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How can collective action be a catalyst for cultural changes




As reported by Around the based in Rome, Italy.’Casa di Alice has been the first step of our trip, a one-year journey throughout which we collected stories of collective action all around the world.

We have been mainly driven by the will to remind ourselves and inspire others who join us, that the world is full of innovative and inspiring stories that show how people come together by acting as a collective to succeed in meeting their territorial needs. We sought to find stories of how togetherness is conducive to and promotes social-economic cohesion and social justice. This is the case of this incredible story: “Casa di Alice” (Alice’s home) and the ‘Altri Orizzonti – Jerry Essan Masslo’  cooperative in Castel Volturno in Southern Italy.

There are lots of mistaken ideas that have crept into public opinion, and have influenced thinkers, economists and policy-makers about the potential and capacity of some organizations, especially cooperatives, to offer valuable opportunities of change to people and places. Starting after WWII, we witnessed many failing experiments of cooperatives that acted outside the guiding values and principles of the cooperative movement, and these historical experiences have left a whole host of negative preconceptions about the cooperative model.

Amongst them, we recall the conviction that people work together only moved by self-interest, sometimes also with a degree of uncertain legality. Among other misconceptions, there is the idea that cooperatives are representatives of the established power, that they can’t be truly democratic, that they are controlled by élites, and so they are unable to benefit the majority of their members, including the poorest and most marginalized, nor to contribute to major changes in society.

Before reading this blog post, here below, you can watch our coop story number 1:

In spite of this, the world is full of stories of collective resistance, community development and safeguarding of the commons, and cooperatives are often regarded as the main actors in these experiences. Many stories have been reported by cooperative members, by organizations that have collaborated with cooperatives, by social movements or by independent storytellers and yet, many of these experiences remain unknown, or certainly not as known as they should be.

So, here we are, playing our part in this huge collective effort of storytelling, embarking on a project that seeks to bring together diverse stories from around the world, in collaboration with the International Co-operative Alliance. We have done this through videos so stories can be told by the people themselves, as this one:

  • We have done this also through blog posts such as this one in order to give additional details that were not provided by the videos. Finally, we will do this through case studies, by producing a two-page brief for each cooperative, beginning with our next case study in Africa.
  • We began this long trip around the world starting from Castel Volturno, a village in the province of Caserta, in Southern Italy. This area – according to a well-known Italian tourist guide book – is not worth visiting and “unattractive, being mostly a stretch of uninspiring suburbs, almost completely dominated by the Mafia”.

Collective action as a catalyst for cultural changes: The context of Castel Volturno


This area we are talking about is exactly the one that the TV-serie Gomorra has made famous all around the world. It is the place where Jerry Esslan Masslo, an immigrant from South Africa, was exploited in the tomato crops and  killed in 1989 (the event gave raise to one of the biggest anti-racist demonstrations in Italy, and brought about the first national law on immigration); it is where the priest Peppe Diana was killed in 1994 because of his rebellion against the Mafia; where in 2008 six innocent African immigrants were shot down in the “Strage di San Gennaro” – also known as the Castel Volturno massacre – and the murderers were convicted of murder with racial aggravating circumstances.

These are the lands where the Mafia organization known as “Nuova Camorra Organizzata” (New Organized Camorra) was led by the boss Cutolo and spread terror until the end of the 80s when they were replaced by another Mafia organization. Here, immigrants represent a half of the total population, and live essentially in conditions of slavery even today. This is also the area known as “Terra dei Fuochi” (Land of Fires) where the systematic burial of toxic waste along with numerous bonfires lit by organized criminals has had a devastating impact on the health of the local population, agriculture and on the whole local economy.

In contrast, this is also the area where a large group of people have come together to resist and keep fighting against criminal organizations, against racism and environmental devastation, despite the extreme difficulties they face. These people are the main authors of  a massive and revolutionary cultural change. The legendary singer Miriam Makeba understood all of this very well and on the 9th of November 2008 went to perform in the main square of Castel Volturno, giving her support to the groups against racism and Mafia. Unfortunately, she died the very same day, right after the concert. A monument is there in the same square in memory of her support to the community of Castel Volturno.

collective action as a catalyst for cultural changes

What’s the story behind ‘Casa di Alice’ cooperative?

