Monday, June 25, 2012

Proposal for Cooperatively Owned Sharing Economy Foundation

by Mira Luna 6/25/2012 I can't tell you how inspiring it has been to be an organizer for the new sharing, alternative economy, whatever you want to call it. I also can't tell you how hard it's been trying to get the resources to get projects off the ground. Often the best grassroots-led sharing economy projects don't get funded, while sharing economy businesses and traditional nonprofits that feed into the old economic paradigm do get funded. For more info, read "The Revolution Will Not Be Funded." Many of these projects challenge the source of the money they are asking for and many fall outside of conventional funding categories that are made to put band aids on social and environmental problems and tend to keep the poor, poor. Kickstarter and Indigogo are great platforms for grassroots funding, but they require some marketing skills, an already big reach or small but relatively rich supporter base, an established project and usually video skills to pitch their project - beyond many nascent groups' capacities. Network organizations like the US Solidarity Economy Network provide good organizing and strategic help to grassroots work but don't have the funding to support grassroots work either, much less their own work. Slow Money has created a good model for grassroots investing, but the project has to provide a return. Wouldn't it be awesome to have a crowd-funded, member-run co-op foundation to strategically give funding to innovative grassroots economic projects with possible replication potential and record, research, and publish their challenges and successes? The foundation could keep tabs on the movement, fund conventionally unfundable new projects and provide an information sharing platform or technical assistance help like learning circles for similar projects needing intense start-up support. The foundation would be structured as a coop. Each person/member who donated any money on an annual basis would be able to vote on which projects gets funded that year. All of the grantee selection process and nominations for funding would be transparent. I would call it "Our Shared Future Fund". Any takers?

New cooperative will offer health insurance

From Burlington Free Press on June 25, 2012 Federal government provides a $33.8 million loan to help launch Vermont Health Co-op. Vermont has had dairy cooperatives since 1895 and its first food co-op, Adamant Cooperative Store, was established in 1935. It also is home to cooperatives providing electricity. Now a group wants to create the state’s first health insurance cooperative called Vermont Health Co-op. The federal government will give the initiative a big boost — a $33.8 million loan to cover startup costs and to fund a reserve to ensure the new insurer has enough money to pay claims. The Affordable Care Act, that politically controversial law whose fate could be d ecided next week by the U.S. Supreme Court, included a provision authorizing the creation of consumer owned and governed, non-profit health insurance cooperatives as a way to increase the options for individuals and small businesses. Mitchell Fleischer, chairman of the board launching the new cooperative, says Vermont, with its long tradition with cooperatives, seemed like a natural place to experiment with the health insurance cooperative concept outlined in the federal health reform law. “We think this is going to be very, very welcome in Vermont,” Fleischer said Friday. “We expect to carve out a niche.” “It is like your food co-op or electric co- op,” he added. “It is answerable to the people it serves.” As a cooperative, if income exceeds expenses, the profits will be returned to policy holders, either through expanded coverage or reduced premiums — and members will make those decisions. State officials and other insurers offered neutral comments Friday concerning the new endeavor, having not yet been privy to any details about the cooperative. The co- op, by federal law, couldn’t involve anyone associated with other insurance companies or with government. “It is not a surprise,” Health Reform Director Robin Lunge said of the announcement that a cooperative had been created and funded. “We knew it certainly was a possibility,” she said. “We are looking forward to seeing the application.”