Work Together (Archive)

The USA cooperative Youth Council: Who are they and what they do?

19 December 2015

Through the USA Cooperative Youth Council (USACYC) young cooperators can directly participate democratically, assume leadership roles and be provided with education and experiential opportunities to learn more about cooperatives. Founded in 2012, it is a directly participatory organization that wishes to initiate, coordinate, promote and participate in educational efforts and programs that empower youth. The Youth Council is democratically run, and a board is elected to govern the activities.

Although the youth council is a cross sector federation for youth from 17 to 30 years old, they feel the closest to worker cooperatives, for several reasons one of them being that most of the youth constituents of the council can be described as grassroots, meaning that they are actual members of cooperatives or advocates of the movement, as opposed to being institutional which would mean non-member employees. The members of the council see cooperatives as necessary and believe that they are a “tool for systemic change for all people”, says its representative Emily Lippold Cheney. Another reason for this close knit bond with worker cooperative is based on the fact that in the USA, worker cooperatives are often the ones that use democratic practices and tools.

What do they do?

The council has different programs available: cohort, caucus, convergence. Through cohort, young members of the council are able to exchange with “older” cooperators and refine their network. It is a key opportunity for professional development. Through caucuses the USACYC brings young people together during youth-led events that allow for them to voice their opinions and share their different views. Caucuses are an important recruitment tool for the USACYC. They have noticed that members of the council are more likely to follow a cooperative career. The last program called convergence is an annual gathering of cross sector youth engaged or interest in cooperation. This kind of event helps with training in areas such as governance, leadership development, and entrepreneurship.

The USACYC picks topics to channel its programming around; in 2015 they focused on supporting youth cooperative entrepreneurship, creating more on campus and off campus education opportunities and cultivating racial equity within the cooperative movement.

Concerning worker cooperatives, the USACYC has organized caucuses at the last 3 worker cooperative conferences held in the USA. And they are discussing the possibility of a large cohort program at the next national worker cooperative conference. They council is also considering focusing on developing resources to support youth creating their own worker cooperatives. Emily Lippold Chenney, of the cooperative youth council declared that “the work of CICOPA in the last year is a tremendous example of the kinds of educational resources [their] constituents desire”.

Why youth: can they really make a difference?

Through history, the youth have been in the vanguard of social movements, thus the USACYC sees its constituents as historical actors that are challenging and furthering the cooperative movement. The youth have such a strong impact because they are less encumbered by institutional rules and can be “louder”. The USACYC is pushing for a campaign to gain seats on the board of their national cross sector federation (National Cooperative Business Association) so that their actions can have a great impact as a youth and worker movement.