This social network composed of individuals, associations and social cooperatives, is now taking back the collective property and lands that belonged to the organized criminals. These properties are now being turned into places that promote social and economic inclusion, also thanks to the action of the Association “Libera” which brought laws upon the social use of assets that had been confiscated from the criminal organizations.

These people are proposing a new cultural model, before an economic and social. They are starting from the transformation of language, giving new meaning to words. The acronym NCO (as it was said before stood for “New Organized Camorra”) now no longer has a reference to the mafia.

It now stands for “Nuova Cooperazione Organizzata” (“New Organized Cooperation”), the name of a network of social cooperatives in the area of Caserta, which manage confiscated assets by carrying out projects of social economy. NCO now stands also for “Nuova Cucina Organizzata”  (“New Organized Kitchen”), a popular restaurant in the village of Casal di Principe. Someone should probably tell all this to the next author of a tourist guide book on the area of Caserta…

The project ‘Casa di Alice’ (Alice’s Home) was founded within this context of cultural transformation. It was established in a building confiscated from the boss Pupetta Maresca. This building is now the headquarters of the ‘Altri Orizzonti – Jerry Essan Masslo’ Cooperative. The cooperative was set up in 2011 by a group of young volunteers of the association ‘Jerry Essan Masslo’, created in 1989 when seven doctors and a social worker decided to act in response to the murder of Jerry Masslo, a  South African refugee, as explained at the beginning of this post.

Since then, the association has carried out projects of cultural integration and social and health assistance, in particular for migrants. ‘Alice’s Home’ initially was given to the association, and then, when the ‘Altri Orizzonti – Jerry Essan Masslo’ Cooperative was set up, it became the heart of the economic and social projects of the cooperative.

The projects have as a final aim one of concretely addressing the needs of a difficult area such as Castel Volturno. So, for instance,  “Made in Castel Volturno” – a project of social tailoring – came up, as a tangible result of how Italian and African tailors together can craft clothes and create an opportunity for decent work, dignity and intercultural exchange.

‘The cooperative is an heterogeneous and multiethnic enterprise, it creates work, integrates the different cultures in the area of Castel Volturno, and it promotes the culture of legality and solidarity’

“Altri Orizzonti – Jerry Essan Masslo” Cooperative

In line with this approach, some of the members of the cooperative are now proponents of a new project for local development, named ‘Buona Terra’ (The Good Land) that will produce organic tomato sauce on uncontaminated lands confiscated from the Mafia. This is a project that aims to promote decent work, promote innovative collaboration among farmers, such as with the local visionary farmers, like Miriam and Giuseppe of the project ‘Orto Conviviale’ and throughout the whole value chain, including social cooperatives in processing activities and selling the final product to joint purchasing groups like DESBRI.

Lessons learnt from this social coop!

What can we bring out of the experience of ‘Casa di Alice’? Here is some food for thought:

  • even in the most difficult areas, controlled by organized crime, collective action can be the catalyst for a massive cultural transformation with a strong social, economic and environmental impact.
  • laws in support of collective action, like the one on confiscated properties, can be the lever for the development of experiences like the one of ‘Casa di Alice’, by fighting criminal economy with projects of social economy.
  • native people and migrants can live together, without exploitation, without preconceptions, working together for a more inclusive and fair society.

We would like to conclude this post with a message that some of the cooperative members of ‘Casa di Alice’ left us with last August when we had the chance to spend a few days with them. It is a message which tells their story and may spread a message of hope for many other places…

“In Castel Volturno there are scissors that break chains and dreams that become true”

Source: Around the
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Cooperatives as implementers of Responsible Investments in Agriculture



Around the, based in Rome, Italy, travelled to Rwanda to learn more about the rice-growing farmers, the members of the Coproriz-Ntende. In this country, we learnt about cooperatives as implementers of responsible investments in agriculture.

