Rachel Isreeli on the Transformative Power of Coops

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If you, like many others, think that cooperatives are just another way to do business, get ready to reframe that idea. Our guest today is Rachel Isreeli, and as she explains during this episode, cooperatives are a form of community organizing that have the ability to transform existing power structures.

Her journey into the world of cooperatives has its origins in organizing against sexual violence on college campuses. After college she moved into the space of identity and exclusion in workspaces, exploring the question of, “What is work?” Since 2020, she has also been involved with cooperatives that are advancing food democracy in marginalized areas.

Through the utilization of tools such as base building, leadership development, campaign development, and organizational development, cooperatives can combat the forces of white supremacy, patriarchy, and colonialism that have dominated our society for so long. During this conversation, Rachel, who is a cooperative developer in New York City, provides a thoughtful and in-depth analysis of the mechanisms by which they achieve this, how cooperative development has grown and evolved over the past decade, and her hopes for a future in which the “solidarity economy” is the norm. Go co-op!

Key Points From Transformative Power of Coops:

  • The exclusionary lens through which work has been traditionally viewed in our society. [0:04:48]

  • How co-ops challenge the power structures of patriarchy, racism, and classism. [0:09:51]

  • Overlapping components of community organization and co-op development. [0:11:01]

  • Value that Rachel sees in group theory (e.g. forming-norming-storming-performing) and group development. [0:12:50]

  • The approach that Rachel advocates for dealing with conflict within co-ops. [0:18:06]

  • Work that Rachel has been doing with the RiseBoro Community Partnership to build a food economy and advance food democracy in Central Brooklyn. [0:19:42]

  • How cooperative development has been expanding and evolving in New York City since 2014. [0:27:59]

  • What our world could look like if we embrace a new economy. [0:39:54]

  • The people who Rachel is most inspired by. [0:42:42]


“There’s all this precarious and often isolated labor that might not be classified in law, or in culture, as work; work that’s excluded from labor protections and not thought of by everyday folks as being work or being meaningful.” — Rachel Isreeli [0:05:49]

“In this country, up through much of the 20th century, work was often equated with predominantly white, male, industrial employment. Organizing labor protections was also grounded in a white man’s world. So work that’s gendered as female, raced as non-white, especially black and migrant, hasn’t been paid and protected in the way that men’s work has.” —Rachel Isreeli [0:07:39]

“I think about co-ops as sites for the transformation of power structures.” —Rachel Isreeli [0:09:53]

“Folks are reframing cooperative economics as tools for building power and collective liberation because through cooperative work members of coops can envision and enact economic relationships that directly oppose forces of white supremacy, patriarchy, settler colonialism.” —Rachel Isreeli [0:10:43]

“We don’t have to just do what we’ve been taught in these workplaces and educational systems. Let’s create something else. Let’s have a little fun and excitement in our transformation of power structures, from heteronermativity to the queer landscape of cooperatives.” —Rachel Isreeli [0:43:44]

Links Mentioned in Transformative Power of Coops:

Center for Family Life in Sunset Park’s Cooperative Development Program: https://centerforfamilylife.org/cooperative-business-development/

RiseBoro Community Partnership: https://riseboro.org/proram/nutrition/#subsection-food_democracy

Central Brooklyn Food Democracy Project: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1

Central Brooklyn Food Co-Op: http://cbfood.org/

NYC Network of Worker Cooperatives: https://nycworker.coop/home/

The Worker Place: https://www.theworkerplace.coop/

ANYC’s “Seeding Solidarity: A Map of NYC’s Economic Future:” https://map.gocoopnyc.org/ / https://gocoopnyc.org/seeding-solidarity-map-a-user-guide/

Public Bank NYC: https://www.publicbanknyc.org/

NYC’s Future is Cooperative: http://www.workercoop.nyc/

Cooperative Economics Alliance of New York City: https://gocoopnyc.org/

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