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Community Economies Lab (CEL)

The Community Economies Lab engages new thinking and alternative practices to build economies that are equitable, cooperative and just. Over the past decade, the Community Economies Lab has explored the challenges presented by current economic crises such as the post-coal transition in Central Appalachia and coffee industry restructuring in Central America and the solidaristic strategies communities use to respond.

Unwilling to stand on the sidelines we have also used participatory action research approaches to learn about and support the development of cooperative and community-centered economic institutions from Firsthand Coffee Cooperative, Cooperativa La Hermandad Indigena, The Working World - Nicaragua, Turnrow Appalachian Farm Collective, The RiffRaff Arts Collective and more. Students affiliated with the Community Economies Lab participate in seminars, research, and real-world problem solving through action-research projects. They are encouraged and supported to experiment with new ways of combining learning, research, and action to co-create alternative economic futures. 

There are diverse economic experiments currently underway which seek to transform community life based on principles of care, mutual aid and solidarity. Get involved today!


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Firsthand partner with farmers, local businesses and community organizations to support a solidarity economy. We leverage profits from the sale of our unique FIRSTHAND  Coffee brand to invest in social enterprise, cooperatives and other small businesses, and to support educational programming around our core principles.

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Arts-based Development

he Arts-based Development project documents and reveals the creative placemaking efforts of RiffRaff Arts Collective and other community members in the Mercer St. community of Princeton, West Virginia. Arts-based Development leverages on creativity to revitalize community and transformative changes.

Arts-based Development
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Migration & Social Integration

The research on migration and social integration seeks to centralize the experiences and perspectives of those who have immigrated to rural West Virginia, and to better understand whether efforts of integration are in line with the building of resilient communities.

Migration & Social Integration