Rwanda, also known as the county of a thousand hills, is impressive for the beauty of its landscape as well as for the energy and dynamic attitude of its population.

As many will know, this country has also a tough story, the story of a genocide that happened in 1994, where almost 1,000,000 Rwandans, mostly Tutsi but also Hutu, were killed. The first thing we did when we landed in Kigali was to pay a visit to the Genocide Memorial. A touching human experience we’ll never forget and that gave us a sense of incredulity about how such a level of atrocity could happen, where so many people died, murdered by the hands of people who used to be their friends, their neighbors, their teachers, and so on. Of course, this left mistrust and hate among the population, with clear repercussions on cooperative development, as we will see later on with the case of COPRORIZ-Ntende.

There are some very interesting figures about Rwanda. Did you know?

Since the Genocide, Rwanda has seen over two decades of uninterrupted economic growth and social progress. Despite the existing inconsistencies and problems, there are some interesting facts and figures about this country:


  • It ranks 6th for gender equality according to the Global Gender Gap Report that benchmarks 149 countries on their progress towards gender parity across four thematic dimensions: Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment. For example, Italy, our country, ranks 70th; USA 51st.
  • Human development in the country is increasing at a fast pace, with Human development index increased from 0.3 score in 1998 to 0.52 score in 2017, growing at an average annual rate of 2.95 %.

The role of cooperatives in the national development strategy

In the year 2000, the government established the Vision 2020, a long-term development strategy with its main objective to transform Rwanda into a middle-income country by 2020, based on a thriving private sector. What is the role for cooperatives in this process? According to the latest report of the Rwanda Cooperative Agency, more than 3.6 million of Rwandan populations have joined cooperatives. That is, 55.3% of the population, at the age of being a cooperative member, are now operating in cooperatives. So, cooperatives are in fact an important player to pull people out of poverty.


Acknowledgment of the role of cooperatives as a means for development dates back to early 2000, when cooperatives were seen as a way to fight the deep poverty experienced after the genocide.


A very recent interesting initiative – the cooperative knowledge sharing platform – is in place whereby all relevant public and private stakeholders meet quarterly to share information and learning from across the cooperative sector, ultimately contributing to building synergies for cooperative development.

COPRORIZ-Ntende: cooperatives as implementers of responsible investments in agriculture


The story of COPRORIZ-Ntende started in 2003 as an association and then in 2005 as a cooperative. Today it includes 3,761 members, 2,450 men and 1,311 women. The first President, James Karangwa, and the managing director, Jean de Dieu Sinzamuhara, are the key leaders and protagonists, together with the members of the cooperative who have achieved success over its 15 years of existence.


It all started with a government intervention that transformed the Ntende territories in 2003. Wide expanses of land were used at the time by local populations to produce not even enough for home consumption. At that time, as told  women members particularly told us during one of the FGDs we carried out, household diet was mainly based on sweet potatoes. There was deep poverty and famine. Government intervention consisted mainly in building a dam and creating a marshland and farmers were encouraged to come together and cultivate that land.


James was there when all this happened. It was not easy at the beginning, as he explained to us. There was high motivation among farmers to improve their wellbeing, but low capacities at both production and managerial levels. In addition, they did not even speak to each other because of the mistrust left by the genocide. However, the fact of being formally together attracted training provided by external players.

This is considered by James as a turning point in the story of COPRORIZ-Ntende. Little by little, they learnt how to increase rice production, how to manage pests, and above all how to manage a cooperative conformed to the seven principles. It was interesting to hear that the Farmer Field School programme run by FAO was particularly useful for them to learn how to work together, manage pests and increase rice productivity from 2.5 t/ha to 5.25 t/ha while massively reducing pesticides. Another important moment for the story of the cooperative was when they secured a contract with a national buyer, which assured them a profitable access to market.


