The next person in our series is David Brown from Co-op SC! He shares with us how his co-op approaches community engagement, his background in co-ops, and what some of his most anticipated workshops were the conference.
Could you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your organization?
“Hi, I am David Brown and I am from Co-op SC from Santa Cruz. Co-op SC is an organization focused on community interest around development of cooperative, we are excited about the possibility of growing an ecosystem in Santa Cruz. Most of what we do are panel discussion in the community to raise interest and awareness, that there’s a cooperative model that could be an alternative to traditional businesses model.”
How do you reach out to your community?
“For now, we are very active on social media, we are a small organization, but we have success, we have a growing cooperative movement in Santa Cruz. Mostly we use Facebook, Instagram, we have gotten a couple of complementary articles on local newspaper, like the Good Times, and that help generate interests. Doing community panels and board discussion, similar to what we are doing at the conference today, also help raise awareness and bring in some new interests.”
How long have you been involved in your organization?
“I’ve been working [there] for a little over two years now, and it’s been great. We only had two co-ops in Santa Cruz when we began, now we got quite a few in the channel. Now we have Hardcore Compost which is a composting service; we’ve got another one in the channel called Tapicat Café, which is when someone purchased a business and converting it. Another one that was just launched called Little Giant Collective, it’s a shared space for print artists, and they are sharing the retail of it. There is also the Builder’s Collector, and they are licensed contractor trying to find a better way for people to get involved in business ownership.”
Were there people already involved in co-ops in Santa Cruz before you came along?
“I think there were, a lot of these ideas are already in the works, and the work we are doing now is giving people that confidence to move forward, like there is energy around this, we are not crazy, there are other people that have done this, and this is a model that can work. We are also meeting other people who are successful at it and that is very helpful.”
Would you say other co-ops in Santa Cruz be interested in joining the conference as well?
“I think so, the reason is that one of the things that Co-op SC did this year was we fundraised with the help of the conference itself, to have five cooperatives represented here.”
What programs seem to interest you?
“For me, I am trying to do a finance track, because I know that a lot of the cooperatives working in Santa Cruz are very good at what they do, but they lack the resources to help them talk about money. They know what they have to do, but they don’t know how to connect the dot and make it happen.”
What makes you decide that you want to go this route?
“That’s a good question. I am an analyst in the county’s human services department and sometimes we get to do really good work, but most of the time I feel like we spend a lot of time mowing the lawn of properties and in the morning it grows back. Seldom do we get the opportunity to focus on the root of poverty, and work towards building more equitable economy.
The cooperative movement seems to me that it has the most hope and have the most impact on people’s lives, when I look around to find different approaches to a more sustainable economy. Co-op seems to be the place where we can expand democracy the most, and this is where we make a difference.”