When Solidarity Economics Is Our DNA: A story from the Cooperation Humboldt study group experience

By Tobin McKee, Cooperation Humboldt Core Team member and staff member

Because I am one of the facilitators for the hugely popular Cooperation Humboldt solidarity economy study groups, I was asked by another organization to run a similar study group for them. It did not go as planned.

The story of why it didn’t work well taught me something inspiring.

In a nutshell, the curriculum of the Cooperation Humboldt study group can be summarized this way:

Capitalist enclosure of wealth is built upon white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, and colonialism. Sharing, caring solidarity economics are built upon anti-racism, inclusive equity, and decolonization. 

To become a Core Team member at Cooperation Humboldt, the one and only requirement is that you participate in a study group, to learn about these things and the parts we play in them. The foundation of the organization is built upon antiracism, inclusive equity, and decolonization. Not as mere ideas, but as principles that each of us practices and strives to embody. 

What I didn’t understand when I took the job running a study group somewhere else was that when an organization is built upon the principles of solidarity economics, that shapes everything the organization does. It is the DNA of the organization. And when an organization is built another way, it behaves differently. In hindsight, it seems obvious.

I’m a design thinker. Kind of like an architect or an engineer, I plan things out before I do them. When I’m facilitating a study group, for example, I plan it out again, each time, even though I’ve done it before. I imagine, “How can I make this better? How will this experience affect people?”

So there I was, working for another organization, tasked with making the same magic that has made Cooperation Humboldt so effective. Working with my co-facilitator – an amazing person who is leaps and bounds ahead of me in their social justice work – we created a curriculum for our new study group, based on what I’d done at Cooperation Humboldt. I was optimistic. I thought our study group was going to make waves of positivity. Instead, we made something unexpectedly lackluster. 

While the Cooperation Humboldt study groups are full of rich, challenging conversations, where everyone, myself included, learns something new about the world, and about ourselves, this new group was slow to get to the root of the matter and genuinely start to look at how the programs we create are always going to be shaped around our deeply ingrained worldviews, which are often different than our well-meaning belief systems.

Why? What happened?

It comes back to that idea of the foundation, the DNA, the design of the thing. Entering into an existing space and attempting to remodel it is very different than creating something entirely new. To remodel an organization based on the principles of solidarity economics is a completely different task than to build an organization that way from the ground up. So I’m going back to the drawing board on that one, and I’ll do better next time.

But now that I more fully understand what it means to work for an organization that has solidarity,  antiracism, inclusive equity, and decolonization in its very DNA, my enthusiasm for the Cooperation Humboldt study groups is doubled. 

Our solidarity economy and social justice study groups are creating a healthy family of sharing, caring pro-activists who are equipped with the most valuable tools that a society has available: equity, cooperation, mutualism, pluralism, participatory democracy, and regenerative resource management. With these things as our building blocks, what we create is truly revolutionary.

 

WE SUPPORT OUR ELECTED AUDITOR-CONTROLLER

Public Statement from Cooperation Humboldt Board of Directors & Staff
 
Cooperation Humboldt exists to create a solidarity economy in our community. We know it is possible to meet our collective needs without exploitation or oppression and that it is possible to do so in a manner that heals and regenerates our natural ecosystems.
 
We also understand the importance of public engagement in civic leadership, and we believe that our elected officials should be held to the highest standards of public service. Humboldt County Auditor-Controller Karen Paz-Dominguez is an outstanding public servant and we are appalled at the attacks she has faced for the past two years, which have intensified of late. The recent actions by the Board of Supervisors taken against our elected Auditor-Controller are baseless, border on malicious harassment, and are a waste of public funds that are badly needed for other purposes. It is particularly disappointing to see a strong young Latina leader being singled out for such baseless mistreatment and blatant abuse.
 
For two years Paz-Dominguez has stated that she was not receiving accurate information in a timely manner and that her office was understaffed to do the work required under California law — work she was elected to do by the voters of Humboldt County. She has a legal responsibility to certify financial records and can’t do so without proper documentation. No one should want or expect her to do otherwise. Now that she either hasn’t gotten the records or has received them late, the Board of Supervisors and the County Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) are attempting to blame her for the adverse consequences of her principled choice to follow both the law and generally accepted accounting principles.
 
Several times the CAO has hired outside consultants to undo work already completed accurately by Paz-Dominguez. Where did the money come from to hire consultants for this purpose, while the Board refuses to hire the two additional staffers that Paz-Dominguez has said she needed for the past two years?
 
Now the Board and CAO want to hire an outside firm to audit — not the county — but the Auditor’s office itself, at a cost of $250,000. This during an unprecedented pandemic, when funds are desperately needed to keep county residents housed, fed, and healthy. Furthermore, the CAO is now advocating to hire a Finance Director, in direct opposition to the decision made by voters in 2016.
 
