelas and their current state, how founder Elisângela Almeida Oliveira received the funds to get started at just 18 years old, how to get people in the community to see value in environmental care, innovative projects like turning cooking oil into all purpose soap, and more ways they are bringing nature and sustainability to an urban underserved community.Resources:Horta Inteligente WebsiteHorta Inteligente InstagramHorta Inteligente FacebookHorta Inteligente YouTube
58 min 13 sec
Green Mountain Spinnery is a 40 year old cooperative based in rural Vermont. They mill high quality yarns made in the U.S., support regional sheep farming, and develop ways of producing natural fibers that are environmentally friendly. Flat Iron Co-op is a cooperatively owned coffee shop based in Vermont. They are still in the developmental stages but intend to create a model that integrates coffee, community driven events, and supports local food entrepreneurs within the space.In this episode I speak with worker-owner Larisa Demos about the inspiration behind Green Mountain Spinnery and Flat Iron’s development. Initially this interview was just going to be about The Spinnery but I decided to ask Larisa to share a bit about a new co-op she is helping to develop. We speak about what’s needed for a co-op’s longevity, how to sustain the ethos as ownership changes, peer2peer networking for new co-ops, intention and plans once the Flat Iron is open, and more insight into the evolution of these two different models.Resources:The Spinnery WebsiteThe Spinnery Facebook The Spinnery InstagramThe Spinnery Virtual Mill TourFlat Iron Co-op Instagram
51 min 32 sec
Uzupis is a sovereign republic located in the Lithuanian capital of Vilinus. Depicted much like a utopia, they have their own flag, army, currency, cabinet of ministers, constitution, and anthem. Created by artists as a joke on April Fool’s day, it has become home to free-thinkers seeking an alternative society. While it isn’t recognized by foreign governments as a micronation, it’s an inspiring symbol of revitalization and liberation in the community after the fall of the Soviet Union. In this episode I speak with the Minister of Foreign Affairs Tomas Chepaitis about the history of Uzupis, reactions they received from the Lithuanian government, their decision-making process, gentrification, how they support artists, and the unique University model they’ve created. Uzupis EmbassyUzupis University Uzupis Republic Website
1 hr 4 min
The Valley Alliance of Worker Co-ops is a secondary cooperative, meaning they are a cooperative made up of member co-ops. Their members are apart of a regional network based in Western Massachusetts and Southern Vermont. Through this network, they are able to provide developmental support, cooperative education, and ultimately raise awareness to strengthen the cooperative economy.In this episode I speak with executive director Adam Trott about the benefits of strong cooperative alliances, resources needed for worker-coops to be sustainable, cooperative internships for students, peer2peer learning, and how we can cultivate more cooperation between cooperatives.Valley of Worker Co-ops FacebookValley of Worker Co-ops Twitter
Oxbow Design Build is a recently converted worker-owned design and construction cooperative in East Hampton, Massachusetts. They practice holistic design and building while creating custom furniture, developing new structures, and renovating. Beyond their impeccable designs and attention to detail, they also pride themselves in supporting local businesses, ethical sourcing, and eco-friendly designs. In this episode I speak with member-owner and project manager Carl Woodruff about their transition to a worker cooperative, what it means to be a holistic design/build company, peer2peer networking, collaboration with other co-ops, some of their past/future projects, and how we can design to be in alignment with community and environmental needs.Oxbow Design Build WebsiteOxbow Design Build FacebookOxbow Design Build Instagram
48 min 3 sec
Altrapo Lab is a cooperative in Madrid, Spain dedicated to training and raising awareness about the impacts of the fashion industry and the promotion of consumer alternatives. They advocate for recycling, textile reuse, and transformative consumption from a creative approach through their courses, workshops and events around circular fashion. In this episode I speak with worker-owner Zaloa Basaldua about how Altrapo Lab is shifting the narrative from fashion consumption to reconstruction. Learn about how they are providing a platform to rethink and reconnect to the entire fashion supply chain, their store model for giving a new life to clothing, tips for upcycling and preserving clothing, how they are collaborating with other co-ops to divert clothing waste, and more resources to empower others to be environmentally and socially conscious clothing consumers.Altrapo Lab WebsiteAltrapo Lab FacebookAltrapo Lab InstagramRecumadrid: Textile waste management in MadridFashion Revolution: World's largest fashion activism movement
1 hr 10 min
Mehr Als Wohnen is a holistic and democratic housing cooperative in Zurich, Switzerland. It is definitely not your typical housing co-op, they have created an innovative complex that is in harmony with the needs of the natural environment and its diverse residents. Members can meet all of their basic needs within the immediate vicinity. Parks, work spaces, retail spaces, care facilities, electric car-sharing, and community rooms all contribute to this vibrant mini city within the city. In this episode I speak with communications officer Roseli Ferreira about how the co-op was funded from a union of many other co-ops, the importance of consulting with the community throughout its development, their innovative design and facilities, inclusionary and affordable housing, social engagement within the co-op, and more inspiration to design housing that we all desire and deserve.Mehr Als Wohnen Website (search Mehr Als Wohnen in Google for English translation)Mehr Als Wohnen Facebook
