For almost two years now, I have had the great honor and pleasure of promoting co-ops and their interests by working with local cooperators from co-ops of all shapes and sizes. Early in 2011, our group of five or ten active co-op enthusiasts started off by helping to plan and organize an academic conference on co-ops to be hosted by Drexel University. In October, over a couple of beers following a full day of workshops at NCBA’s annual conference in Minneapolis, fellow Philadelphia residents Bob Noble, Peter Frank, and I emphatically discussed how great it was to come together and think about all the different ways co-ops could cooperate and wouldn’t it be great to keep that momentum going back home. And well, what do you know, we did just that.
Bringing Co-ops Together
Inspired by the NCBA conference and the kick off of the International Year of Cooperatives (IYC), we returned to Philly and vowed to use the energy organizing for the Drexel conference towards something bigger and longer-term. We named ourselves PACA, the Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance, and set about planning even more events in 2012 and exploring projects related to our vision of improving the Philadelphia region by growing the cooperative economy.
Our region has nearly 100 co-ops, including consumer co-ops (like The Energy Co-op), credit unions, worker co-ops, housing co-ops, childcare co-ops, artist co-ops, purchasing co-ops and more.
As more individuals got involved from more local co-ops, we could see that the need for an organization of this sort was not felt by us alone. At event after event, I heard folks talk about how much they would benefit from shared resources and education, how they’d like to see more of Principle 6 in action, and how strongly they believe that co-ops can be a powerful force for growing — and sustaining — our local economy. And at the 2012 annual NCBA conference, one year after Bob, Peter, and I had our conversations that lead to PACA, regional cooperative alliances such as ours were being highlighted as an emerging and significant trend all across the country.
PACA Events in 2012
- Jan 26 – Philadelphia City Council Resolution recognizing cooperatives
- Feb 8 – IYC Kick-off Celebration and Networking Event
- Feb 14 – Presentation at the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission’s Monthly Economic Development Forum
- April 11 – Presentation to the Urban Affairs Coalition’s Community and Economic Development Committee
- Jun 13 – Exploring Cooperatives: Economic Democracy and Community Development in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin (Drexel Co-op Conference)
- Jul 19 – Panel discussion and screening of the film Fixing the Future
- Nov 10 – Philadelphia Cooperative Summit
By the time IYC wrapped up, PACA had undergone a significant transformation with the election of an official steering committee at November’s summit, attended by more than 80 area cooperators.
Full Steam Ahead
I now serve as one of 12 steering committee members who are tasked with advancing PACA’s mission, as identified by the committee and the co-op communities we come from. I am very pleased to say that we took an important step in this direction late last month when we filed for incorporation in Pennsylvania as a nonprofit cooperative. We plan to file for IRS 501(c)3 tax-exempt status later this spring.
In addition to working on our own organizational development, PACA continues to focus on achieving our vision through such activities as:
- Conducting an economic impact study in collaboration with Haverford College
- Advocating for co-ops and the co-op movement with regional and local governments
- Designing a curriculum for co-op education
- Exploring a cooperative loan fund
If you’re interested in learning more about PACA’s activities and impact, or would like to participate on our Steering Committee or any subcommittee, we’d love to hear from you! Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are also planning another networking/social event this April, as well as launching our Co-op 101 educational series. Keep an eye on our Facebook page or join our email list so that you don’t miss out on these great upcoming events.
It’s very rewarding to have been with PACA since its inception and I’m tremendously excited to continue with PACA over the coming years. We are leading the way and I have no doubt that what’s to come will be of value to Philadelphia area co-ops, their members, and all the communities they touch.
Can you see a way for PACA to help your co-op or community? Do you have a story about co-ops cooperating with one another or growing your local economy? Let us know!