It is also worth noting that the county’s outside auditor has previously praised Paz-Dominguez’ work when she reduced an $8 million “miscellaneous” trust fund down to $480,000. Paz-Dominguez also kept the county from making a gross error on its projected income when $7 million in revenue was being counted twice. And she has diligently worked to reduce the fraud potential in payroll that was taken out of the Auditor’s office just before she was sworn in as the newly elected Auditor.
 
Frequently, the County states it can’t do critically important community projects due to a lack of funds. So where is this money coming from to attack the Auditor? It is money that would be much better spent serving the community rather than trying to disparage one of our most respected and effective elected officials.
 
– Cooperation Humboldt Board of Directors & Staff

LOCALS HONOR INDIGENOUS PEOPLES’ DAY

EUREKA, CA (October 8, 2020) – Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a holiday that honors Native peoples and commemorates their histories and cultures. It is celebrated across the United States on the second Monday in October, which falls on Monday, October 12 this year. Cooperation Humboldt encourages residents to mark Indigenous Peoples’ Day this year by participating in a voluntary tax called the Honor Tax. Detailed information is available at https://cooperationhumboldt.com/wiyot-honor-tax/.

An Honor Tax is a tangible way of honoring the sovereignty of Native Nations. It is called a tax because it’s not a gift or donation. The tax is voluntary, and the amount is decided by the individual/organization, and is paid directly to the historical inhabitants of the place where one currently lives and/or works. For those of us who live in the greater Wigi (Humboldt Bay) area, those historical inhabitants are the Wiyot Tribe. Those who live outside the greater Humboldt Bay area can look up their appropriate Tribal entity at https://native-land.ca/.

According to Wiyot Tribal Administrator Michelle Vassel, “Tribal governments provide essential service to their citizens. Other governments tax property, land, and income in order to provide these services. Tribal Governments cannot do this as their ancestral territory is occupied. We cannot tax our own people because they are already paying local, state, and federal taxes and tribal lands are held in trust by the federal government, or being taxed by other governments. The Wiyot Tribe operates primarily on grant funding. That places Tribes in a position of being subject to the whims of the federal government and nonprofit foundations which often dictate how funds must be spent. For me, the Honor tax is a really important tool to develop economic sovereignty because it allows us to choose how we spend funds with no strings attached.”

A growing number of individuals, businesses, and nonprofits locally have recognized the importance of the Honor Tax and have committed to paying it on a regular basis. Some pay monthly, and others annually. The amounts vary.

Earlier this year, College of the Redwoods began paying the Wiyot Honor Tax. Marty Coelho, Executive Director of College Advancement and the CR Foundation shares, “Our college believes that it is important to commit to an Honor Tax in recognition of the history and legacy of the Wiyot Tribe and acknowledge that the CR Eureka campus occupies former Wiyot tribal land. Being able to provide funds which in turn will help support services for Wiyot elders and youth, is not only a good thing to do, it’s the right thing to do.”

In 2019 Cooperation Humboldt resolved to pay 1% of its gross annual income to the Wiyot Tribe as an Honor Tax in perpetuity. “In addition to working in all of our program areas to center the needs and perspectives of Indigenous peoples, and developing authentic relationships and partnerships with local Tribal entities, we believe that payment of this voluntary tax is an essential piece of moving toward reconciliation and repair of relationships that have been deeply damaged by hundreds of years of inequality and genocide,” explains Tamara McFarland, a board member of Cooperation Humboldt.

The Humboldt Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, also participates in the Honor Tax. “We’re grateful for the opportunity to take up a special collection every year to pay our Honor Tax to the Wiyot Tribe. It reminds us of the historical injustice visited upon the Wiyot people by colonist predecessors and gives us a chance to align in a small way with what we hope will become meaningful reparations,” says Richard Kossow of HUUF’s Social Action Committee.

Some of the people who pay this tax prefer to do so anonymously because they do not wish to use the Honor Tax as a way to promote themselves as businesses or individuals, but prefer to keep the focus on Indigenous peoples. One Arcata business owner who pays the Honor Tax and wishes to remain anonymous shares, “It’s important to me to pay the tax because it recognizes the sovereignty of Indigenous Nations. It also represents a recognition that most of us are living on stolen land, and that’s generally not something that we are forced to recognize in any formal way in our daily lives. It’s also a way to acknowledge that Indigenous People are still here as active and vibrant members of our communities, and to honor the fact that we have so much to learn and gain from their continued presence.”