They put in place a pyramidal system of governance that sees at the bottom the groups, each formed by nearly 25/30 members. 8/10 groups together form a zone, at each level the rice collection centre is found. The COPRORIZ-Ntende has in total 15 zones. Each zone elects its delegates who then participate in the GA and elect the Board. The flow of information from the groups to the management and board and back again is assured by the “mobilizers”, that is farmers trained as agronomists and employed by the cooperative to provide technical assistance to the farmers of each zone.

cooperatives as implementers of responsible investments

How the cooperative changed members life?

Although there have been challenges, the cooperative has grown and has managed to provide members with many services that have radically changed their lives. During one of the FGD, we asked members to identify the main changes that happened in their lives since they joined the cooperative. They came up with a very long list:

  • Decent housing, thanks to higher income and easier access to bank loans facilitated by the cooperative that works as a guarantee;
  • Children’s education until university level thanks to small loans from the cooperative to pay children’s school fees, the coop shop to buy books and stationary; and easier access to bank loans to access university;
  • Pension for members older than 70 years old paid by the cooperative fund;
  • Medical insurance provided by the cooperative fund;
  • Funeral services paid by the cooperative fund in case a member or any of their relatives pass away;
  • Increased farming knowledge, thanks to training and technical advice provided by the cooperative;
  • Feeling more empowered, thanks to collective power;
  • Easier and stable access to market;
  • Improved nutrition and food security, thanks to more knowledge about the balance diet thanks to cooperative training; higher income to buy diversified food; cattle and goat breeding;
  • Access to electricity thanks to photovoltaic panels.

However, one could wonder how sustainable a process of development can be like this when it is dependent on one crop, especially when it is challenged by natural threatsclimate change being the first. Could a cooperative like this be resilient? This has been the very first question James and Jean de Dieu asked themselves. Their vision was to build a sustainable business that could effectively meet members’ needs over time. But how to do it? The answer came by chance, when they made their first investment, building a hall to hold their meetings. The hall, that was the best in the district, was requested for renting, and after that, upon clients’ requests, the cooperative built also a restaurant and a hotel, recently awarded with two stars, as they proudly showed us.

Nowadays the cooperative generates a surplus of 40 million RWF out of rice production and another 60 million RWF out of the hotel. This is crucial as it not only means that the level of services assured to members is not affected in case of a bad harvest, but also that the cooperative can meet emerging needs. Other investments are under way, such as a project of poultry farming that aims first to provide each member with their own chicks (with an expected good impact on nutrition and on household income diversification) then to serve also the district, generating additional income for the cooperative.

Another interesting project is the foundation of a farming association composed of members’ kids who, after completing their studies, engage in fishing activities at the dam for their own income-generation. By the way, as we learnt, the dam is managed by a water user association that takes care of the dam’s maintenance and works hand in hand with the cooperative to serve the marshland the best it can.

Board and management alone agree none of these projects of investment. As was explained to us, for each investment there has been an internal process of discussion that led to project prioritization by members according to their needs.

When we asked the management what is their factor of success, they identified exactly this high commitment to be respondent to members’ needs, generating trust, transparency and accountability. This was frankly confirmed through the words of each member we met. Social and economic cohesion that was not there at the beginning of the story of this cooperative, as the genocide had disrupted whatever possible confidence among people there had been, was successfully rebuilt through the COPRORIZ-Ntende.

What insights emerge from this cooperative story?

For us spending those days with James and Jean de Dieu, as well as with the newly appointed president, and with all the members we met, was indeed an interesting lesson of cooperative development. As usual, here is some food for thought:

