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A Social, Economic, and Political Alternative for Educators

Teacher-Owned Cooperatives:

Mariana Hernandes GrassiMA Teaching English to Speaker of Other Languages (TESOL) - 2019MA Women’s Studies and Gender Studies Student - 2023EdD Curriculum, Culture, and Communities Student


Seeking Empowerment

Why Cooperatives?

International Cooperative Alliance

History of Coops

Cooperativism as an Alternative

What are Cooperatives

Other Lessons

Lessons from the Pandemic

Aggravating Circumstances

Teaching: A Woman's World



In the US, they are 42% of middle school principals, 30% of high school principals, and only 27% college and university presidents (Aulette et al., 2020).

OECD countries show that, on average, women make up over two-thirds of teachers from kindergarten to higher education, but they are relatively under-represented in leadership positions (Katsarova, 2020).

Some stats on female educators

In Brazil, female educators are paid 12% less when compared to their male peers, according to the 2020 Brazilian census (Ministério da Educação, 2020).

Teaching: A Woman’s World


In this scope, everything (including education) is being deeply reconfigured.
The capitalist logic must be transformed into a new system of policies and practices in which historically oppressed communities are equally integrated and valued.


  • Neoliberal practices and policies
  • "New Normal" ideology (Leher, 2022)

aggravating circumstances


Teacher organizing (as a response to the Covid-19 sanitary crisis in Chile) illustrates “the beauty and power that comes from diverse voices” (p. 124).

Fernández et al.,(2022)

lessons from the pandemic


Main lessons from my teaching career
1. lack of voice teachers generally have within their workplace;2. unqualified people in leading positions, making important decisions on curricula and syllabi on behalf of educators.3. schools perpetuating colonized and sexist discourses through their gendered policies and resources.

Other lessons



A cooperative is an “autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically-controlled enterprise”.

What arecooperatives?

Lit. review

Ratner, 2009, p. 70

“Democracy depends more upon the content of what people vote for than it does upon the act/process of voting. There must be a content to democracy, not simply a formal process. Cooperativism is this content.”

(Ratner, 2009)

anti discrimination policies never tackle class discrimination,

(Ratner, 2009)

a class analysis unites the politics of the working class and strengthens solidarity among working people.

Cooperativism as an alternative

considered the birthplace of the modern cooperative movement.

The Rochdale Equitable Pioneers Society


Jessica Gordon Nemhard

lit. review


How have marginalized communities survived oppression and discrimination?

history of coops

Since 1896

lit. review

  • More than 12% of humanity is part of any of the 3 million cooperatives in the world!
  • The largest 300 cooperatives report a total turnover of 2,146 billion USD, according to the World Cooperative Monitor (2020).
  • Cooperatives contribute to the sustainable economic growth and stable, quality employment, providing jobs or work opportunities to 280 million people across the globe, in other words, 10% of the world’s employed population.


(ICA, 2015)

lit. review

  • also known as democratic firms, labor-managed firms;
  • independent organizations of people who own and manage the workplace together;
  • “worker cooperatives offer a way for groups of people to integrate their values with their needs to earn a livelihood. The values that bring people together vary, from saving jobs to making work more meaningful, ethical, or rewarding”
(Sobering et al., 2014, p. 1245).


(1) economic security; (2) development of entrepreneurial behavior, and (3) contributions to the family.

“the process by which those who have been denied the ability to make strategic life choices acquire such an ability” (p. 435)."Simply put, in order to be able to have power, one needs to have choices" (p. 436).

achievements (including outcomes)

agency (including processes)

access to resources (including pre-conditions),

Reflections on the measurement of women's empowerment (Kabeer, 1999)

Empowering Women Through Social Entrepreneurship: Case Study of a Women’s Cooperative in India (Datta and Gailey, 2012)

But does "empowerment" mean?

seeking empowerment

lit. review

institutional mechanisms that produce and reproduce gender inequality in workplaces
Acker (1990)
as gendered organizations

organization logic

individual identities

workplace interactions

cultural symbols

division of labor

Worker Cooperatives

feminist studies on

Worker Cooperatives

Sobering (2016)

Producing and Reducing Gender Inequality in aWorker-Recovered Cooperative

Sobering, et al. (2014)

Gender In/equality in Worker-owned Businesses

Miller (2012)

“Gender Trouble”:Investigating Genderand Economic Democracyin Worker Cooperativesin the United States

Lit. Review

"Teacher-owned cooperatives are run democratically and cooperatively by the teachers, who share administration tasks, budgeting, curriculum development and engage in peer review processes” (Grassroot Economic Organizing)

teachers as educational-social entrepreneursAlso known as edupreneurs, these teachers “have created social value in the contexts of socio-economic and educational deprivation” (Chand and Misra, 2009, p. 119).