Another meaningful way to honor Indigenous People’s Day this year is by participating in Humboldt State University’s Native American Center for Academic Excellence’s Indigenous People’s Week celebration, which kicks off on Monday, October 12th at noon, and includes educational Zoom sessions focused on Indigenous experiences and perspectives all week long. More information is available at https://itepp.humboldt.edu/indigenous-peoples-week.

9/24/2020 Email Blast – Invitation to Food Team Introduction!

2020 just keeps coming at us. Just remember, we are all in this together, and that is exactly how we will get through this– TOGETHER!

We invite you to join us this Saturday, September 26th from 1:00-2:30 pm for an introduction to Cooperation Humboldt’s Food Team and to find out how you can get involved!

We believe that access to nutritious, culturally appropriate food is a fundamental human right and should never be dependent on wealth or income. So all of our projects are grounded in that belief.

Our past accomplishments include:

– Establishing 12 Little Free Pantries, with 11 more about to be installed.

– Completing 15 front lawn conversions (turning unused grass into productive organic gardens).

– Setting up over 240 mini gardens for low-income residents since the pandemic hit.

– Planting 80+ free community fruit trees.

– Numerous other educational events/offerings…

***Our newest project (and one where we need lots of help!) is taking over production of the Local Food Guide.***

Join Zoom Meeting

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82932886084

Meeting ID: 829 3288 6084

One tap mobile

+16699006833,,82932886084# US (San Jose)

 

Meeting ID: 829 3288 6084

Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/keGCofOI3x

 

We hope to see you soon,

Your friends at Cooperation Humboldt

www.cooperationhumboldt.com

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If you aren’t already, would you consider joining Cooperation Humboldt as a sustaining monthly donor? You can chose an amount that works for your budget from $10, $25, or more! Your contribution goes a long way to support the diverse community-centered work we do together!

DONATE HERE

As always, please reach out to us with your own dreams, ideas, and plans. Please be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram to stay up to date on how Cooperation Humboldt empowers our community to build a brighter future!

9/10/2020 Email Blast

The COVID pandemic. The Floyd Rebellion. Wildfires. It’s just soo much. We take solace and comfort in remembering that we are all in this together, and that is the only way we will get through it– TOGETHER.

Here are two upcoming opportunities to learn more about what that means for us.

Monday, Sept14 at 6pm we will be hosting a virtual “Introduction to Cooperation Humboldt.” If you were ever curious about who Cooperation Humboldt is, what we do, and how you can get involved, this is for you!

Join core team member Marina Lopez and co-founder Ruthi Engelke for an introduction into the who, what, why, and when of Cooperation Humboldt. They will provide an overview of the organization, our theory of change, the principles of a Solidarity Economy, and how each project fits into creating a Solidarity Economy right here on the North Coast of California.

Zoom Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82066428357?pwd=NlVxTjVWMUxWSDE3bEQ1RWFMQ29GZz09

Meeting ID: 820 6642 8357

Passcode: Cooperate

Sat, Sept 19 at 12pm we will host a virtual gathering to share our efforts to create an Ecovillage Development  in northern Humboldt County. Our goal is to create a community based on sustainable food, energy and housing practices. We are looking for people who share a similar vision for life in the 21st century, value consensus-based decision making, and are looking to live in a multi-generational village of 10 to 25 people. The current founders group envisions some tiny homes and many common facilities; a workshop for creative reuse projects; a medicinal herb, native plant, and food garden; an arts & media production center; and a commercial kitchen to create a functional live and work environment.

Are you interested in a smaller or bigger village, or a spot farther flung from town? Do you have a theme around which you wish to develop the culture of your village? This is just one beginning, and we want to hear from you. Cooperation Humboldt is offering resources, support, and is helping to incubate an independent network of many ecovillages. Come join us for an Introductory Meeting where we will discuss all of the components, explore available properties, and help you network with like-minded builders and dreamers.

Join by phone: 1 669 900 6833

Meeting ID: 893 6196 9444

We hope to see you soon,

Your friends at Cooperation Humboldt

www.cooperationhumboldt.com

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If you aren’t already, would you consider joining Cooperation Humboldt as a sustaining monthly donor? You can chose an amount that works for your budget from $10, $25, or more! Your contribution goes a long way to support the diverse community-centered work we do together!

DONATE HERE

As always, please reach out to us with your own dreams, ideas, and plans. Please be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram to stay up to date on how Cooperation Humboldt empowers our community to build a brighter future!

We have two wonderful accomplishments to share with you today.

First, thanks so much to everyone who donated during the month of August. We exceeded our matching funds grant goal to raise $10,620 (which makes $20,620 including the matching funds)! This generosity supports so many empowering projects that we provide to our community, which leads to our second celebration…

Last Saturday as part of our ‘Mini Garden Extravaganza’ event, we installed a whopping 78 gardens in one day! This brings us to 241 total gardens installed for the season. Huge thanks and appreciation go out to all of the amazing volunteers who joined forces to make this possible.

