This blog post is written by Jeanee Wright, a Cooperative Development Specialist in CDI’s NEROC program. 

October 28th was a big day for Maine Resident Owned Communities (ROCs). October is National Co-op Month and we wanted to celebrate the Maine co-op movement. All eight of the Maine ROC co-ops came together for a day of powerful storytelling.

Why storytelling? Because storytelling is people-powered and people are taking notice about the exciting things happening in Maine’s emerging cooperative ecosystem. We want to “up our game.”

A large group of people pose and hold signs saying #cooperatives. One girl is at the front of the group doing the splits and holding a #cooperatives sign.

To celebrate Co-op Month, event planners wanted to create some powerful energy, and decided to invite representatives of Maine’s co-op sectors to come together and share their co-op story. Organizers invited apartment housing cooperative residents, a renewable energy business that is converting to employee ownership, the ROC USA Association representative for our region, and other partners, such as Coastal Enterprises, Inc. who were all excited about the growth of the Maine cooperative movement.

The day began with the folks from Raise Op Housing co-op in Lewiston telling their story. The Raise Op members told the story of renters and residents who wanted to own a piece of the city they live in. Affordable housing is not something you take for granted when it is limited as it is in Lewiston, and what a powerful story to hear of the success and people power behind this great movement! They have plans to expand their units in Lewiston soon.

InSource Renewables founder and owner Vaughan Woodruff told his story of how he came back to his small town in Maine after college and wanted to be able to sustain his future and the future of his children right where he grew up. He plans to convert his business to an employee-owned co-op so many more families can do the same.

Doug Clopp, CDI’s Communications Director, helped pulled everyone’s story together and talked about the power of “our story.” He told us that we could all tell someone our personal story and that the impact is often inspiring and transformative. He reminded us of the power of social media, the power of voice, and the reminder that people were always inspired with the cooperative story.

Our movement has enormous potential to draw in new partners, build power, and to advocate for policy changes to advance a cooperative economy. As the cooperative movement grows, it will bring out the innovation required to advance the interests of business owners, employees, and members alike. Buying power, funding for business development, homeowner financing and funds for home improvement are just some of the benefits that can be ours if we utilize the power of our story.

The power of the cooperative story is large and powered by the people who take part. We are the story! Are you part of a co-op story? Maybe you are reading this and had no idea that the credit union you were a member of is a co-op. Maybe you are a member of a local food co-op and you had no idea that there were so many housing co-ops that create affordable housing in Maine. If you want to know more, browse CDI’s website for more information and links to other resources.

Maine ROCs Celebrate Co-op Month