Common Ground Health Care Cooperative Info Session

Want to know more about the Affordable Care Act? Obamacare? Southeastern Wisconsin’s Cooperative insurance company? We’re hosting an info session on October 27th at 4pm. You can also catch them at Co-op Fest.

“Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative is a non-profit, member-governed health insurance cooperative that believes in transparency. Any profit we make goes directly back toward lowering premiums and improving benefits — for you, your employees, or your customers.

Common Ground is a community organization that works toward igniting positive change within the greater Milwaukee area. With the power of the collective voice, we have a strong history of facilitating significant and meaningful improvements within our community.
Our most ambitious effort to date: create a health insurance cooperative that puts people before profits and gives its members a voice — just like Common Ground. 

Five years and thousands of hours of hard work later, we are very pleased to announce the opening of the Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative.”

Enrollment started October 1, 2013 Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative will begin enrollment in 19 counties in Eastern Wisconsin, with insurance effective on January 1, 2014.

Celebrate Co-op Month October 12th in Riverwest

Where: Garden Park (Bremen & Locust)
What: A celebration of our neighborhood and its cooperative businesses and organizations!

Saturday Oct. 12
– Family-friendly fun activities in Garden Park next to the Riverwest Public House
– Introduction to co-ops & tours of local co-op businesses
– Tables of information and more

A series workshops will be offered to further explore:
– The co-op model
– Why co-ops? and why now?
– How co-operative businesses fit into an alternative economy
– The larger wider co-op movement
– How our community can  benefit from cooperating.

Bring us your Beer Memorabilia!

Sunday, July 28th we’re having a silent auction of Beer Memorabilia. This includes neon signs, posters, non-glowing signs, weird kitschy landscapes with beer bottles as architecture, etc. We need your help! Do you have some of this stuff in your basement? How about on your wall? Got a dad or grandpa (or whoever) with a collection he’s been thinking about parting ways with? Let us know at All the proceeds will go to your asses, literally, in the form of new stools. To top it all off, we will have classic country and blues music from Ruth & Sandy.

The Public House is looking for Board Candidates

The Riverwest Public House isn’t just a bar. You know this when you get that feeling. The one that comes when you bump into friends and neighbors over a pint. The feeling after an incredible show, or a Night School, or the Educators’ Happy Hour or LGBTuesdays. It is that feeling that we aren’t just hoping for community but that we’re actually building it. We know our neighborhood, our city, our world is a better place every time we raise a glass.

This is why many of us have joined as members. We get sick of politicos dictating what is good “for the people” and disillusioned with the idealists who never get around to doing something. We aren’t waiting for someone else to act, but we are seizing control of our economic and communal destiny. As they say around the block, “You’re doing it!”

But maybe that overwhelming good vibe comes with a little tugging. Maybe you walk out of the pub and think, “It is awesome, but it could be so much better.” Maybe you’re checking the calendar for this weekend shows and say “I want to do more with the Public House.”

Maybe you’re ready to move from the barstool to the boardroom.

OK, so we don’t really have a boardroom, just the long table in front. But still. We’re taking nominations for the upcoming Board of Director elections. We need organizers and activists, dreamers and realists, folks that are good with nuts and bolts and folks that see the big picture. We need finance folks and HR people. We need neighbors and friends. We need the community to lift up leaders and leaders to direct the co-op.

Our board has a few practical functions. We govern by policy and decide by consensus. That means we will look at what are the best practices for this cocktail community we’re creating. We give structural support to our workers collective. We carry the banner of co-ops and tell the story of the Public House locally and nationally.  We’re a working board, with each director serving on a committee.  The board currently meets the 2nd and 4th Mondays of each month and will likely move to monthly meetings in 2013.

So, if you love building community one drink at a time, come help design the blueprints for that building. Join the board. email for more information. Our Annual General Meeting, where board elections take place, will occur on May 19th at 5pm.

Know Your Cooperative Principles: #6

As you may know, cooperatives abide by 7 principles handed down by the Rochdale cooperative pioneers and the International Cooperative Alliance. The seven principles are Voluntary & Open Membership, Democratic Member Control, Member Economic Participation, Autonomy & Independence, Education, Training & Information, Cooperation Among Cooperatives, and Concern for Community.

This installment of Know Your Cooperative Principles covers Principle #6: Cooperation Among Cooperatives. Here in Riverwest, some of the co-ops have begun to work together to cross-promote and share their services with one another. For example, the Public House purchases lemons and limes and other grocery items from the Riverwest Co-op. That’s a behind-the-scenes example of principle 6. There are two more perhaps more exciting examples as well.

