If you happen to be looking for your morning coffee near Golden Gate Park and the bright red storefront of the Arizmendi Bakery attracts your attention, congratulations. You have found what the readers of The San Francisco Bay Guardian, a local alt-weekly, deem the city’s best bakery. But it has another, less obvious, distinction...
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In 2014, Sustainable Economies Law Center partnered with Project Equity, the Green Collar Communities Clinic (GC3), and Laney College to create the San Francisco Bay Area's first ever entrepreneurship bootcamp for democratically run, worker-controlled enterprises! Below you can find information on the Worker Coop Academy, including course information, how to apply, resources for others to replicate the Academy in their areas, and more!
Info about the Worker Coop Academy
Currently, we are seeking funding for the Bay Area Worker Coop Academy.
If you'd like to hear more about the Worker Coop Academy, we held a webinar on May 13th, 2015, to provide an overview of the curriculum, participants, lessons learned from our first year (2014), and fielded questions from viewers. Watch it here:
A few important details about the Academy
Focus on equity: Our Academy is focused on building equity in low- to moderate-income communities and for low- to moderate-income community members. Priority will be given to businesses and organizations that are creating worker-owned job opportunities for, with, or in these communities.
It's a team Academy: We have only accepted teams (meaning two or more people) to the Academy. We do not matchmake or attempt to connect individuals interested in joining existing or start-up cooperatives. The Law Center hosts happy hours, legal advice cafes, workshops, and other public events where you can come and have a conversation with us if you are interested in finding co-founders or joining existing cooperatives. There is also a vibrant worker cooperative community in the Bay Area, rooted in the Network of Bay Area Worker Cooperatives and the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives, that provides networking opportunities to meet worker cooperative entrepreneurs!
There are four types of teams we typically accept:
- Startups: Founders of new worker cooperatives that are in their start up phase or plan to open in the near future.
- Expanders: Members of existing worker coops that are seeking to strengthen their business for growth and scale.
- Converters: Owners and/or employees looking to transition an existing business to democratically governed, worker-owned business.
- Developers: Nonprofits or other small business development organizations that are developing a worker cooperative that is already operational or opening in in the near future. Developers must have at least two workers of their incubating coop as participants in the Worker Coop Academy and at least one staff member from the development organization.
Why the Worker Coop Academy?
The East Bay lacks training programs and job opportunities for low and moderate income workers to create their own stable, career-path employment. The East Bay needs jobs and businesses that provide more stability and mobility for low and moderate income workers. Worker-owned coops are an innovative and powerful business model that can provide high quality jobs and shared entrepreneurship opportunities to low and moderate income workers, as well as benefits to the broader economy. Coop businesses increase job quality, invest locally, and have demonstrable positive impact on job creation and on business retention. Job stability is also dramatically higher in worker coops.
To increase our impact, we are working with Laney College to accredit and institutionalize portions of the Academy curriculum into existing and/or a new course and, hopefully, a certificate program, so it may be offered at community colleges across California!
Coop Academy Curriculum
The Worker Coop Academy is an intensive multi-month training course for teams of two or more who want to operate democratically-run, worker-owned enterprises. There are six modules the Academy covers:
- People and Culture
- Business Development
- Cooperative Development
- Cooperative and Business Law
- Governance, Management, and Leadership
How did the Coop Academy get started?
The Worker Coop Academy was started in 2014 as part of a larger project called "A Blueprint for Creating Pathways to Ownership for Low and Moderate Income Workers in the SF Bay Area: The Inner East Bay as a Case Study." The Blueprint, primarily funded through a US Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grant, was equal parts research and action, implementing three complimentary strategies to increase worker ownership among low and moderate income communities.
- Piloting a Worker Coop Academy for cooperative entrepreneurs and organizations looking to become cooperative incubators,
- Creating an Opportunity Roadmap to identify industry and business opportunities for creating scalable worker-owned businesses, and
- Developing an Opportunity Roadmap for cooperative conversions in Oakland.
