Artists are good at making things, but making something like a set of bylaws or standard operating procedures might require some assistance. That’s where CDI’s expertise and referral network comes into play. We’ve helped several artist co-ops get started by sorting out their basic founding agreements, and helped established co-ops get to the next level by training the treasurer and volunteers on keeping a clean and orderly set of financial records.
In the early 2000s CDI worked with a number of energy co-op start-ups, including Co-op Power and PV Squared (Pioneer Valley Photovoltaics). Co-op Power started engaging in community outreach, education, and dialogue in 2002 to build consensus about how to best support our transition to a sustainable and just energy future. They are a consumer-owned cooperative with local organizing councils that decide on what projects to invest in. Altogether, they have raised more than $320,000 in Member Equity, $840,000 in member loans, and $850,000 in local investment to support the development of community-scale clean energy projects and to build Co-op Power.
Co-op Power members have worked together to support the development of Energia in Holyoke (a multi-family/commercial/residential energy efficiency business), Northeast Biodiesel in Greenfield (a 3.5 million gallon/year recycled vegetable oil biodiesel processing plant), a Community Solar Project in Brattleboro VT, five solar installation businesses, two green electrician businesses, and a window restoration/thermal window insert fabrication business in Westfield, along with building out their own energy efficiency and solar products and services. These businesses have created more than 100 jobs over the last five years. Co-op Power launched their community solar program in 2012 with the Brattleboro Food Co-op Community Solar array. They have installed over 50 solar hot water systems and another 25 renewable energy systems generating more than 100 kilowatts of electricity.
PV Squared has grown from four initial worker-owners to quadruple that size today. They have installed hundreds of photovoltaic systems, at unique sites and for clients with different goals. They are a leader in the worker-cooperative and democratic workplace movement, helping found the Valley Alliance of Worker Cooperatives.
The Toolbox for Education and Social Action grew out of its founders’ passion for democratic and participatory education. Brian Van Slyke, one of the founders, was an intern at CDI working on the development of what would become Cultivate.coop, a community-edited wiki of learning tools about and for cooperatives. CDI helped guide Van Slyke’s initial thinking about business development for a next-generation publisher of educational tools, provided assistance in incorporating the new worker co-op, and even helped test and refine early prototypes of TESA’s flagship product, Co-opoly: The Game of Cooperatives. CDI continues to contribute to TESA’s development, with CDI Executive Director Noémi Giszpenc sitting on its Advisory Board.