Lit. Review

What happens when teachers run schools themselves?

  • The first online international teacher-owned cooperative;
  • Created in 2020; Officially opened in 2021;
  • Membership types: user (teacher), worker, investor member;
  • 1 member, 1 vote policy
My Cool Class

my cooperative experience

“Cooperativism is a new and higher form of democracy. It is democratic in the organic sense that resources and enterprises belong to people in common. Collective ownership of property entails collective decision-making and collective use. Democracy is inherent in the form of ownership and use of collective property. Individuals decide how to use collective property in their common activities with it. Democracy comes from being equally and collectively engaged in an activity.” (Ratner, 2009, p. 70)

Final thoughts

Kabeer, N. (1999). Resources, agency, achievements: Reflections on the measurement of women's empowerment. Development and Change, 30(3), 435-464.Leher, R. (2022). The “New Normal” in Education Is Ultra-Neoliberal: In Defense of the Strategy that Breaks with the Time Continuum. In I. Accioly & D. Macedo (Eds.). Education, Equality, and Justice in the New Normal: Global Responses to the Pandemic (pp. 39–51). London: Bloomsbury Academic. Retrieved May 1, 2022, from http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781350225800.0010Meyers, J. S., & Vallas, S. P. (2016). Diversity regimes in worker cooperatives: Workplace inequality under conditions of worker control. The Sociological Quarterly, 57(1), 98-128. https://doi.org/10.1111/tsq.12114.Miller, G. R. (2012). “Gender Trouble”: Investigating Gender and Economic Democracy in Worker Cooperatives in the United States. Review of Radical Political Economics, 44(1), 8–22. https://doi.org/10.1177/0486613411418049Ministério da Educação (2020). Censo Escolar. INEP, Brazilian Federal Government. https://www.gov.br/inep/pt-br/areas-de-atuacao/pesquisas-estatisticas-e-indicadores/censo-escolarRatner, C. (2009). Cooperativism: A social, economic, and political alternative to capitalism. Capitalism Nature Socialism, 20(2), 44-73.Sobering, K., Thomas, J., & Williams, C. L. (2014). Gender In/equality in Worker‐Owned Businesses. Sociology Compass, 8(11), 1242-1255.Sobering, K. (2016) Producing and Reducing Gender Inequality in a Worker-Recovered Cooperative, The Sociological Quarterly, 57(1), 129-151.

Acker, Joan. 1990. Hierarchies, Jobs, Bodies: A Theory of Gendered Organizations. Gender & Society, 4(2), 139–58.Aulette, J. R., Wittner, J., & Barber, K. Gendered Worlds. Fourth edition. Oxford University Press, 2020.Chand, V. S., & Misra, S. (2009). Teachers as Educational-Social Entrepreneurs: The Innovation-Social Entrepreneurship Spiral. The Journal of Entrepreneurship, 18(2), 219–228. https://doi.org/10.1177/097135570901800205Datta, P. B., & Gailey, R. (2012). Empowering Women through Social Entrepreneurship: Case Study of a Women’s Cooperative in India. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 36(3), 569–587. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-6520.2012.00505.Grassroots Economic Organizing (n.d.). Teacher Cooperative Schools. GEO.coop. Retrieved onApril 28, 2022, https://geo.coop/taxonomy/term/285Gordon, N. J. (2014). Collective courage: A history of African American cooperative economic thought and practice. University Park, Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University Press.ICA. (2015). Advancing gender equality: The co-operative way. International Labour Organization. ILO:Geneva.ICA (n.d). What is a cooperative? International Co-operative Alliance. ICA Coop. Retrieved on March 27, 2022, https://www.ica.coop/en/cooperatives/what-is-a-cooperativeKatsarova, I. (2020). Teaching: A woman's world [infographic]. European Parliamentary Research Service. https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/ATAG/2020/646191/EPRS_ATA(2020)646191_EN.pdf



EdD in 3Cs Studentmhernandesgrassi@luc.edu

Mariana Hernandes Grassi