  • It is always said that cooperatives set up through a bottom-up process are more likely to survive and be perform well. Of course, it is not a mystery that this cooperative has a different story and that at the beginning it could not count on important social capital, which meant that a committed group of people had to work together in a collective action process. However, after 15 years, those bonding ties among committed and empowered members are there. This happened mainly because of committed and visionary leaders who managed to rebuild trust and motivate farmers, but also thanks to the good support of external actors, who provided training and turned this fundamental experience into cooperative development.
  • The role of women in Rwanda is impressive. After the genocide, they became the backbone of the country’s development. Targeted training for women had an important role to support them in their process of self-development and in their active participation in the cooperative. Within the cooperative, they also have their own commission where they discuss themes of their specific interest. However, let us say that a higher representation at leadership level would be desirable also for the COPRORIZ-Ntende.
  • Finally, a remark about the role of cooperatives to promote responsible investment. This is a topic of particular importance for me (Sara) and Cécile Berranger (today one of the members!). Together with another of our friends, Federica Rinaldi, we wrote a paper exactly about this! It showed how cooperatives are not only capable of generating investment through share capital and loans, but can also create financial viability and provide effective services to their members, they can also manage to increase the willingness of members to reinvest in the cooperative itself, generating a virtuous circle of responsible investment and sustainable development. That research was the output of a project we carried out under a partnership between FAO, Roma TRE University, ICA Africa and the Uganda Cooperative Alliance. This case study totally confirmed the findings of that paper!

Also in this occasion, we gave James the argan oil produced by the Cooperative Toudarte!

This time we also asked Jean de Dieu, as managing director, to share a sentence with cooperators and cooperative leaders around the world… here you go!

“One of the best possibilities to eradicate poverty for many people at once is through cooperatives… Coop leaders, please work hard in transparency and ensure freedom for all members because cooperative failure, success and pride is not only yours… remember that you will always reap what you sow, there is huge opportunity ahead if you aim at common interest!”

We are so grateful for the fantastic time we had in Rwanda! Our thanks goes to everyone at the COPRORIZ- Ntende, including Mr Africa, the director of the hotel, who facilitated our stay and helped with the translation, and all the staff who work at the hotel and made our stay comfortable and unforgettable. We also thank the chairman of the National Cooperatives Confederation of Rwanda (NCCR) Augustin Katabarwa, and the Executive Secretary of NCCR, Gerald Ngabonziza, for welcoming us in the country of a thousand hills.

Source: Around the

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A web of Life for ALL Life

Cooperatives as an engine for women’s empowerment



Around the is  happy to announce our brand new column: the Toolbox. ATW has chosen an evocative name, an image that recalls the action of doing. Sometimes, in fact, in order to effectively finalize some action we need to use some specific equipment. We launch it today by putting inside the Toolbox the first tool: cooperatives as an engine for women’s empowerment.

Every month we would like to add a new tool to our box, we would love to fill it with all the useful keys to better read the cooperative world and to become, ourselves, conscious actors within our society.

So, let’s start! Empowerment is a process, more precisely it is the process that leads the individual to the acquisition of self-confidence and self-esteem. It allows the person to take control of his/her own life and it contributes to create awareness of one’s rights.

Empowerment is a dynamic and multi-dimensional concept, which can be easily applied in several contexts: today we focus on women’s empowerment, studying two case studies, the women cooperative in Morocco and in the United States. Ready to fly? Let’s go!

Similarities between Toudarté and Up&Go cooperatives

What do the Toudarte and Up&Go cooperatives have in common? Apparently, it seems nothing: different latitudes, different continents and not comparable sectors. Yet, there is a common thread that links the one that produces argan oil in rural Morocco with the one that offers domestic services in New York, the City by definition: women! Better say, the empowerment of women.

The female collective action is the real protagonist of these two stories; and collective action results a  crucial node as it activates and reinforces women’s empowerment.

Reading articles and papers, quite often we find the concept of empowerment combined with the specification “women”. That’s because recently, international agencies, governmental and non-governmental bodies as well as academics, have shed light on the centrality of women’s empowerment as an instrument for human development.

Development is the process that drives the expansion of people’s capabilities to live the life that one values or has reason to value, moreover development leads the individual to experience the political, economic and social opportunities. This process represents the base for the individual to exercise agency within the community

Women are crucial to achieve human development, both from an intrinsic and an instrumental point of view. In particular, from an instrumental perspective, women act as a driving force for the expansion of household’s and children’s capabilities. Despite women’s force, figures do not seem to be so comfortable: worldwide only the 55% of women participate in the labour market compared to the 78% of men.


