Yesterday, after weeks and months of outreach, planning, coordinating, and hoping, I began the development process with a group of four future worker-owners who are currently training in construction through Hope 4 Us Housing Corp. here in Syracuse, NY. As part of the Cooperation Syracuse Alliance mission, I will be sharing here the story of the progress, summary of the curriculum and the training details, and answer any specific or interesting questions and situations as they arise.
DAY ONE: Tuesday December 4th.
I had previously been briefly introduced to the four participants at a prior team meeting they regularly hold a few weeks prior. At that time when they agreed to start the development process, I shared the first items of learning collateral with them to review in preparation of today’s first development session – two handouts from the “Collective Ourselves Cooperative Entrepreneurship Curriculum” Authored for the Kris Olsen Traveling Cooperative Institute program of Northcountry
Cooperative Foundation by Emily M Lippold Cheney in 2015-2016:
HANDOUT 1: Cooperative Identity – the Statement, Principles and Values of cooperatives as stewarded by the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA).
HANDOUT 2: Cooperative Development Continuum – an annotated presentation of the cooperative development process along a continuum of related tasks.
We then started out with a short re-introduction of names, and what we would be working on regards starting a worker-owned cooperative together. We then moved straight into a video presentation of the short documentary “Owning the Change: Building Economic Democracy One Worker Co-op at a Time” – Available online at http://www.toolboxfored.org/own-the-change-screenings-around-country/. The idea being to let other worker-owners from the video describe in their own words and experiences the requirements, benefits, and responsibilities that we would be delving into, and to demonstrate that there are real world examples of worker cooperative success stories.
Following the film, we had a small group discussion that centered around two components. First, participants were asked to share about their connections to co-ops. As was expected, most weren’t aware of any personal connections. One participant mentioned having shopped at the Syracuse Cooperative Market on Kensington St, so we began with discussing what a consumer cooperative is. We then moved into financial cooperatives, and it turned out one participant has been a long time member of ACMG credit union. We talked about housing cooperatives, and one participant realized that they know someone who has lived in a co-op apartment building in Syracuse. We talked about who has had Sunkist juice products before, and all the participants sere able to say they had, and we then discussed the agricultural marketing cooperative form. Lastly, I asked if anyone knew of or had experience with a worker cooperative in Syracuse, and since there are currently none, the answer was no. This allowed us to dive into the second component of the group discussion, which was what did the participants take away from the film, or what got their attention, about worker cooperatives.
The primary response was the ownership component and the ability to have control of the business. To move the discussion forward, I offered specific topics or keywords that related to scenes from the film, and asked for responses to those, including: surplus, distributions, management, decision-making, financing, buy-in, consensus, by-laws, and business planning/financial projections.
Having a stronger joint understanding of worker-cooperatives, we ended the session with agreeing on how we would communicate with each other, and landed on texting as the preferred method. We scheduled our next bi-weekly development session, and I passed out homework which asks the participants to write down what their personal goals within the worker-cooperative business development are in regards to the topics of working hours, income, professional development, and family/household. We have a long way to go with the development process, but there is nothing quite like taking the first step.
OTHER NEWS: Thank you to Cooperative Federal Credit Union’s Board of Directors for approving a resolution supporting the MVGO (Mission/Vision/Goals/Objectives) document! You can view the doc online for passing your own organizational resolution at https://1drv.ms/b/s!Agswt-vqj5aQynxYR9WY2wm-cvLI