By Mira Luna
Registration desk at NASCO Institute.
On November 2-4th, 400 student cooperative members and other students gathered in Ann Arbor to attend NASCO Institute, “Cooperating to Survive and Thrive Beyond Capitalism: Building a Solidarity Economy.” The conference took place at the University of Michigan where 20 student cooperative houses and an Inter-Cooperative Council thrive with more than 600 residents. The common threads in the workshops were radical inclusion and cooperation, even amongst cooperatives.
The students generally agreed on an emerging new economic framework based on sharing and equity, as well as radical inclusion to participate in this new economy. Outside of the workshops, students attended caucuses for people with disabilities, people of color, white allies, working class, owning class allies and queer and transgendered people. From talking with students and attending a caucus myself, I was encouraged that NASCO and the student coops are at the cutting edge of diversity work and theory. The undercurrent being that inclusion means listening to, understanding and working from the unique perspectives from the oppressed (i.e. all of us) to create radical inclusion, liberation and equity for everyone. A solidarity economy for all!
I was moderately surprised to hear that women at the student co-ops felt they had a ways to go toward gender equity and that there was sadly no gender caucus to discuss it, but one workshop did address gendered labor in co-ops. It was also the first time I heard nonviolent communication described as a communication tool that can be oppressive to those who don't share that communication style. This came from the Aorta Collective, a nonprofit that teaches communication skills.
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