The Public House and the Riverwest Co-op recently reintroduced brunch. Every Saturday and Sunday from 11-2, a dedicated volunteer will deliver brunch made to order from the Riverwest Co-op to your barstool at the Riverwest Public House. This is a great example of a mutual relationship that works for everybody: The Co-op Cafe can get a little short on space, especially in the Winter months, and is always short on booze, and the Public House has plenty of afternoon seating and table space, and serves up tasty brunch beverages like our Bloody Mary and Beermosa.

And now, thanks to our partnership with People’s Books, the Public House also boasts a well-stocked Book Exchange. The main goal is to provide a way to promote literacy and thinking by allowing a free exchange of books. Constantly buying books gets expensive and libraries can only provide so much. Now the community has a place to exchange literature for fresh text. If you want to take a new book home with you, make sure you bring something to swap it with. If you’re just in the mood to casually read, feel free!

Both Brunch and the Book Exchange demonstrate small examples of the potential for inter-cooperative relationships to add value to each co-op’s services. As more co-ops pop up around the neighborhood, we expect to see these relationship grow and evolve in all kinds of ways.


Co-operatives: Succession That Roots Jobs and Wealth in Communities

By the VCBA Steering Committee

Those who have a stake in their business work harder and smarter. It’s a basic concept exemplified by the co-operative model. Transferring your business to a co-op of any type – consumer, producer or worker – continues the success of an enterprise while retaining our regional economic vibrancy and community wealth infrastructure.

In this article we focus on conversions to worker co-ops. As a member of a food co-op – aconsumer co-operative – you may be familiar with the advantages co-ops bring to their communities. As members of co-ops, people share resources to gain greater access and control over food, employment, finances and housing. You can contribute to the growth of this model while pursuing your personal goals by converting your business to a worker co-operative.

Other businesses in our region have successfully converted to co-ops with members buying-out existing ownership (see sidebar). During 2012, declared the International Year of Co-operatives by the United Nations, we’re putting co-ops on the table as an option for you to do the same.

Won’t this take too long? How do I know it will work?

Part of any buy-out process is ensuring both the seller and the buyer are content, including cost, timeline, responsibilities transfer and phasing out current ownership. In this case the buyer is a co-operative made up of workers seeking to buy, and perhaps expand, a business.

You wouldn’t be alone. In 2010 the owner of a delivery business wanted to move on from her business. With the support of the Valley Alliance of Worker Co-operatives (VAWC), Valley Green Feast converted to a worker co-op. It has grown in membership and revenue annually since. In 2011, a group of workers shared a vision for alternative health and, again with support from VAWC, bought a business in their downtown. Now, calling themselves the Brattleboro Holistic Health Center Co-operative, they are retaining jobs and expanded the services in their community. There are more examples than we have room to include.

What is a worker co-op, and how is it beneficial?

Worker co-ops are owned and controlled by their employees. They provide meaningful employment as well as opportunities to build assets. The one-member, one-vote principle of worker co-ops can form in any industry and characteristically enhance the living standards, wages, and benefits of their members and the communities in which they live. In our own region members of worker co-operators are printers and body care producers, recycling haulers and website hosters, mechanics and alternative power installers.

Are all co-ops really similar?

Yes, in many ways. The concepts that provide the core of your food co-op are the same history, principles and values shared across all co-ops. Different membership structures may apply whether they are worker co-ops such as Pioneer Valley PhotoVoltaics or Collective Copies, consumer co-ops such as Franklin Community Co-op or UMASS 5 Credit Union, or producer co-ops like Our Family Farms. Yet we all share the principles and identity set forth by the “Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers” – a group of weavers and activists – who opened a co-operative shop in 1840s England. They formed the basis of today’s co-operative movement. Which today includes a billion members worldwide and more than 29,000 co-ops here in the United States (


Co-operatives exist for people to work together to enrich their access to services, their lives and communities. You can be a part of co-op’s demonstrated success in business transfer, job and wealth retention. If you’d like to consider a transition to a co-operative for your firm contact Valley Co-operative Business Association at info@vcba2012.coopand visit us at

Written by the VCBA Steering Committee with collaboration from the Cooperative Fund of New England ( VCBA’s Steering Committee: Suzette Snow-Cobb (Franklin Community Co-op), Erbin Crowell (Neighboring Food Co-op Association), Sean Capaloff-Jones (UMass 5 College Credit Union), Jon Reske (UMass 5 College Credit Union) and Adam Trott (Valley Alliance of Worker Co-operatives)

About VCBA: We were recently established by a group of food co-ops, worker co-ops and a credit union to make our co-ops more visible, to advance our region’s co-operative economy and to make the benefits of co-operation more available in our community.

Reblogged from the fine folks at Valley Cooperative Business Association in Western Massachusettes.