The Riverwest Cooperative Alliance (RCA), an organization that includes representatives from a group of co-operatively-run businesses in Milwaukee, hosted the first annual “Co-Op Fest” in Riverwest's Garden Park 821 E. Locust St. on October 12th, 2013. This was a festival like none other in Milwaukee or its surrounding areas. Co-operatives and member-owned organizations from around the city, the state and the region were in attendance to offer information and advice on establishing and operating co-operative enterprises.
The festival, took place on Saturday, October 12 in Garden Park 821 E. Locust St with workshops in multiple locations conveniently located in Riverwest, will feature community-friendly fun, family activities, food and beer, and plenty of information about how to start a co-operative business structure.
Local businesses featured at the festival included Outpost Natural Food, a grocery co-operative; the Riverwest Co-operative Grocery & Cafe, which will be serving their famous vegan menu; People’s Books, a bookstore which converted from a sole proprietorship to co-operatively member-owned business seven years ago; the Riverwest Public House, a member-owned co-operative tavern, which served cold beer from the local Lakefront Brewery; Build Milwaukee Co-operative, a home remodeling, fabrication and design co-operative founded in 2009, and other related enterprises. The Co-Op Fest organizers provided tours and comprehensive “Co-op 101” seminar sessions as well. Saturday workshops featured speakers and experts from around the region.
Though co-operatives are not a new idea, misconceptions about them are common. A co-operative is defined as “an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically controlled enterprise.”
But that doesn’t mean every decision is made by every single employee or member, or that each co-operative is operated in the same manner. The common denominator, however, is the exercise of communal decision-making that values input from both workers and customers and seeks to optimize assets for the good of the community as a whole.
Wisconsin has a long history of co-operative enterprises, including in the agricultural, energy and housing sectors. In recent years, Riverwest has become a hub of co-operatively structured business activity and has received national attention for the intensity of new growth in this increasingly popular collaborative business model.
TOGETHER WE CAN SHARE THE LOAD!
And in the UK...