Communities, Cooperatives and a Common Social Cohesion
Bridging differences in cultures, races, faiths and points of view to work together for solutions to concerns that might threaten our future is a popular challenge often voiced by the mainstream media of today. Differences can open the eyes to new experiences, broadening perspectives, elicit surprise and possibly even humorous us. For instance, the Center of Intercultural Competence states that in Africa it is said that if a female friend tells another woman she has not seen in a while that she has put on some weight she is either complimenting her on her health or telling her she had a nice holiday. Here in America, I deem that most women would take that as an insult. Simple things such as shaking the head or hand gestures can also be interpreted with widely varying meanings differing from culture to culture. It is however the things that people hold in common and the values they share with each other that is most often the beginning of bringing people together resulting in stronger communities holding a common social cohesion.
Some organizations and even businesses will call themselves a community such as Ebay calls themselves The Ebay Community and the US Consensus Bureau refers to itself as The American Community Survey. A community or commune first appeared in the 12th century from the Latin communes, meaning a gathering of people that held things in common and today it is often referred to as an Intentional Community. There are in the United States well over 1,500 Intentional Communities each typically holding a common social, political, spiritual or religious outlook. Usually they share responsibilities and resources, visions and values.
The purposes of Intentional Communities are diverse and vary from community to community. Some of their visions or values may include sharing resources, creating safer, more family-oriented neighborhoods, green living, or eco sustainable lifestyles, etc.
Some are of the extreme visionaries for Intentional Communities and have designed seasteading derived from combining sea and homesteading is in creating permanent residences outside of a territory that is claimed by the government or any standing nation. Most seasteads are cruising vessels that have been modified or retrofitted decommissioned anti-aircraft or oil platforms, or floating, or artificial islands.
One interesting Intentional Community is the Avalon Organic Gardens and Eco Village a sustainable community located in Tumacacori, Arizona. This community has over 100 residents and is focused on organic gardening, rainwater harvesting, alternative energy resources, recycling and eco-architecture.
Most communities are not Intentional Communities per say but still work together to achieve common goals to better their communities. One fine example of this is a volunteer group located in Colorado called the Extreme Community Makeover that does door-to-door surveys within its own neighborhood blocks, asking if anyone is in need of any assistance with outside home improvements or projects. After the houses are identified as the ones who have requested help a group of ECM volunteers “adopt” that particular block and will spend a Work Day helping them to improve and repair their property.
A credit union is a financial cooperative that like most Intentional Communities engages in cooperating together but their vision is in cooperative banking and is member-owned and operated with the purpose of supporting community and providing credit at competitive rates and promoting thrift.
A mutual insurance company is also owned entirely by the individual policyholders. Any of the profits earned by the mutual insurance company is either rebated to the policyholders or dividend and distributed into reduced future premiums. The first mutual insurance company in the United States of this kind was established in 1752 by Benjamin Franklin. It was called the Philadelphia Contributionship was to insure houses from loss due mainly to fire.
Arkansas Valley Electric Cooperative
Ashley-Chicot Electric Cooperative
Bailey County Electric Cooperative Association
Bartlett Electric Cooperative
Basin Electric Power Cooperative
Big Country Electric Cooperative
Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative
Bowie-Cass Electric Cooperative
Brazos Electric Power Cooperative
Burlington Electric Department
C&L Electric Cooperative
Capital Electric Cooperative
Carroll Electric Cooperative
Cass County Electric Cooperative
Cavalier Rural Electric Cooperative
Central Power Electric Cooperative
Central Texas Electric Cooperative
Cherokee County Electric Cooperative
Choptank Electric Cooperative
City Utilities of Springfield
Clay County Electric Cooperative
Coleman County Electric Cooperative
Comanche Electric Cooperative
Concho Valley Electric Cooperative
Cooke County Electric Cooperative
Craighead Electric Cooperative
Dairyland Power Cooperative
Dakota Valley Electric Cooperative
Deaf Smith Electric Cooperative
Deep East Texas Electric Cooperative
Fannin County Electric Cooperative
Farmers Electric Cooperative Arkansas
Farmers Electric Cooperative Texas
Fayette Electric Cooperative
First Electric Cooperative Arkansas
Fort Belknap Electric Cooperative
Grayson-Collin Electric Cooperative
Great River Energy
Greenbelt Electric Cooperative
Harrison Rural Electrification West Virginia
HILCO Electric Cooperative
Jemez Mountains Electric Cooperative
KEM Electric Cooperative
Magic Valley Electric Cooperative
McKenzie Electric Cooperative
McLean Electric Cooperative
Minnkota Power Cooperative
Mississippi County Electric Cooperative
Mor-Gran-Sou Electric Cooperative
Nodak Electric Cooperative
North Arkansas Electric Cooperative
North Central Electric Cooperative
Northern Plains Electric Cooperative
Old Dominion Electric Cooperative
Oliver-Mercer Electric Cooperative
Ouachita Electric Cooperative
Ozarks Electric Cooperative
Pedernales Electric Cooperative
Petit Jean Electric Cooperative
Rich Mountain Electric Cooperative
Richland Electric Cooperative
Seminole Electric Cooperative
South Central Arkansas Electric Cooperative
Southwest Arkansas Electric Cooperative
Verendrye Electric Cooperative
Vermont Electric Cooperative
Wabash Valley Power Association
West Florida Electric Cooperative
Wiregrass Electric Cooperative
Woodruff Electric Cooperative
Health insurance cooperatives are another form of a mutual insurance that has a goal to provide health insurance to its policyholders. There have been more health insurance cooperatives coming together over the last couple of years as well as other types of cooperatives. Pictured to the left here is a partial list of public cooperatives for utilities.
A utility cooperative delivers public utilities such as water, electricity or telecommunications to its members. The profits are then either reinvested for more infrastructure of is distributed back to the members.
Central gathering places have always placed an important role in bringing communities together. A gathering place could be the town square, churches, stadiums, coffee and tea shops, or parks such as New York City’s Central Park. The lack of community places to gather make it more difficult to become as connected, especially for newcomers to an area. Walkability to the gathering place is always a plus. The traditional American front porch once played a vital part in bringing together a community. Even the White House was built with a central front porch. Weddings, business and special events, parties and gatherings naturally bring people socially together but when there is a cooperative efforts towards a common vision or goal communities blossom and in turn inspire and strengthen other communities as well.
There are many things that can be done towards strengthening and build a better more capable communities. Some popular often suggested ideas are in making a community a safer place to live by starting a neighborhood watch group, or managing a food drive, participating in your local government, joining or coaching a sports league, volunteering at a school, hospital or senior center. If a person has a hobby or talent, teaching a class is also a wonderful way to connect with other people. If you are a person who has a harder time extending yourself to others, if you have a talent you love to do sharing it or teaching it to others can help you to become more open to others and in turn them with you. These are all commendable services for individuals that does much to improve a community. The idea behind Intentional Communities in working as a whole together with one common vision is that the results are much like the idea behind draft horses who can triple their strength when pulling together as apposed to pulling singly according to the Eastern Ontario Draft Horse Pulling Association Inc.
While we are being encouraged to celebrate, bridge and embrace our differences; it is also through the pursuit of common valued principles and cooperative commitment that communities become more capable even in its ability to help other communities. Building for a brighter future starts with individuals who in the spirit of collaboration and communication come together with united focus towards strengthening their neighborhoods, towns, cities and ultimately it can build a stronger nation.