At Meaning, we love the co-operative movement. We’re inspired by the empowerment and purpose that is unleashed when workers own the organisations they are part of. But where do co-ops fit within the economic systems of our cities and places? And how can we harness the fruits of our labour to create prosperity for all?
The Cleveland Model – named after the Ohio city where it was developed – recognises the unique role co-ops can play in the creation of community wealth. The principle is simple, yet powerful: ‘anchor institutions’ like hospitals and universities create stable, reliable demand for products and services provided by local co-ops, which in turn afford employment and resilience to local people.
In Cleveland, a thriving network of co-ops are suppliers to the city’s network of hospitals, housing providers and other publicly run organisations. It’s easy to see the broad appeal of this method: fledgling businesses get a ready-made customer base, public institutions get goods and services brought to them by people who care, and individuals get to own a stake in the organisations they work within.
Based on a philosophy pioneered by huge Spanish co-op Mondragon (whose ambassador Mikel Lezamiz spoke at Meaning 2013), the Cleveland Model has gone on to demonstrate how the public sector can work in tandem with co-operative businesses – to create place-focussed economies for everyone’s benefit.
Such is the success of the Cleveland Model that it’s being exported around the world – including to Preston in Lancashire, where creative experiments with public services are paving the way for further innovation.
At Meaning 2019, Sarah McKinley of The Democracy Collaborative helped us understand the philosophy, details and results that show how the Cleveland Model works. As part of the organisation that formulated this powerful set of relationships, Sarah asked us to think creatively about where the boundaries lie between government and business, worker and state. With Sarah’s help, prepare to envision whole new ways of working and collaborating.
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