Wisconsin Homecare Worker Cooperatives

Building on Lessons Learned

Wisconsin is home to two homecare worker co-ops whose members assist seniors and people with disabilities to live independently in their own homes. The five year old Cooperative Care in Waushara County is the nation's first rural homecare worker co-op. The Circle of Care Cooperative began operations in April, 2006, and serves a rural/urban area of 600,000 in eastern Wisconsin. Studies of the healthcare workforce forecast an increased need for direct care workers, and there is a widely recognized need to improve their working conditions. In Wisconsin there is increasing interest in the worker co-op model as an innovative alternative to the existing direct care delivery system.

Starting a cooperative is like starting any business - it takes hard work, determination and a set of skills. Building on the lessons learned from other similar start-ups can shorten the business development time considerably. We've gathered these resources from the "real world" of home care cooperative development, and divided them into two categories: Planting Seeds and Planting Seedlings.

Planting Seeds

There are certain organizing activities that need to take root within the group and germinate from your unique perspective. Listed here is a planting guide of decisions your co-op must discuss.

Planting Seedlings

Your time is important. Why duplicate standard operating procedures that other co-ops have already created? This section is like sowing tomatoes. In northern climates our growing season is short. For tomatoes to ripen before frost we need to start tomato seeds indoors under a grow light or on a window sill. After all danger of frost is past, gardeners transplant those seedlings into their own plots of land. The resulting tomatoes are locally grown and enjoy the flavors of the native soil, sun, and water. This section is like a nursery of organizing tasks - it provides a boost to get your co-op seedlings started in a shortened period of time.