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What Does It Take to Start a Worker Co-Op? A Practical Video Guide to Democratizing Our Economy

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Would it be easier to practice workplace democracy if our media gave us as many visions of collaboration as they do of competition?

As Sarah van Gelder pointed out recently, 2014 research by the Pew Center found that 78 percent of Americans believe that too much power is concentrated in the hands of a few huge companies. More than half—62 percent—believe our current economic system is rigged in favor of those with the most power.

That belief, backed by the reality of gaping inequality and downward pressure on most Americans’ wealth and wages has led many people to look for ways, not only to ameliorate the pain and pressures of business-as-usual, but to find new ways of doing business. Worker-owned cooperatives, where workers are offered a share in the company and a say in decision-making, are one way to make the workplace more democratic. The most successful cooperatives have a good record of reducing inequality and building local assets, but co-ops aren’t easy, and they aren’t for everybody.

A year ago, GRITtv and TESA the Toolbox for Education and Social Action teamed up to look more closely at what it takes for a worker-owned cooperative to get started, and to succeed. The result is Own the Change: Building Economic Democracy One Worker Co-op at a Time.

Would practicing workplace democracy and working together be easier if our media and our education system gave us as many visions of collaboration as they do of competition? What if we were encouraged to participate in our communities as much as we are pushed to purchase stuff? If we measured prosperity not by how high we could pile up resources, but how widely we could spread them out, would our heroes, not to mention our economy look different?

We believe so. Own the Change: Building Economic Democracy One Worker Co-op at a Time is one contribution to a broader vision.

Visit grittv.org for more information on worker owned cooperatives, and how you could start, or transition your business to cooperative ownership.

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Films For Action is a library for people who want to change the world.

 

Our mission is to provide citizens with the knowledge and perspectives essential to creating a more beautiful, just, sustainable, and democratic society.

Films For Action was founded in 2006 by a few friends in Lawrence, Kansas, after realizing how essential healthy media is to a healthy democracy.

Over the last 15 years, we've reviewed and curated over 1,000 free documentaries and 4,000 short films, plus over 150 pay-per-view documentaries, spanning 34 topics related to changing the world.

During this time we've been able to reach tens of millions of people - not by owning a TV network or spending truckloads of cash on advertising, but because millions of awesome people keep sharing 'films for action' with their friends on social media - in particular, our 850,000 supporters on Facebook and 70,000 site members. 

One of the coolest things is, thanks to our patrons, our library is ad-free and 100% supported by member donations, while 99% of our library is free to access and always will be. The pay-per-view films on our site, of course, help support the filmmakers, and 90-100% of the revenue for PPV films hosted by us goes to the filmmakers. 

To thank our $5/mo patrons, we partner with filmmakers and distributors to provide free access to a growing number of films that are normally pay-per-view. With just 20 highly curated films at the moment, it's basically a very, very tiny Netflix for world changers, but its main function is to support the library as a whole.

If you'd like to know more, want to help out, or you're a filmmaker looking to collaborate, feel free to get in touch!

Cheers,  Tim Hjersted