The 5th Annual Principle 6 Conference was held on Saturday, April 7, 2018 at the Rockland Congregational Church in Rockland, Maine. Once a year, co-op supporters from across Maine get together to meet, network, share experiences, and learn how we can work together to grow Maine’s cooperative economy. Our name for this conference, Principle 6, comes from the sixth of the seven internationally recognized cooperative principles, “Cooperation among Cooperatives.” This year, over 100 cooperators from across Maine, representing almost all of Maine’s co-op sectors participated!

A panoramic photo of the P6 conference, with Rob Brown addressing a large room full of people
Rob Brown addresses P6 participants. Great turnout!

This year’s conference, Learning Through Cooperative Connections, was organized by the Cooperative Maine Business Alliance and featured a dynamic series of workshops designed to engage attendees in all aspects of cooperative development including building community partnerships, and learning from each other how cooperatives can build a better Maine. The conference’s workshops included presentations on governance, marketing for co-ops, financial literacy, building community partnerships, and building equity and inclusion in our co-ops. If you are a member of a co-op, thinking about converting your business to employee ownership, or thinking about starting a co-op, this is the conference for you and we hope to see you at P6 2019!

A group of people sit around a table and have a discussion

A group of people sit around a table and have a discussion

The Cooperative Maine Business Alliance (CMBA) works to build a democratic economy rooted in community. The CMBA promotes the development of cooperatives in Maine through supporting existing cooperatives and helping new ones form and operate sustainably. Cooperative development and cooperative conversion to employee, worker, farmer, and resident ownership is on the rise in Maine. Maine, like many states in the Northeast is facing a Silver Tsunami as baby boomer entrepreneurs and farmers age out of the workforce.

It’s often difficult to sell a small business or a farm, especially in rural Maine, and if a buyer can’t be found, closure is often the end result. It doesn’t have to be that way. Converting the business by selling it directly to their workers is a win for everyone. The business owner is rewarded financially for a lifetime of hard work. Cooperative conversion preserves our small businesses which keep our small towns vibrant, preserves our jobs, and vests ownership and equity directly in to our workforce.

People load up their plates from a colorful buffet of vegetables and other foods

Recently, Rock City Coffee & Cafe, a landmark community business located on Main Street in Rockland, converted to employee ownership. “After 25 years we had become the heartbeat of the community. I had been thinking about a way to include the employees in the business,” said Susanne Ward, co-founder of Rock City. “For me it was about rewarding the people who helped build the business, insuring the succession of the business because of its importance to our small town, and I wanted to create an income stream for myself. The co-op model gave me all of that,” Ward continued.

Their story and why converting to worker ownership was the right move can be found here:

Worker Ownership Works for Everyone: The Rock City Roasters and Cafe Story

Five members of Isuken Co-op, a Somali-Bantu cooperative, join Mo Manklang of the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives at a table with snacks
Members of Isuken Co-op with Mo Manklang of the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives at the post-conference reception

A post conference reception was hosted by Maine’s newest cooperative, Rock City Employee Cooperative. Thank you Rock City!

Our generous sponsors for the 2018 Principle 6 -Learning Through Cooperative Connections were:

Cooperative Development Institute, Portland Food Co-op, Blue Hill Co-op, Belfast Co-op, Rising Tide Co-op, U.S. Federation of Worker Co-ops, Good Tern Co-op, Fare Share Co-op, Cooperative Fund of New England, Genesis Community Loan Fund, Democracy at Work Institute, Rock City Employee Cooperative, Equal Exchange, The Island Employee Cooperative, Maine Community Foundation, Elmina Sewall Foundation, and the Broad Reach Fund

Maine Principle 6 Conference Report-Back