Interviews with cooperatives and mutual aid initiatives from around the world that are creating alternatives to our current economic system.
 Looms of Ladakh: Women-owned Wool Textile Cooperative
Looms of Ladakh is a women owned luxury wool clothing cooperative based in the Himalayan region of Ladakh, India. They are a farm-to-fashion initiative, focusing on small-scale and high quality production to illuminate and preserve the traditions of the Changpa nomads of that region. Their pashmina, yak, and sheep wool are of the highest quality in the world. It’s sourced directly from the region and handmade by the local women who’ve been using the backstrap loom for generations.
In this episode I speak with co-founder Abhilasha Bahuguna about the importance of creating a sustainable source of income to support the Changpa people of Ladakh living in a harsh altitude of 14,000 ft, why their self-sufficient lifestyles are being threatened, the history of textiles in that region, how the co-op is supporting members to reach their full potential, their governance structure, how they received funding, their experimentation with natural dyes, challenges of competing with fast fashion, and their exciting plans for expansion.
 Fairmondo: Cooperatively Owned Online Marketplace
Fairmondo is an online-marketplace owned by its local users currently based in Germany. It is an ethical alternative aiming to compete against Amazon’s extractive model. With a membership of around 2,200, they are steadily expanding towards their goal to create a global cooperatively owned online marketplace. They prioritize fairness, respect, commitment to transparency, and fair trade products.
In this episode I speak with founder Felix Weth about the online marketplace they are creating to give buyers an option to engage with an economy they can trust. He shares the voids they are filling in the current marketplace, their multi-stakeholder membership structure, what kind of products they offer, how they raised capital, and how they plan on increasing scale to compete with Amazon.
 O+ Festival: Art for Medicine Exchange
O+ is a festival created in Kingston, NY to support the health of underinsured artists and musicians through the exchange of art making and performances for wellness services. Festival goers can experience the medicine of art through everything from murals, films, installations, and live music. At the clinic, artists, musicians, and volunteers can receive free care from allopathic and alternative practitioners including dental, bodywork, mental health, and much more. The greater community is supported with Narcan and CPR trainings, health and wellness expos, classes in the healing arts, healthcare forums, and cycling events.
In this episode I speak with executive director Holly Kelly and art director Lindsey Wolkowicz about the festival’s evolution and the ongoing needs it fulfills. They share what the process is for contributors to join, how they receive funding, creating equal value between health practitioners and artists, recommendations to support artists' health needs outside of the festival, and advice on starting an art for medicine exchange in your community.
 Woodbine: Volunteer-run Community Resource Hub
Woodbine is a DIY volunteer-run community resource hub located in Ridgewood Queens, NY. It’s all encompassing of solidarity, intended to cultivate the practices, skills, and tools needed to build autonomy. They host workshops, lectures, discussions and serve as a meeting and organizing space. They offer a multitude of ways to get community members' needs met like through their seed library, trades and services directory, english classes and much more!
In this episode I speak with one of the co-founders Matt Peterson and volunteer Amoga Sahu about the creation and sustainability of this mutual aid hub. We speak about how they gathered the funds to get started and how they managed to not only sustain themselves but move into a bigger space during the pandemic. They’ve been around since 2014 and most DIY spaces don’t last in NYC so this is pretty major. You’ll learn about some of the free events, tools, and resources available to the community like their recently installed Mesh internet network. Matt shares an interesting perspective on decision making structures and accountability within a volunteer-run space which tends to be the one of most difficult aspects of running a collectively run space. At the end there’s some tips offered on how others can build an autonomous community centered space in the city.
 Essential Food & Medicine: Providing Free Food & Medicine for Underserved Communities
Essential Food and Medicine is a mutual aid initiative based in Oakland, CA that started during the pandemic but has done an incredible amount of work in a short period of time. The co-founders integrated their love for community connection, food security, sovereignty, plant, and holistic medicine to create a resource to meet all of those essential needs for people. They reclaim surplus and locally grown produce to make juice, soups, smoothies, and natural medicine for underserved communities for free.
In this episode I speak with co-founders Xochitl Moreno and AshEL Elidrige. In the first half of the conversation we speak about Essential FAM as a whole -- like the voids they are filling, how they built the partnerships needed to supply the resources, how they distribute the medicine, and then we start to talk about Cob on Wood, a community built with cob they co-created in a homeless encampment. It has a free store, free health clinic, kitchen, bathroom, and community events to empower residents and have a safer environment. We speak about the history of Wood St. benefits of building with cob, how they raised money to build, the impeding and rapidly increasing issue of homelessness in CA, why they are facing eviction and how you can help.
 VinziRast-Mittendrin: Student, Homeless, and Refugee Co-Housing
VinziRast-Mittendrin is a co-housing building located in Vienna, Austria where students, formerly homeless, and refugees live amongst each other. It houses bicycle, woodworking and sewing workshops, a restaurant, and event spaces. It’s a collaboration between students involved with the Vienna Audimax occupation, VinziRast which is a volunteer-run organization that offers housing to formerly homeless and refugees, as well as architecture firm Gaupenraub+/- .
In this episode I speak with architect Alexander Hagner who was responsible for the adaption of the building. We speak about the event led to the co-habitation of formerly homeless and students, how they received funding for the building, the intentionality and functionality needed when designing for formerly homeless, changing the stigma around homeless individuals, how they mitigate conflicts, what resources/skills are offered to empower the formerly homeless, and why the residents make ideal housing mates.
Informative and inspiring
So cool to learn more about my MARSH co-op and now I’m inspired to listen to more episodes of this podcast! Ebony is a great host!