Identity-Based Caucuses: Fostering Inclusion, Community, and Representation within NASCO

Most folks show up to NASCO Institute expecting educational workshops, inspirational speakers, social justice work, fun activities, and collaboration with other cooperatives. These are all wonderful reasons to attend, and NASCO Institute is also a powerful space for marginalized co-opers to learn more about themselves, connect with one another, share tools to address issues in their homes, and build strength within NASCO’s governance through NASCO’s caucusing system.
The identity-based caucusing system at NASCO Institute creates spaces for individuals who share identities that are marginalized, within NASCO and/or within their own co-ops, to meet with one another, share their experiences, and gain tools for addressing injustice in their home communities. These caucuses are also a direct means for marginalized groups to claim a seat at the table within NASCO’s governance through the Diversity Congress (an open meeting of two representatives from each caucus), caucus reports at NASCO’s Annual General Meeting, and the appointment of 3 caucus representatives to the NASCO Board of Directors—through these avenues of representation, caucus members are able to lend their voices and work toward making our member cooperatives safer spaces and to inform the broader organization of the issues that affect their communities, ensuring that NASCO is accessible to all members, now and in the future. 
Many groups look to NASCO’s caucusing system and anti-oppressive programming when attempting to shift power dynamics within their own communities. These programs have been a powerful tool for NASCO members seeking a voice within our organization, however it has taken decades of hard work to get where we are today. Beginning in 1998, the NASCO Board formally recognized that it needed to better understand its relationship to “diversity” as it pertains to their board, organizational structure, educational programming, and the broader student cooperative movement—these discussions began an ongoing process, driven heavily by the People of Color Caucus formed in 2000, that has led the NASCO Board and membership to shift its understanding of “diversity” and adopt more inclusive practices and policies. This work, while by no means finished, has led to the creation of new policies that ensure that People of Color and other caucus representatives will continue be represented on the NASCO Board, the caucuses are able to collaborate through the Diversity Congress, and inclusion will continue to be at the forefront of the conversation within NASCO.
This year, the following identity-based caucuses will meet: People of Color Caucus; Women’s Caucus; Queer/Trans Caucus; Working Class Caucus; People with Disabilities Caucus. In addition, we will be hosting the Collective Liberation Caucus, a space to explore the intersectionality of our collective struggles for liberation. Meetings are meant only for those who personally identify within a caucus's community. If you identify with any of these groups, we invite you to join us!  Feel free to sign up for our caucus mailing lists in order to be a part of the conversations and work leading up to Institute.