56 min 59 sec
Equal Care is a multi-stakeholder cooperative in England that values building trusted relationships between the giver and receiver of support. Their care offerings range from personal care and practical jobs, to help with life admin and community advocacy, to mental health and wellbeing support. Workers get a decent wage without the people getting support having to pay more. The receiver and caregiver are involved in the decision making process and intentionally choose each other to create lasting, respectful, quality care and support relationships. In this episode I speak with care worker member Eleanor Bennett and founder Emma Back about the voids they are filling within the current care system, benefits of being an independent care worker of the co-op, using sociacricy for decision-making, their organization model for members, funding opportunities and developmental support for co-ops in the UK, plus more.Equal Care Co-op WebsiteCo-operatives UK: Cooperative Support NetworkCommunity Shares: Capital investment for community businesses The Hive: Offers business support, mentoring, and training for start up co-ops in the UK
58 min 38 sec
The Mobility Factory is a European cooperative alliance consisting of electric car-sharing cooperatives. They offer an e-car sharing platform for their members, open sourced coding to adjust the platform to members needs, and transparent democratic decision making processes. As we are shaping more sustainable and densely populated cities, the mobility factory is driven to increase air quality, renewable energy, living space, and user engagement.In this episode I speak with Lukas Reichel about the environmental and societal benefits of electric car-sharing platforms, benefits of open-source technology, the challenges of sustaining an electric car-sharing platform, innovative features on the platform, and the policies/infrastructure needed to support the development of electric car-sharing in cities.The Mobility Factory Website
1 hr 7 min
The Global Centre for Advanced Studies otherwise known as GCAS, is the world’s first institution of higher education cooperatively owned by the faculty, staff, investors, and graduates. Students are able to utilize blockchain and earn cryptocurrency while getting debt free education. It is a model designed to challenge the status quo and co-create regenerative systems. In this episode I interview the founder Creston Davis and PhD researcher Kim Miller about how GCAS is filling the voids within a traditional college model by implementing blockchain and cryptocurrency, supporting students during and post education, creating collaborative learning environments, securing graduates with assets instead of debt, and more innovative tools.GCAS WebsiteGCAS FacebookGCAS InstagramGCAS Twitter
57 min 6 sec
MARSH is a food cooperative in St. Louis, MO with a fully-licensed kitchen, diner, and food collective. They have implemented a unique model where workers, consumers, and producers work reciprocally as owners. Diner workers, non-working public participants, as well as aspiring, emerging, and professional culinary artists collaborate to grow, purchase, prepare, cook, and serve high-quality food. In this episode I interview co-founder Beth Neff about how they are developing an inclusive and circular cooperative food system in a marginalized city. You’ll learn how they are fostering resilience and food sovereignty by offering an affordable and organic varieties of food, supporting local food producers as well as entrepreneurs, establishing a sliding scale market and diner, and more. MARSH Website MARSH InstagramMARSH FacebookMARSH Food Cooperative Brochure
1 hr 7 min
Fairbnb is a global cooperative that is a non extractive alternative to existing home-sharing platforms. They offer authentic and sustainable travel experiences while funding the development of socially relevant local community projects.In this episode I interview co-founder Jonathan Reyes about the negative effects of Airbnb on communities, the model they’ve created to keep wealth circulating within local economies, how they are creating a cooperative ecosystem, challenges faced, and more.
55 min 58 sec
Soup is a micro-granting dinner that offers a platform to support creative local projects in communities around the world. It eliminates barriers that local projects have to deal with in order to get funding, fosters dialogue on community needs, and allows a space for community change-makers to be heard.In this episode, I speak with the founder of Detroit Soup Amy Kaherl about how Soup has evolved into a global movement, the economic paradigm in Detroit, the human needs that are nourished during these dinners, and some inspiring successful projects that were seeded from Soup.
1 hr 7 min
Ministry of Space (Ministarstvo Prostora) is a collective from Belgrade, Serbia founded in 2011 with the aim of reflecting on the future of cities. They act in the field of urban and cultural policies, sustainable city development, fair use of common resources, and the involvement of citizens in the urban development of their environment. Co-founders Iva Čukić and Marko Aksentijević share how to shift ownership of the commons into the hands of citizens, tips on fostering citizen engagement, resistance they’ve received from the government, some of their DIY projects, and they offer advice on how we can revitalize cities to be people-centered post-pandemic.Ministry of Space WebsiteMinistry of Space FacebookMinistry of Space InstagramStreet Gallery WebsiteDon’t Let Belgrade D(r)own (Ne da(vi)mo Beograd) Facebook
57 min 40 sec