The Co-operative and Policy Alternative Center (COPAC) was formed in 1999 as a grassroots development organisation. It began with an ambition to contribute, through a bottom up practice, to reconstruction and development in post-apartheid South Africa. It has thus orientated itself to build capacity amongst poor communities to achieve self reliant, collectively driven, sustainable and participatory development. As a non-governmental organisation it was initially established as an association governed by a constitution with a governing committee. In 2001 it registered as a not-for-profit section 21 company. During this time it expanded its operations, opened an office and strengthened its board. As COPAC pursued its objectives it has worked with progressive social movements, government departments, township communities and has partnered with several non-governmental organisations.
Building human solidarity to sustain life and a grassroots driven just transition for system change.
COPAC’s transformative programs have been guided by the following objectives:
- Build grassroots capacities for movement building in South Africa;
- Promote popular education and activist training for democratic transformative politics
- Support the development of systemic alternatives to ensure ecological justice and which meets the needs of workers, the poor, women and youth.
This is a peoples grassroots and systemic alternative to reclaim production, consumption, finance, space and living. It is a values based alternative grounded in a transformative logic of building structural, movement, direct and symbolic power to sustain life. Member driven cooperatives, worker cooperatives, democratic planning, socially owned renewable energy, food sovereignty are all examples of grassroots solidarity economy building. This program thrust provides activist training tools, movement information and grassroots coordination for solidarity economy movement building.
The Solidarity Economy Movement has developed two crucial campaigns to build the solidarity economy at the grassroots in a bottom up manner: (i) End Hunger Through Food Sovereignty and (ii) Create Work Through Worker Cooperatives. This program includes developing campaign information, training tools and media tools.
This research agenda is about developing theory, reflection and analysis of transformative systemic alternatives and politics. This includes the democratic Marxism book series, research and publications on solidarity economy, food sovereignty, worker cooperatives and cooperatives.
Organisation and Governance
COPAC was never intended to be a large organisation. Its emphasis has been on program based project interventions guided by grassroots needs. As a result it has never built a large bureaucracy. It has worked with a core staff of 3-4 people over the years, brought in volunteers and has assembled project teams, with the required technical expertise, as and when required. Most of its staff have also had a strong activist orientation and practice.
Partnerships, networking and solidarity building is crucial for COPAC’s practice.
COPAC functions with policies and legal procedures defined by its board, the main governing structure. Since its formation into a section 21 not-for-profit company in 2003, COPAC’s governance practice has been informed by the legal requirements contained in its memorandum and articles of association. Its board meets regularly during each year and it has made important policy and strategic decisions that guide the organisation.
The current board of the organisation is made up of four people:
Anne Sugrue –she is a leading environmental activist in the country and was the main visionary guiding the Eco-city Trust project in Ivory Park.
Dorah Marema – has worked for many years as the Executive Director of the Greenhouse Project in Johannesburg. She is a leading gender, food and environmental justice activist;
Jacklyn Cock – is a WITS academic. She is one of the founders of Earthlife Africa, is a key climate jobs campaigner and a leading feminist theorist;
Vishwas Satgar – is a WITS academic and has been an activist for over 30 years. He co-founded COPAC and now chairs the board.
As a not for profit NGO, all the funds generated by COPAC are utilised in the organisation to meet it’s objectives. Funding has been obtained through donors, partnerships and consulting activities.