In 72 countries, just the fact of being a woman represents an obstacle to access to financial resources and credit. Finally, women take the burden of unpaid work, such houseworks and childcare.

cooperatives as an engine for women's empowerment
cooperatives as an engine for women's empowerment
cooperatives and women's empowerment

How both Toudarté and Up&Go cooperatives contribute to raise awareness about the importance of women empowerment?

The cooperative stories of Toudarte and Up&Go contribute to raise awareness on two points: firstly, women’s daily commitments and tasks are not the same in all places. In rural Africa, for example, in addition to childcare and domestic chores, women have to fetch water and collect woods to cook. Certainly, in Europe and United States it will not be an easy task to find a woman that has to walk for hours and hours to collect water for domestic needs, anyway it will be quite easy to find women with a job that keeps them at least 8 hours away from their home every day, in addition to the inevitable domestic works and the care of children.

Secondly, although women have to finalize different daily tasks, they still feel the same needs. Whether they are in Morocco or in the United States, women want to make their voices loud, they want to be agents of their own lives and want to take an active role in societal changes. Let’s give a look on how the cooperative can trigger women’s empowerment.

Participation constitutes the first stimulus for trigger changes and enhances women’s empowerment. It acts through several transmission channels: an important one is economic empowerment. Participation in a cooperative can lead to the  achievement of  an adequate remuneration and a fair income for products and services offered. Aside from the mere, but still important economic aspect, this kind of empowerment is fundamental to reinforce women’s capabilities.

Women who have their own source of income have more decision-making power on how to spend it. Several empirical studies have shown that, especially in Sub-Saharan African Countries, women invest more resources on their children’s education and health, triggering a positive effect for future generations.

Furthermore, women who earn just remuneration got the possibility to work fewer hours per day, thus improving the quantity and the quality of their leisure time. We can find the direct evidence of that in the experience of the members of the cooperative Up&Go.

Cooperative as a catalyst for social development

Beyond human development, cooperatives are catalysts for social development: it represents a training ground to exercise democracy, to express individual and collective needs. Cooperative meetings become the perfect space to express member’s ideas and point of view, moreover they constitute the  space to raise awareness on the rights that everyone has. Not only the worker’s right, but and more importantly the rights as human beings.

Through active participation in the cooperative, one can build both the individual and the collective identity. The collective identity, which means that one can recognize herself in the other, contributes to enhance women’s empowerment.  This is well explained by Cirenia, a member of Up&Go, who sees all the other women as her sisters, as people she can fully trust.

Participation therefore seems to be the key to triggering and evolving women’s empowerment. However, the active participation is not always so immediate: in certain contexts, such as Morocco, women’s participation can be hindered by specific cultural conditions and by the resistance imposed by society.

Moreover, the obstacles can be legislative: in some countries, only the head of the household can participate in a cooperative and usually he is a man. However, even if women have the right to participate in a cooperative, they still have to balance paid work with domestic activities and childcare, hence women can face the lack of time as a constraint to take part in a cooperative. Finally, a woman may also choose not to participate because she has poor self-confidence, as a consequence of living in a society that does not encourage her participation in decision-making processes.

Hence, in contexts with specific rules and cultures, an all-women cooperative can represent a protected space where women can express themselves freely while strengthening each other.

Specifically, collective action gives the opportunity to the Toudarte members to overcome certain limits imposed by society. At first, as Fatima tells us, it was not easy to let women join the cooperative. However, her commitment and perseverance were important to convince at first only a few women, who then actually acted as pathfinders for all the other members. The idea of a woman fully empowered by collective action has produced enormous changes in the community.

Conclusion: cooperatives as an engine for women’s empowerment?

Therefore, the cooperative stories of Up&Go and Toudarte have shown us how the combination of women and collective action can trigger empowerment. These are stories of collective courage which make possible women’s empowerment and social and cultural changes. The presence of a protected space built by women and for women could be an ideal response in those contexts that actually prevent women’s empowerment within the society.

