Wheatsville Food Co-op is the only food co-op in the city of Austin, and for many years the co-ops in the community there worked in isolation. That changed in 2010 when Rose Marie Klee, the board president at Wheatsville was approached by someone at the local credit union to get together and talk about co-op values. From that discussion, the Co-op Think Tank was born.
Since mid year of 2010, non-food co-ops have been meeting monthly in Austin, including the A-Plus Credit Union, the worker-and-consumer-owned Black Star Brew Pub, and KOOP Radio, an organization that shares co-op values. Additionally, other individuals and groups who are interested in the co-op model have joined the think tank. They are all still very much in the beginning stages, Klee said, and they are engaged in the process of figuring out in what way they can be connected to other co-ops in Austin.
Yet they see the potential for a lot of important synergies. “We can address the ‘why co-op?’ question for people who don’t know about us. We can use each other as resources, and part of that is helping people who are interested in starting a co-op. We can also strengthen the cooperative economy in Austin,” Klee said.
Even though they’ve just begun, they’re already developing important relationships with the City of Austin and the city council in order to promote policy initiatives or funding for co-op-friendly activities. The Co-op Think Tank is also studying CD investor shares for co-ops, as well as developing a study project of large scale co-op enterprises, like Mondragon in Spain. Klee stresses that all these activities are part and parcel of the Co-op Principle Cooperation Among Co-ops. “We are taking the time to learn what we want to do,” she added.
See Rose Marie Klee’s newsletter article (page 3)