For more information on how the Academy got started and the role it plays in the larger Blueprint for a cooperative economy, please visit Project Equity's website at www.project-equity.org/bay-area-blueprint
Resources for Academy Replication
SELC will be publishing our curriculum, including facilitator guides, powerpoint presentations, participant handouts, and more in the near future. These resources will be under SELC's Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0) license and available for use, replication, and adaptation.
If you are interested in speaking about starting a training program developing worker-owned businesses, please contact Ricardo, SELC's Director of Economic Democracy, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are some other helpful resources:
- SELC's online legal resource website on cooperatives and cooperative development, Co-opLaw.org: co-oplaw.org/special-topics/cooperative-development
- The Democracy at Work Institute's Tools for Developers and Resource pages: institute.coop/tools/for-developers and institute.coop/resources
- Prospera's Resources page: prosperacoops.org/resources
- Academy.coop, an online portal with information from around the country on worker cooperative academies, including curriculum, videos, and more: academy.coop
- Cultivate.coop's wiki page for worker coop academies: cultivate.coop/wiki/Academy
Other Worker Coop Academies and Worker Cooperative Business Programs
Green Worker Coop Academy (Bronx, New York)
"Green Worker Cooperatives is a South-Bronx based organization dedicated to incubating worker-owned green businesses in order to build a strong local economy rooted in democracy and environmental justice. We train and develop worker cooperatives that have a positive environmental impact and enable the transformation of their members and community. We value the principles of solidarity and decision-making by those affected by decisions. And we are committed to contributing to worker cooperative and environmental justice movements around the globe."
Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (Denver, Colorado)
"RMFU is a progressive, grassroots organization founded in 1907. Formed in 1996, the RMFU Cooperative Development Center has worked with and helped grow more than 100 cooperatives, LLC’s and other businesses and organizations, with a focus on areas and professions suffering from economic stress, high unemployment or high poverty." For more information, contact the Director of the Urban Co-op Program Amy Beres (as of December 2015).
Cooperation Texas (Austin, Texas)
"Founded in October 2009 in response to growing economic inequality, Cooperation Texas is a worker cooperative development center based in Austin, Texas. Our mission is to create sustainable jobs through the development, support and promotion of worker-owned cooperatives in Texas. We believe everyone deserves equal access to dignified jobs, which is why we place those most directly affected by social and economic inequality at the center of our work."
Worcester Roots (Worcester, Massachusetts)
"Founded in 2001 and incorporated in 2003, Worcester Roots Project is a collective of youth and adult organizers on a mission to create opportunities for economic, social and environmental justice. We send these roots of opportunity into the community, sprouting up co-operatively run and green projects and initiatives that build toward our vision of neighborhoods that are safe for living, working and playing."
Center for Family Life (Brooklyn, New York)
"The work of Center for Family Life is grounded in the daily, lived experience of the Sunset Park community and guided by a vision of neighborhood families and social institutions evolving over time and contributing to each other’s ongoing development. The Center has partnered with community residents to organize cooperative businesses to create living wage jobs in a safe environment, and provide social supports and educational opportunities for their members."
Prospera (Oakland, California)
"Inequality and a lack of economic mobility define today’s economy, putting the American Dream out of reach for the vast majority of low-wage workers. This is particularly true for the many immigrants employed in the U.S. service sector, who, despite their determination and tenacity, often struggle to make ends meet. Some of the hardest hit are the women and mothers striving to not only earn a livelihood, but also to support their families and ensure a quality education and bright future for their children."
Pinchot University (Seattle, Washington)
"Pinchot University's Certificate in Cooperative Management program offers a deep dive into the world of cooperative management, exploring the unique characteristics, opportunities and challenges of the cooperative sector. The Cooperative Management program may be taken as a stand-alone Certificate or, starting in Fall 2016, as part of one of our MBA programs."
Project Equity (Oakland, California)
"Project Equity is launching a Cooperative Business Incubator for worker-owned enterprises! The primary purpose of the Incubator is to support successful businesses that are transitioning to worker ownership from another form of ownership. We aim to provide the tools, advising, training and connection to resources that will support a successful transition, and support a sustainable future for your business and its mission. By participating in the Incubator, you have the opportunity to interact with other businesses that are going through a similar transition, to learn from them, share what’s working, and create a network of support."