These spaces are a necessity, but they are anyway a first step: the process of women’s empowerment starts with women, but to be finalized it needs that the whole community is  empowered. Legislative, social and cultural changes in society as a whole have to come together  to the process of women’s empowerment, which is why the process of empowerment has to involve all the stakeholders within the society.

After framing  women’s empowerment, it comes natural that the next tool we will put in our Toolbox regard the process of empowerment in mixed cooperatives.  That new equipment will help us understand even more deeply the importance of cooperatives as an instrument for human development, furthermore we will understand what leads a community to choose one type of cooperative rather than  another and how cooperative’s action evolves over time.

Source: Around the

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Toolkit Shows How Individuals Can Push Energy Utilities On Climate Action



Most energy utilities are stuck in the 20th century, but there is potential for progress. A new interactive toolkit from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) offers guidance on how individuals can pressure their utilities to do the right thing and accelerate clean energy deployment at the community level.

The Power Up My Utility toolkit is broken down into sections according to utility model: municipally-owned, investor-owned, rural electric cooperative, and community choice energy. Each section features maps, audio and video clips, and links to in-depth research that lift up examples of successful community efforts to take control of their clean energy future. These resources provide everything you need to start pushing for impactful clean energy policies in your community.

The toolkit is available here. A short video that explores different components of the toolkit is available here.


About the Institute for Local Self-Reliance:
The Institute for Local Self-Reliance has a vision of thriving, equitable communities. We are a national research and advocacy organization that partners with allies across the country to build an American economy driven by local priorities and accountable to people and the planet.

About John Farrell:
John Farrell is the Director of the Energy Democracy initiative with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Farrell is a nationally recognized renewable energy expert and is the author of analyses that detail how to ensure that renewable technologies are available to every member of society. He has advised communities across the country on how best to establish their community-owned renewable resources and shares his expertise on radio and in print.

Source: Institute for Local Self-Reliance


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Over 60,000 Independent Biz Owners To Biden: Antitrust Reform Must Be Key Priority



In a letter sent to the White House on February 3, 2021, 15 independent business associations representing over 60,000 business owners from across the country called on President Biden to appoint Federal Trade Commission (FTC) commissioners and leaders at the Department of Justice (DOJ) who are committed to using the full range of these agencies’ expansive powers, and avoid appointing executives, lobbyists, or lawyers for four Big Tech companies – Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google – to key positions overseeing and enforcing antitrust policy.

In the letter, the independent business owners from industries including pharmacies, office supplies, booksellers, and others urged President Biden to appoint personnel who are experienced litigators or public servants who, in their careers, have “recognized the dangers of, rather than helped to exacerbate, these corporations’ market power,” and are willing to address the concentrated market structures and abuses that are threatening the survival of small businesses.

The letter notes that small businesses are the lifeblood of a dynamic and equitable economy, as well as an essential piece of the nation’s economic recovery. Long before COVID, however, America’s small businesses have been ravaged by “highly concentrated markets and rampant market power abuse by dominant corporations.” A 2019 survey of independent businesses found that Amazon’s outsized market power was the biggest threat facing Main Street businesses and there is overwhelming support among small businesses for stronger antitrust enforcement.

“Monopoly power is the leading threat to independent businesses,” said Stacy Mitchell, co-director at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, which helped organize the letter. “For too long, federal antitrust enforcement agencies failed to stop dominant firms, like Amazon, from engaging in abusive conduct and squeezing independent businesses out of existence. It’s crucial that the Biden Administration appoint personnel to these agencies who understand the problem and are committed to doing something about it.”

Personnel appointments are essential to achieving meaningful antitrust reforms, the letter states, arguing that it is “imperative that you avoid appointing individuals who have served as lawyers, lobbyists, or consultants for Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google to key antitrust enforcement positions.”

Recently, rumors have surfaced that President Biden was considering two attorneys who had defended monopoly power and corporate mergers, including a former lawyer for Amazon and Google, to oversee antitrust enforcement at the DOJ. Dozens of advocacy organizations sent a letter to the administration in response opposing their nomination.

Full text of the letter is available here.


Source: Institute for Local Self-Reliance

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