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Cooperatives: Part of the Community Economic Development Toolbox

 Cooperatives are mechanisms for economic and community self-determination.  When markets don't provided needed goods or services, the cooperative option can be a solution.  The  member ownership and control structure of a cooperative drive its strategic direction and financial decisions, the consequences of which can have broader, positive community impacts.

Cooperatives can be used to meet a wide variety of local needs, from connecting small farmers to the growing market demand for local food, to providing childcare options to the workforce of employers in a community.  

The following are links and descriptions of related topics.


Video: Co-ops 101


Webinar Series: Cooperative Solutions for Community Needs

May 9, 2018: Cooperatives and Community Care Needs

     Live webinar recording 

    Powerpoint from webinar

     Child care cooperative document templates:

          Articles of Incorporation


          Employee Handbook1

           Employee HB-2-CCPolicies Procedures


           IRS Response 2

           Nonprofit application

           Parent Handbook

           Pre-enrollment form

June 21, 2018: Cooperatives and Affordable Housing Needs

      Live webinar recording 

     Powerpoint from webinar

     Related web links:  

           ROC USA

          Senior Cooperative Foundation

July 19, 2018: Cooperatives and Business Succession Strategies

 Live webinar recording 

     Powerpoint from webinar

 Related web links and events:  

          Workers to Owners

          CDI: Business Ownership Solutions

           Meetings & Consensus   A Guide to Decision-Making

September 27, 2018: Cooperatives and Community Broadband Needs

 Live webinar recording

Powerpoint from webinar

Related resources:

          Cooperatives and Rural Broadband: A Selective Survey



Madison Cooperative Development Coalition

The Madison Cooperative Development Coalition (MCDC) is an initiative to form worker cooperatives that address income inequality and racial disparities by creating living-wage and union jobs. It is largely funded by the City of Madison, Wisconsin.


Cooperative Conversion and Employee Ownership

Over the next two decades, an estimated 70 percent of privately held businesses will change hands, many as a result of retiring baby boomers. Who will take over these business and will they remain in their communities? Converting businesses to employee or consumer ownership is gaining traction as an effective method for retaining businesses, jobs, and wealth in local communities.  Business situations that are particularly suitable for worker cooperative conversion are ones with a more open, participatory culture, are profitable with a sustainable business model, and with employees that desire to continue and grow with the company.

Business Succession and Retention: Employee Ownership Solutions  April 20, 2017 in Cottage Grove, Wisconsin

2012 Madison conference powerpoints about employee ownership options:

     Succession Planning for Your Business

     Converting a Business to a Worker Cooperative


Models of Cooperative Development

Cooperative development can follow a process similar to any small business development. The process is initiatied by a group of motivated people who see an opportunity, and seek out resources to support their cooperative start-up effort.

A list of practical tools for cooperative start-ups can be found under the How to Start tab of this website

Services and technical assistance through the UW Center for Cooperatives can be found here.

Other resources and technical assistance can be found at:
Ohio Employee Ownership Center
CooperationWorks! cooperative development network
Democracy at Work Network (DAWN)

Community Wealth-Building

Cooperative development is also occuring in the context of a broader initiative to build community wealth. The following are a few examples.

The Mercado Central in Minneapolis is run by Cooperativa Mercado Central, a member-owned cooperative of 48 small businesses in Minneapolis. Founded in 1999, the project has been key to transforming the formerly blighted East Lake Street corridor. The success of this project also fostered the founding of the Latino Economic Development Center.

The Evergreen Cooperatives of Cleveland, Ohio are a network of for-profit, employee-owned, green businesses that are supported by the Evergreen Cooperative Corporation. This entity provides the business development, strategic guidance, and other support services that can promote the success of each cooperative business. It also works with other anchor institutions in the city to develop these sustainable economic networks that will benefit Cleveland residents and neighborhoods over the long term.

An Oakland, CA nonprofit started 15 years ago to help low-income immigrant Latinas achieve economic security through cooperative business ownership. Women's Action to Gain Economic Security (WAGES) acts as an incubator to build and support successful cooperative green cleaning businesses, and provides resources so that its model can be replicated.

In 1985, a small town in northern Quebec successfully used the cooperative model as part of its efforts to reopen a shuttered sawmill that was the community's main source of jobs. Boisaco has weathered the cyclic ups and downs in the forestry sector since then, its cooperatively-owned structure providing the flexibility to do so.  A situation summary and a link to a case study is here.

Worker co-operative replication models are examined in this article in Grassroots Economic Organizingm #3, volume 2.

Cooperatives and New Business Survival Rates

New business start-ups are looked to as engines of innovation, job creation, and economic development. The process of starting a new cooperative business is sometimes seen as unwieldy, since it can require time to develop the common vision that unites its member-owners. But related cooperative characteristics may contribute to the higher survival rate of new cooperatives compared to other new entreprenurial business forms, research from Canada shows.

Survival Rate of Cooperatives in Quebec, 2008 edition

Co-op Survival Rates in Alberta, August 2011

Co-op Survival Rates in British Columbia, June 2011

Cooperatives and Independent Businesses

Cooperative purchasing of goods and services lets smaller, independent businesses use economies of scale to manage costs and access resources while maintaining ownership and control.

Examples of cooperative solutions to meet small business needs:

Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative - health insurance

Independent Pharmacy Cooperative - wholesale purchasing

CoopMetrics - business intelligence tools

Visit the National Cooperative Business Association's webpage on purchasing and shared-services cooperatives for more examples.

Cooperatives and Public Shared-Services Cooperatives

Cooperatives purchasing and sharing of resources can be a tool for cities and counties to more efficiently provide public services at cost while maintaining public accountability. Some examples include:

Wisconsin Cooperative Educational Service Agencies (CESAs)

Western Area City County Cooperative (WACCO)

Dakota County High Performance Partnership (HiPP) Project