The cooperative movement began in Europe in the 19th century as a response to the industrial revolution and the threat that mechanisation of labour had had on people's livelihoods but has just as much relevance in the economic and social climate we find ourselves today.
As communities world-wide grapple with possible far reaching consequences of climate change and peak oil, the carbon footprint of communities are put under the microscope and solutions are sought on how to reinvigorate and strengthen local community's . The term "localisation" encompasses a range of strategies for building resilience and self-sufficiency in communities.
For instance, looking at ways to localise as much of it's food production as possible minimises a communities food miles, cuts transport costs in the food we buy and maintains local control and security for as much of that community's food needs as possible. Another example is creating community work spaces so that we have facilities for people whose work allows them to remain in the community during the day. This prevents "suburbia syndrome" in which communities are left empty during the day as people leave to work in other places. Instead it invigorates the health and well-being of a community and keeps people connected to where they live.
Cooperatives can be part of a community's resilience.
A cooperative is an association of people who have come together voluntarily in a jointly-owned and democratically controlled business to meet the economic and social needs and aspirations of a certain community. It is based on values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity.
Imagine the residents of Lyttelton being shareholders in a network of local cooperative businesses.
Imagine local members of these cooperatives deciding on what businesses are priorities for this community and being employed to manage and run these businesses.
Imagine the economic benefits of owning these businesses locally, sharing these benefits with the broad base of resident members and keeping the money circulating within this community.
As we look toward the future for Lyttelton we need imagination and courage to find solutions to our current situation which will also set the foundation for our strength and resilience in the future.