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Updated on January 12, 2014

Philosophy of the Common Good

Coops are a little bit of socialism, a little bit of capitalism and a little bit of democracy thrown into the mix. Coops pool spiritual, economic, social and cultural resources for the common good. They are non-profit in nature.

Coops have been around for centuries. Ancient Kerala had a cooperative economic system. Child care coops are also part of this ancient philosophy. Modern day food coops are thriving with the ascendancy of the ecological and green movements. Unions, member associations, non-profits and spiritual organizations are some other cooperative groups. Recently health care coops have developed centering on alternative health care, such as acupuncture, chiropractic and energy healing. Artisan coops are common in third world countries.

Most coops follow seven basic ideas. 1. Voluntary and Open Membership. Anyone can belong as long as he or she accepts the required responsibilities of membership. 2. Democratic Member Control. The philosophy of one member, one vote is common practice in most coops. 3. Member economic participation. You invest or donate in the cooperative for the common good. Membership is the common way coops are supported. 4. Autonomy and Independence. Coops are owned by the members and exist for their benefit. 5. Education, training and information. There are educational opportunities for members and staff. 6. Cooperation among coops. Information and resources are shared with other coops. 7. Concern for the community. Donations, information and sponsorship of community events and organizations are promoted.

Ancient Kerala is a great example of a cooperative society. The tarwad was a group of buildings which served the common good. Each tarwad had its own temple, granary, well, orchards, gardens and lands. This system was matriarchal because the eldest female family member along with her brother were the administers of the tarwad. When a man married he moved into his wife's tarwad. Resources were shared among extended family members so that all were cared for. Women were educated and worked outside the home. Kerala had a 100% literacy rate, no homelessness and little domestic violence. The royal lineage was female and women owned the property; however, the women used cooperative economic and social principles for the common good. In many patriarchal societies competition and capitalism generally are the major parts of the organization of society. So the matriarchy in Kerala was not like the patriarchy because the philosophy behind the social and economic system was very different. Women differently because the system was based on the common good and cooperation.

Child care coops have existed for centuries. Women in neighborhoods, associations, spiritual and family groups banded together to provide child care for each other. In the 1970's Minneapolis had a number of child care coops. The Seward Child Care Center is still in existence today as a cooperative enterprise. It is parent governed, teacher and child centered. There are no administrators. Teachers and parents join cooperatively to run the center. In 1973 parents and teachers formed this coop based on democratic principles. Today the center continues using the same cooperative philosophy.

Minneapolis was the hotbed of the Cooperative Movement in the United States in the 1970's. Minnesota has more coops than any other state. The Populist Movement was popular in Minnesota and other farm states. The Cooperative Movement grew out of this populist philosophy which centered on the common good. Seward, The Wedge, Linden Hills, Hampden and Mississippi Market are coops which started in the 1970's and still exist today. Being able to purchase organic and wholesome food is one of the goals of the food coops. Another goal is promoting green principles.

Another common modern cooperative group is the spiritual association which pools economic, social, cultural and spiritual resources for the common good. In Minneapolis we have several groups of this nature which cooperate among similar and diverse spiritual groups. Some pool resources to fight poverty and build nursing homes, homeless shelters and housing. Some provide child care and other social services, such as job training. Some have banded together to provide food for food shelves. Some promote green values in the churches and society.

In Guyana the Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha is a spiritual organization which pools resources for the common good in education, housing, spirituality, eliminating poverty and enriching the lives of children and adults in Guyana. To find out about the Subha, goggle them and follow them on the face book page.

In the spiritual traditions of many world religions, people have pooled their resources for the common good. Sharing resources is good karma and a good way to make the world a better place. Coming together using the cooperative philosophy is an ancient practice which is just as powerful and significant today as it was in ancient times. It brings power to the common people and to the common good.




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