Sunday, July 14, 2024

A member of the Community Builders Cooperative works on a local renovation. A representative of the Somerville-based collective will talk Thursday about how people can form their own cooperatives. (Photo: Community Builders Cooperative)

The Community Builders Cooperative and Massachusetts Local Food Co-Op were around long before the Occupy movement, but it’s that call for economic justice that’s fueling a Thursday meeting to show others how to “take back the economy” by creating their own.

The 7 p.m. look at the history, issues and future of the co-ops is billed as an Occupy Boston teach-in, and the question-and-answer session and discussion afterward is to focus on practical, Occupy-specific themes such as how to start co-ops locally, said Terra Friedrichs, a business consultant and co-founder of Occupy Boston’s Social Enterprise working group.

“Starting co-ops is about ‘Occupying the Economy.’ We can take back our economy by starting our own businesses on our terms,” Friedrichs said. “It’s really exciting.”

The shared-labor concept has worked locally in a variety of areas, supporting cooperatives for artists and bicycles as well as growth of the Harvest Co-op Market into the Fenway and by the Forest Hills T stop (despite a move into smaller space in Cambridge).

The nine-member, Somerville-based builders cooperative formed in 1979 as a “renovation contracting business of the more radical collective sort,” said its Mark Rudnick, one of the Thursday speakers. All members decide policy and practice by consensus, he said, and all get equal wages in the building or renovation of the hundreds of homes, community centers, museums, stores and offices they’ve done in Greater Boston. (One such client: Toscanini’s ice cream. Rudnick himself worked on renovations at the Central Square landmark in April.)

“New positions in the group are rare, though there have been 24 members over our 33-year tenure,” Rudnick said. “Most of the group have been members since the beginning. The groups believes strongly in helping others form co-ops, not in making ours a lot bigger.”

Kelly O’Conner helped launched the food cooperative in 2009, having built support for it after learning three years earlier that the Oklahoma Food Co-op was giving away its software. The local cooperative began with 30 orders from 10 producers, O’Conner said, and is now up to about 150 orders a month (of some 2,500 products from about 45 producers) and more than 500 members  — all  volunteer-operated, led by a seven-member board of directors.

“It continues to grow and is currently searching for a new sorting center so that it can open more pickup sites and accommodate more members,” O’Conner said.

The 7 p.m. Thursday event is free, although donations are accepted, and hosted at the Old Cambridge Baptist Church, 1151 Massachusetts Ave., Harvard Square.