It’s been heartwarming to read the messages of thanks from those who received mini gardens on Saturday, and we wanted to share a few with you, since this would not have been possible without your support!

“In short, WOW! I absolutely love our mini garden. I am looking forward to seeing how the garden changes as it grows. As a first time gardener I really appreciate the size. Thank you for considering our family.” – Jacqueline

“I am so fortunate to have received a mini garden this past Saturday. Thank you to Cooperation Humboldt for affording my son and I the opportunity to learn and eat healthier. We can’t wait to watch them grow and one day cook with veggies from our own backyard!” – Natassia

“The garden is just the perfect size for me, and the timing for fall is spot on. And the greatest thing is I could never have done this for myself. With my arthritis it would be just too much. The young men who brought the pot and soil were so pleasant and a joy to meet. And the ladies with the plants were so swift and did a great job. A job well done by four of the nicest people  I have met in quite a while.” – Tricia

“My family and I are so happy every time we look at our new garden. We are so grateful for the food and experiences we will get from this. Our community is amazing, Cooperation Humboldt you’ve really blessed us! Thank you.” – Khianna

“I was so excited and pleased that I was chosen to receive a mini garden. I am 67 and my wife is 66 and we live in a trailer park with limited space. This small garden will give us purpose and enjoyment in our lives. Thank you thank you very much.” – Ron

As always, we encourage you to reach out to us with any questions, comments or suggestions.

Your friends at Cooperation Humboldt

www.cooperationhumboldt.com

————————————————————

If you aren’t already, would you consider joining Cooperation Humboldt as a sustaining monthly donor? You can chose an amount that works for your budget from $10, $25, or more! Your contribution goes a long way to support the diverse community-centered work we do together!

DONATE HERE

As always, please reach out to us with your own dreams, ideas, and plans. Please be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram to stay up to date on how Cooperation Humboldt empowers our community to build a brighter future!

Trinidad volunteers feeding the community – Mad River Union, August 6, 2020

Janine Volkmar

Mad River Union

HUMBOLDT – “They are managing and they are proud,” Carrie Peyton-Dahlberg said, “but a little extra help would be huge.”

Peyton-Dahlberg knew that residents at mobile home parks in the Trinidad area would benefit from food deliveries and other help with errands because of her volunteer efforts during the 2016 mobile home rent control issue. Some of the residents are elderly and many are sheltering in place.

“People assume that there isn’t a need here,” she said, “but there is.” The idea and initial funding came from her and blossomed with volunteer help.

“I knew that there were offers already out there,” she explained. “I offered to do a needs survey. I didn’t have to leave my house; I just got on the phone.”

With that done, and the help of Cooperation Humboldt and the Trinidad Civic Club, volunteers Brett Shuler and Tim Haywood swung into action.

Shuler, a local caterer and musician who is active in the Trinidad Chamber of Commerce, cooks up 18 hot meals every Friday in the Civic Club’s commercial kitchen in Trinidad Town Hall. The club is donating the space, rent-free and Shuler is donating his time.

Meals are nutritious and fresh, such as chicken enchiladas, rice, and beans.

“I try to include a treat, such as brownies,” Shuler said, smiling.

Then Tim Haywood, “masked and gloved,” delivers the meals to residents of local mobile parks, a couple up on Stumptown Road, and to folks living in their vehicles. He’s checking on their well-being at the same time.

“They tell me how they’ve been,” he said.

Haywood, who lives in Trinidad, is also a stewardship assistant for the Trinidad Land Trust. He credits Cooperation Humboldt for their support at the beginning, and captains three of the group’s Team Trinidad volunteers.

“I became team captain for Trinidad, and am now the only active meal deliverer,” he said.

Oscar Mogollon of Cooperation Humboldt praised the efforts of Haywood and Shuler. “It’s really great that the community is just filled with these type of people,” he said.

Cooperation Humboldt is a group of community organizations and local institutions. They formed the Humboldt COVID-19 Community Response Coalition in March and have been facilitating food and supply efforts since. (Mad River Union June 24, 2020, p. 4)

“We just connected the dots and made sure they had enough support,” Mogollon said. “We’ve provided food and masks to them.”

More support and donations are always welcome. Currently Shuler and Haywood have a GoFund Me page for donations for food costs.: gofundme.com/f/trinidad-hot-meal-fund.

Peyton-Dahlberg would like to see a similar needs survey done of every mobile home park in the county. But she’s proud of the efforts in Trinidad. “The people who do the real work are the people who are meeting the needs,” she added.

Thanks, Brett and Tim, for making it happen.