Cooperative Networks, A Market Advantage

 

Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional, and international structures. — The Sixth Cooperative Principle.

Cooperative business support networks are a valuable market advantage, creating resilience in an unstable economic environment.

Inkworks Press — a 40 year old Berkeley printing collective rooted in social activism — experienced the challenges of a shifting economy. Internet-based printing, heightened competition, and a financially struggling nonprofit client base presented major challenges to print shops, including Inkworks, across the country.

But unlike many other print shops that were forced to close their doors over the past decade, Inkworks has positioned itself for a successful and graceful shift into its next chapter.

Inkworks’ advantage over other print shops was its utilization of the sixth cooperative principle: cooperation amongst cooperatives. The Cheeseboard — a well-known and thriving Berkeley coop — purchased the Inworks’ building in 2014. This transaction provided Inkworks with the cash necessary to continue operations, while also providing the Cheeseboard with prime real estate in a hyper-competitive market — a clear win-win for both businesses.

Before the sale, Inkworks was in a bind. They needed to sell their building to provide immediate capital for their business. But they weren’t ready to close shop, abandoning their workers and community without a conscientious plan for moving forward.

Inkworks and the Cheeseboard found a solution. By considering each other’s interests, rather than approaching negotiations as a zero-sum game, the two cooperatives were able to cooperate!

Each member of Inkworks and the Cheeseboard was involved in the sale; all 40 members of the Cheeseboard inspected the Inkworks property before the sale was finalized, and the final decision required a consensus from both organizations. The methodical process of getting each member involved in the sale respected the needs of both organizations and their members. Although this process slowed down the sale, it also provided both sides with the time needed to hash out a deal that would benefit each party.

Inkworks lowered the sale price in exchange for the Cheeseboard agreeing to lease the building back to Inkworks at sub-market rent, giving Inkworks the time it needed to plan next steps. The sale guaranteed Inkworks both the opportunity to fairly compensate its collective workers and a cash flow for the next few years.
Whatever their next move may be, Inkworks is sure of one thing: the next Inkworks incarnation will continue to be based on a commitment to social activism and community. Inkworks’ current members are all contributing to the collective’s future vision. Inkworks has even reached out to its clients, old friends, and local community to provide input on how Inkworks can continue meeting the needs of the activist community.

We look forward to seeing their next move, we’re sure it will be done in the spirit of cooperation!

For more information on Inkworks Press, visit their website at http://inkworkspress.com/.

Amanda Whitney is a second-year law student at UC Davis, School of Law and was a 2014 summer law clerk at GC3.

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