When we survey the cooperative community about the challenges they face, one issue surfaces consistently: a lack of knowledge and resources about co-ops amongst the public (and sometimes even amongst co-ops’ own members!). As highlighted in the fifth cooperative principle, education and training are paramount to the health and growth of the cooperative movement. That’s why CDI took major steps toward raising the public profile of cooperatives in 2014. In 2015, we aim to keep raising that bar. So here’s a look at some of what we accomplished to bring co-ops into the limelight last year.

Launching A New Website

In February of 2014, CDI launched a brand new website, designed by worker co-op Webskillet. Our aim was to more easily and effectively communicate with our stakeholders and the public about the work we do, the services we offer, and the cooperative economy in our region. And that’s just what we’re doing! While we are still looking to expand our new site, especially in the resources areas, our website was used by nearly ten-thousand users with nearly twenty-seven thousand page views! We received frequent praise from users and stakeholders about the content on our new site as well as its accessibility. That being said, people are always coming to us with more questions…

Ask Co-op Cathy

Meet Cathy!
Meet Cathy!

… And that’s why in October, CDI also launched an initiative it had long been brewing: Co-op Cathy, the Cooperative Development Institute’s answerwoman! The purpose of this character is to take on big and small questions from all over the co-op movement while curating an ever growing pool of knowledge on cooperation. By hosting the answers to these questions on our site, CDI will be making these resources available to our own co-op developers for their future work as well as for start-up co-ops, other co-op developers, and people just searching the internet to answer their own cooperative queries.

As time goes on, CDI will continue to answer more questions while also partnering with our allies in the movement to get them to pen Co-op Cathy pieces. This is because Co-op Cathy is meant to be inclusive and representative of the movement at large, and we want to include voices and expertise from outside of CDI. Already, Co-op Cathy’s answers have been used over 500 times by people from all around the country.

At this time in February of 2015, CDI has published five Co-op Cathy articles.

1)  What is the difference between worker co-ops and ESOPs?

2) How do co-ops benefit their communities?

3) What is the role of co-ops in the new economy?

4) Are all food cooperatives consumer-owned?

5) What are the types of housing co-ops and other shared housing models?

You can also always see the full archive of Co-op Cathy pieces here.

In addition, we already have a catalogue of other Co-op Cathy articles we are planning to publish this year. Keep an eye out for them by following us on Facebook or Twitter, or go to our home page and sign up for our e-mail list.

Finally, we’d like to work with you and your organization to identify more articles that answer frequently-asked or important cooperative questions! If you’re interested, be in touch!

Truthout and YES! Magazines

In September, CDI published an article in the online magazine Truthout: “Workers in Maine Buy Out Their Jobs, Set an Example for the Nation.” With nearly seven thousand shares on social media, it was a monumental hit as well as CDI’s most successful media publication to date. The piece discussed CDI’s efforts in helping to convert three businesses into the worker-owned Island Employee Cooperative while also making the argument that local, state, and federal governments need to be dedicating more time, resources, and finances to the transition of existing businesses into worker-owned entities. We showed how shifting development priorities to promoting and strengthening cooperative ownership would transform income for workers as well as the financial health of communities across the nation.

The article was so well received that it was republished by YES! Magazine, where it was read, shared, distributed, and discussed thousands of more times. In response to our piece, CDI heard from co-op developers, do-ers, and enthusiasts across the country who were inspired and informed by the article. Its success has galvanized us to work on creating more cooperative coverage and thought-pieces in 2015.

Transforming Businesses into Cooperatives: Bringing the New Economy to Scale

On October 28th, CDI facilitated a webinar in conjunction with the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), focusing on how to transition businesses into cooperative owned institutions. The webinar also made the case about why we need a movement to transition existing organizations and companies into co-ops. With fifty-seven participants, CDI’s presentation was one of IPS’s most successful, intensely subscribed webinars to date.

You can view the webinar in its entirety below! Or go here.

Making New Cooperative Development Traditions

CDI staff participated in numerous educational events, from being a guest speaker in an online course about worker co-ops to providing the keynote on “Why Farmers Cooperate.” We are particularly proud of pulling together leaders of resident-owned communities in day-long learning and networking conferences in Massachusetts (May 15) and Vermont (October 11). Now, we’re looking forward to making those events an annual tradition and spreading them to Maine, where a newly-formed Resident Owned Neighborhoods Association will spearhead the gathering.

October and November: Hitting the Co-op Ground Running

In October and November, CDI heavily engaged with communities throughout the Northeast and online. Specifically, we were working to spread the word about co-ops while working with allied movements and organizations to cultivate their own co-op efforts. Below are some of the highlights from those two very busy months. And if you would like to read the full recap, see our full overview here.

  • October 11: CDI organized and facilitated an all-day conference called “Nuts & Bolts: A Day of Workshops for Resident-Owned Housing,” for over 25 housing cooperative and co-housing members in Vermont.
    CDI Staff Jessica Pooley presenting the Facilitative Leadership workshop at CLI Photo Credit: Mike Bullard/ROC USA.
CDI Staff Jessica Pooley presenting the Facilitative Leadership workshop at CLI Photo Credit: Mike Bullard/ROC USA.
  • October 23-27: CDI staff participated along with a dozen members of resident-owned communities in our region at the NeighborWorks Community Leadership Institute in Cincinnati, OH. We co-presented two workshops at the conference: Facilitative Leadership and Conflict Management.
  • November 15: Cooperative Fermentation invited CDI, along with the Cooperative Fund of New England and the author of Cooperative Farming, to help present Cooperative Farm Design Day, an intensive day-long workshop at MOFGA in Unity, Maine. The day brought together over 50 people to explore how to create worker and producer cooperatives in farming and included diverse participants including new farmers, landowners, refugee farmers, members of the Penobscot Nation, professors, and non-profit service providers. In the afternoon, participants designed new co-ops including a cooperative cider house, a farm to table co-op, an urban farming co-op, a textile co-op and a goat milk co-op.
Ben Rooney of Wild Folk Farm and Maria Girouard of the People’s Garden, Cooperative Farm Design Day participants.
Ben Rooney of Wild Folk Farm and Maria Girouard of the People’s Garden, Cooperative Farm Design Day participants.
  • November 24 and 26: As part of our role providing support and information to the 110 families residing in the Farrington Mobile Home Park in Burlington, VT, a community for sale that the residents have determined they want to purchase and run as a co-op, CDI staff gave interviews on Channel 17 CCTV and to Seven Days.

Want CDI to participate in your webinar, program, workshop, conference, or event in the new year? We’d love to chat! Get in touch.

Bringing Co-ops Into the Spotlight
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