A note from the editor

Wayne Ellwood

Like a lot of recent graduates, in my early 20s I lived briefly in a co-op house. It was a shaky experiment. The big social and political issues of the day were submerged in the daily grind. Dirty dishes were our downfall.

Since then I’ve passed a major chunk of my life here at New Internationalist, a much more successful co-operative with a long track record. We’ve had our ups and downs but we’ve survived as a ‘worker co-op’ for almost three decades now.

We’re not alone. Globally, co-operatives are thriving, a fact celebrated by this year’s ‘International Year of the Co-operative’. In this time of economic chaos co-operatives may be the only game in town, a human (and humane) alternative to business-as-usual.

Here at New Internationalist being a ‘worker co-op’ means we run the show ourselves. Simple? No, it’s tricky being your own boss – satisfying, yes, but also frustrating. Hard to put the blame on someone else when you’re in charge.

No doubt we come across as a group of earnest do-gooders ceaselessly thrashing out the best ways to save the world. But you’d be surprised at how little time we actually spend talking about the ‘big issues’.

These days a lot of our time (meetings, meetings, meetings) is spent managing the business, figuring out how to survive in tough economic times. But we’re also not above having long, intense discussions about life-altering decisions – like what colour to paint the doors.

This issue also looks at another kind of work fraught with contradictions: voluntourism. When our kids take off to spend a gap year in Malawi or Mongolia, are they just paying patrons like any other tourist?

In addition, Tam Hussein, a writer with deep roots in the Middle East, looks beyond the daily bloodshed in Syria to probe the long-simmering tensions between contending ethnic factions in that country.

Wayne Ellwood for the New Internationalist co-operative.

The big story

Skilled and in control: an Argentine co-op member thins dough for tarts at a recovered bread factory in Buenos Aires. Andres Lofiego/ Majority World

Skilled and in control: an Argentine co-op member thins dough for tarts at a recovered bread factory in Buenos Aires.

Andres Lofiego/ Majority World

Can co-operatives crowd out capitalism?

Wayne Ellwood argues that co-ops – democratic, community-focused – offer an egalitarian way out of our current mess.

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How co-ops are building a better world - THE FACTS

How co-ops are building a better world - THE FACTS

Co-ops offer an alternative way of doing business where profits are enjoyed collectively, not just by a small group of shareholders. They can be small, local businesses or huge global companies.

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''A walk is medicine. Prison is not.'Oikoten

Redemption Road

The ancient Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage gives troubled youngsters a unique opportunity to walk their way to freedom. Adam Weymouth reports.

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Beyond solidarity Thomas Struth

Beyond solidarity

The rituals that reinforce co-operation are under threat, says Richard Sennett.

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Piping hot: sharing daily tasks like cooking can open the door to mutual respect and understanding.Givat Haviva

Cooking for peace

Sometimes simple things can build understanding. Noreen Sadik reports from Israel.

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The smiles say it all: a Red Cross worker brings news of lost family.Boris Heger/ICRC

Lost and found

The Red Cross is painstakingly reuniting families torn apart by conflict, reports Libby Powell.

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'They told us we couldn't count' Irfan Kortschak / PNPM Support Facility

'They told us we couldn't count'

In Indonesia, self-help is transforming the lives of rural women. Irfan Kortschak talks to one co-op member.

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Eyes left: private enterprise has re-emerged in Cuba with state approval. A man buys a snack from a private vendor in downtown Havana.Desmond Boylan / Reuters

What would Che say?

Can co-operatives save Cuba? John Restakis travels to Havana to find out.

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The unselfish gene Jorge Martin

The unselfish gene

Zoe Cormier explores our natural ability to co-operate.

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Last resort: Tibetan exile Jampa Yeshi sets himself on fire in protest at a visit to New Delhi of Chinese president Hu Jintao in March.Photo: Manish Swarup / AP / Press Association Images

Heroism or desperation?

Self-immolation by Tibetan protesters is becoming an all-too-familiar sight. Dibyesh Anand considers the reasons why.

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Watch you don't fall: supporters of President Bashar Assad stand atop a fountain during a rally in Damascus.Muzaffar Salman/AP Photo

Syria's Catch-22

The current conflict has deep and tangled roots, as Tam Hussein explains.

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One way to boost the ego: receiving a hero’s welcome as a voluntourist.US Army Africa under a CC Licence

Confessions of a voluntourist

Helping out the locals while on holiday is a win-win situation, isn't it? Maybe not, says Michelle Dobrovolny.

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Israel: ‘not an occupier’

Israel: ‘not an occupier’

The Israeli Levy Committee finds that settlements in the West Bank are legal. Noreen Sadik examines its flaws.

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The top 10 per cent of Americans now control more than 70 per cent of the country's net worth.DonkeyHotey Under a CC Licence

Wall Street wants your gratitude

Our US columnist Mark Engler is riled by the shamelessness of the financial élite.

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Does the government have the right to monitor private emails?

Does the government have the right to monitor private emails?

Surveillance expert Robin Tudge and Professor of Conflict Beatrice de Graaf go head-to-head - read their arguments and join the debate.

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Thousands took to the streets in Montreal, Canada, last May to protest against the tuition fee increase.Blouin Normand / ABACA / Press Association Images

Québec’s Maple Spring

Richard Swift says Canada's wave of pots-and-pans protests signal the first major rupture with the austerity agenda.

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Londoners muse Olympic legacy

Londoners muse Olympic legacy

Who exactly will benefit from the city's regeneration? asks Michael Pooler.

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Africa fights back against poachers Derek Keats under a CC Licence

Africa fights back against poachers

Adam Edwards on the grounds for optimism.

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The legacy of forest defender Chut Wutty Samrang Pring/Files/Reuters

The legacy of forest defender Chut Wutty

Fran Lambrick on a community determined to protect its forest.

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Australian Greens have fought hard for a levy on big polluters.AP Photo/ Rick Rycroft

Australia puts a price on carbon

Climate campaigner Anna Rose welcomes the new levy on big polluters, saying it will push Oz into a far greener framework.

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The indomitable human spirit is a great reason for hope.The Jane Goodall Institute

A word with Jane Goodall

The renowned primatologist speaks to Sian Griffiths about hens, chimps and the indomitable human spirit.

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Not seeing the funny side

Not seeing the funny side

Josie Long on putting her world view into practice.

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Letter from Botswana: hunting rabbits Sarah John

Letter from Botswana: hunting rabbits

What is self-evident for one is a mystery for others, discovers Lauri Kubuitsile.

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Southern Exposure - Calligraphy in Western Sahara Olivia Mann

Southern Exposure - Calligraphy in Western Sahara

Mohamed Sulaiman Labat from Western Sahara shares the significance of his calligraphy.

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Film, Book & Music Reviews

'We call it life'

'We call it life'

'Riots have been nearly happening all my life,' poet-rapper Speech Debelle tells Louise Gray.

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