We‘ve all been there. It can feel disheartening to have conflicts flare up in cooperative settings. Aren’t co-ops supposed to be free from fighting, disagreements, and miscommunication?? Well, not really. As social organizations, cooperatives experience the intimate nature of everyday democracy, and this can be difficult. Cooperatives have people at the center of the organization, and where there are people, there will always be conflict. But co-ops offer a great opportunity to address polarizing conflicts by building up group skills to facilitate conflict resolution. We have a better capacity to do this because co-ops are rooted in shared values of anti-oppression and collective liberation. When co-op members are encouraged to show up with honesty and directness, engaged co-op leaders can bring together divergent opinions and diverse experiences to deal with disagreement constructively.
Esteban Kelly is the Executive Director of the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives (USFWC) and a worker-owner at AORTA Co-op (Anti Oppression Resource & Training Alliance). He will lead an interactive (and fun!) workshop on how to resolve tensions and work through difficult disagreements. After discussing the reasons why many disputes arise, he will guide participants through the steps that they can take to successfully resolve conflicts in their own cooperatives while fully acknowledging power dynamics.