How Cooperation Jackson is Transforming the Poorest State in the U.S.

With a median household income of just over $37,000, Mississippi is the poorest state in the United States. A powerhouse organization promoting economic justice, Cooperation Jackson was born of a need to transform the state, in particular its capital and largest city, Jackson. Cooperation Jackson is a network of interconnected yet independent institutions including an incubator and training center, a cooperative bank, and a federation of established cooperatives. Together, they're exploring the potential of cooperatives to transform local communities.

Cooperation Jackson is emerging as a leader in the global cooperative movement and the struggle for economic democracy. Among other things, the organization teaches people about the importance of worker cooperatives and how to create one. It recently hosted the Jackson Rising: New Economies Conference, to lay a foundation for the transformation of the city and establish it as a center for economic democracy. The event was a great success, attracting international attention and moving Cooperation Jackson further into the spotlight.

Shareable caught up with Kali Akuno, Coordinator of Cooperation Jackson, to talk about the impact that the organization has had on the community, the challenges that it faces from political opposition, and how they’re planting the seeds for wealth equity in an impoverished region.

Shareable: Cooperation Jackson consists of a federation of cooperatives, an incubator, a training center, and a cooperative bank. This pretty much covers the bases for the new economy. Can you talk about the plan for Cooperation Jackson and how it came about?

Kali Akuno: Cooperation Jackson is the realization of a vision that is long in the making. The vision was produced by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and the New Afrikan People’s Organization and began to be operationalized in 2005, when these two entities started to develop a long-term strategy to transform the city of Jackson and the state of Mississippi. The vision is known as the Jackson-Kush Plan, and was made public in 2011 via a document with that same title. Cooperation Jackson is the manifestation of the solidarity economy aspect of that transformative vision.

Cooperation Jackson has many ambitious plans. It would probably take a book to deal with them all. But, one of our primary objectives is to have a minimum of 10 percent of the jobs in Jackson be drawn directly from the federation of worker cooperatives that we are producing. And we are looking to have an even greater percentage of the city’s GNP being produced by Cooperation Jackson.

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