Lynda Brushett at Local Sprouts Cooperative in Portland, Maine
Lynda Brushett at Local Sprouts Cooperative in Portland, ME

CDI makes democratic ownership work for everyone.

We work with start-ups, established cooperatives, and businesses considering conversion to cooperative ownership. We work with every kind of owner: consumers, workers, residents, farmers, fishermen, foresters, independent businesses and municipalities, and multi-stakeholder cooperatives.

Our staff and consultants bring experience and insight to all aspects of starting and running a cooperatively owned business.

Technical Assistance Services

Our services are tailored to each group and may include:

  • diagnostic needs and issues assessment
  • referrals to legal, accounting, and other professional service providers
  • research
  • problem-solving, and guidance on next steps
  • making connections with other cooperatives
  • designing a fundraising strategy
  • researching an operational issue such as a personnel policy
  • financial analysis and set-up of accounting structure and processes
  • legal structuring and organizational documents (by-laws, Articles of Incorporation)
  • identifying/ securing grant funds
  • feasibility assessment
  • market research and marketing plans
  • performance evaluation
  • webinars on all aspects of cooperative development
  • communication planning
  • business planning
  • membership development
  • organizational development: developing committees, membership drives, training for boards, staff, and members, strategic planning, conflict management, inclusion and diversity
  • constructing a financing package
  • fiscal sponsorship

Our Process

Cooperative Development Institute excels at analyzing and diagnosing our clients’ needs, making client-specific recommendations for referrals and resources or providing direct assistance, helping the client create an action plan, and monitoring or mentoring progress until the plan is completed or terminated. CDI staff have specialized expertise in housing, arts, worker, and food system cooperatives as well as the expertise to provide technical assistance with: market research, business planning, community organizing, enterprise feasibility, financing, accounting system set-up and review, real estate management, private to cooperative business conversions, strategic planning, conflict management, organizational development, legal structuring and training for board, management and members. We are skilled in managing the special dynamics of individuals working together as a group to consider, undertake or develop a common business venture. Our service delivery approach ensures the group is fully engaged in technical assistance and develops effective leadership skills to manage the challenges of operating a member-owned enterprise.

CDI offers these services to cooperative enterprises in seven states and in all business sectors: food, agriculture, fisheries, housing, social services, purchasing, retail, wholesale, communications, health, software, energy, etc. and with all categories of members: producer, consumer, worker, municipal, business, landowner, fishermen, and multi-stakeholder cooperatives. CDI has a multi-state, multi-sector network of public and private organizations, government agencies, consultants and cooperatives to whom CDI can make referrals and tap for assistance. This capacity allows CDI  to engage comprehensively with our client’s cooperative development projects.

Process steps:

  • Prospective clients fill out a request for assistance to establish a baseline level of information and help us make a referral  to the most relevant resources and staff.
  • Within two weeks, CDI staff respond with preliminary resources or schedule an exploratory conversation.
  • If requested by the client, CDI staff provide 5-10 hours of pro-bono mentoring:
    • CDI staff help the client determine a plan for next steps, monitor progress, provide information, assist with problem-solving, and make referrals.
    • When mentoring is complete, CDI requires the client to complete a service satisfaction survey.
    • CDI staff check in at longer, 3-6 month intervals to track progress, identify emerging business issues and needs and provide further technical and referral assistance.
  • If the client requests more  intensive consultation:
    • CDI formulates a scope of services fee-based proposal to address challenges and needs.
    • If appropriate, CDI assists the group in applying for funding or conducting fundraising activities to pay for services.
    • CDI staff, consultants, and/or partners work with the group to address the business need.
    • When the project is complete, CDI requires completion of a client satisfaction survey.
    • CDI staff follow-up every  3 to 6 months to track progress, identify new issues and provide technical and referral assistance.
    • CDI requires completion of an annual outcome measurement / census survey to measure progress.
    • The group will also be encouraged to pay it forward.
  • In some cases, consultation will be intensive and ongoing, based on a service contract.
    • In such a case, the group will receive an annual outcome measurement / census survey and a customer satisfaction survey at the same time.