Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union Presents Co-opalooza, a Celebration of the Cooperative Model

Credit unions are founded on the idea of cooperation. In fact, the credit union motto of “people helping people” is essentially the shortest possible definition of the word.

But while credit unions have embodied this cooperative ideal in the United States for decades, the cooperative model has recently begun to spread to a number of sectors, and the idea is gathering some serious steam. The United Nations has announced plans to declare 2012 the International Year of Cooperatives at the UN General Assembly Hall on Oct. 31, for example, and member-owned, service-oriented credit unions have been the highly-publicized destination for hoards of newly-disenchanted big bank customers in recent weeks.

Now, Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union (SMCU), “Home of the Seven Cooperative Principles,” is organizing an event called Co-opalooza on Sunday, Oct. 16, to officially promote and celebrate the proliferation of the cooperative ideal. The free, all-ages event will be held at the Fisher Pavilion at Seattle Center in Seattle, Wash., from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., giving attendees the opportunity to become familiar with more than 20 different cooperatives from nearly every sector.

“We started talking about our credit union as a co-op five years ago or more and really embraced the seven cooperative principles,” said Andy Wright, marketing manager for SMCU. “So, every year we just try and take co-op month as an excuse to do something to really help the cooperative movement, and this year we knew we wanted to do something really big because it’s the International Year of the Cooperative starting this month.

SMCU piloted the event last year at Pravda Studios in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood to an overwhelmingly positive response, as it proved to be not only an effective way for the various cooperatives to spread their message to the public, but a positive networking opportunity for those involved in the cooperative movement as well.

“I think co-ops really struggle to synthesize their message and make it accessible to the public,” Wright said. “We just think [Co-opalooza] is so important because it’s about companies that the customers own and control, and that’s just a really relevant message, especially in the current economic climate. We think this is really going to strike a chord with the public this year after all we’ve been through.”

And much like the cooperative model it is designed to promote, Co-opalooza is itself reaching an increasingly wide—and increasingly receptive—audience. Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire issued an official statement of support in the week leading up to Co-opalooza, lauding cooperatives for “their high standard of excellence and commitment to social responsibility.”

But more than a worthwhile cause and a positive message, Co-opalooza is shaping up to be an extremely entertaining way to spend a day. Participating co-ops will offer free food samples, discounted massages, coffee samples and more, and there will also be live music throughout the day from four local bands, Caspar Babypants, Recess Monkeys, Ravenna Woods and The Moondoggies. Two jumbo-sized trampolines highlight the many youth- and family-oriented attractions, which will include a special Kids’ Area sponsored by the Children’s Museum of Seattle.

Co-ops in attendance will include Cabot Creamery, Group Health, PCC Natural Markets, Central Co-op, Equal Exchange, the National Cooperative Business Association, Organic Valley, Northwest Cooperative Development Center, Pangaea Organica, Olympia Food Co-op, PUNCH Gallery, Seattle Wholesale Growers, New Seattle Massage, North Seattle Community College Cooperative Preschools, Circle of Life Caregiver Cooperative, Tacoma Food Co-op, Bellingham Bay Builders, Green Cleaning Alliance, Web Collective, and the Flying Bike Cooperative Brewery.

Additional support for Co-opalooza comes from Darigold, Honest Tea and Seattle Met Magazine.


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