Our Theory of Change

Our Theory of Change

A theory is a foundational set of beliefs about how the world works. It is a set of interrelated concepts, ideas and definitions that explains and predicts events and situations.

Whether we realize it or not, we all live our lives according to our own personal, internalized theory. Our personal theory is an assortment of beliefs and assumptions that come from a multitude of places - experiences, conversations, media, advertising, teachers, family, friends, and foes. These beliefs are often contradictory.

Theory without action is mere contemplation. But action without theory is just “doing stuff.” At Cooperation Humboldt, we try to be intentional about developing a shared theory of how the world currently operates, and to develop concrete actions to create a new world.

Resist – Build – Empower – Inspire

  • We must resist all forms of exploitation and oppression.
  • We must build new systems that meet our needs.
  • We must empower ourselves by learning the skills to succeed.
  • We must inspire others to join us in creating a new society.

Each of these approaches builds upon and strengthens the others. We must employ them all to create the world we so desperately need and so richly deserve.


Resisting the dominant system encompasses two elements:

  • The first is fighting back against oppression, exploitation, and inequality. This does not bring about systemic change, but it does protect the overall health of our community, and prevents things from getting worse. Resistance demonstrates the power of “We the People.”
  • While we are resisting we must also work to shift power away from corporations, the wealthy elite, and entrenched politicians and to local communities. We can do this by shifting both law and culture – for example by crafting ordinances, passing ballot initiatives or enacting legislation that assert our basic human rights, and protects our rights over corporations. Ultimately, we believe we must establish that nature itself has legal rights.


We must also create and nurture alternatives to the dominant system. Without alternatives we remain dependent upon the existing system. Corporations, corporate culture, and the predatory class encourage this level of dependence.

At Cooperation Humboldt we want to build working models that foster a culture of local sovereignty and autonomy. People need opportunities to opt out of the corporate capitalist system and the space and opportunity to think differently, and to build a new system that meets our social and economic needs.

But building alternatives alone is not enough. That leaves the rest of the society in the hands of the 1%, and means only those lucky enough to participate in the alternative can avoid the exploitation and oppression. Even worse, we know that unless we restructure society we are going to destroy the ability of earth to replenish herself.

EMPOWER: Organizing Skills and Education

History illustrates the importance of strategic community organizing in creating lasting and meaningful social change. We must build a vibrant and powerful movement for democracy.

In collaboration with other groups and individuals, we are committed to learning how to actually “do democracy.” We want to learn to master processes like facilitation, messaging, coalition building, and campaign development. We want to help facilitate the sharing of knowledge and experience, so we can help each other build more effective organizations and citizen’s groups. We want to be building trust, interdependence, and deep relationships with one another.

INSPIRE: Shifting Culture

The most dangerous threat to democracy is the mistaken belief that the US is a functioning democracy. A recent Princeton study confirmed what ordinary people know—a small group of obscenely wealthy people actually control the US government. We are not a democracy, we are an oligarchy.

People and communities need to understand that we not only have a right to resist corporate rule—we have a responsibility to do so. We believe that if something is the right thing to do, we have every right to do it.

We believe a democratic world is not only possible – but necessary for the survival of life on earth. So our work will always include an historical and analytic framework for understanding the mechanisms ruling elites have used to manipulate our laws, our government and our culture in order to maintain their power. It will also include a framework for changing the rules.