INTRODUCTORY READING

Are you new to co-ops? Start here, for an introduction to co-ops, the co-op movement, and co-op values and principles

STARTING AND STRENGTHENING A CO-OP

A collection of comprehensive and subject-specific resources for current and potential co-op developers

Comprehensive resources

Start guides

Topic-specific resources

  • Democratic Leadership Workshop – An exercise on leadership created by the Arizmendi Association of Cooperatives and a good introduction to co-op governance.
  • Legal Entity Options for Worker Cooperatives* – A summary by Grassroots Economic Organizing (GEO) of the key implications of the LLC and worker co-op structures. Part of the GEO’s upcoming legal guide to worker co-ops in low-wage, immigrant communities.
  • A Popular Education Handbook* – This publication offers tools, exercises, and examples on popular education, and can serve as a consultative resource for developing a member training curriculum.
  • The Curriculum on Cooperatives – Intended for students, this co-op-specific curriculum likewise provides a starting point for developing curriculum materials to train members on the co-op model.
  • Nolo Law for all (NOLO) – Nolo is an easy to use resource for help with the beginning stages of operating a business. They provide a checklist with examples of fifty things you will need to do from evaluating and developing your business idea, to setting up tax reporting. This website also includes business topics such as: LLCs, corporations and partnerships, do-it-yourself software, and legal advice.
  • The US Small Business Administration (SBA) – SBA provides a ten step checklist to starting a business that includes free videos, PDFs, and slides that cover topics from writing a business plan to understanding employer responsibilities. This site also provides demographic data for each city and state to help with deciding where to position one’s business, and the available programs that assist startups, micro businesses, and underserved and disadvantaged groups.

EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES

Conferences and training opportunities in the cooperative field

PROFESSIONAL SERVICES

Organizations that offer professional services (consulting, accounting, legal advice, and financial support) to co-ops.

Consulting

  • DAWN Technical Assistance – (multiple cities nationwide) DAWN’s team of peer advisors offer a range of services that cover all stages of the co-op development process. Co-op developers can receive customized technical assistance through making a request.
  • USFWC Technical Assistance – (nationwide) The USFWC offers up to four hours of free technical assistance and consulting for members, and provides support for applicants to its Worker Ownership Fund.

Accounting

  • National Society of Accountants for Cooperatives (NSAC) – (nationwide) NSAC is a professional society for those actively involved with the financial management and planning of cooperative businesses. They accept both phone and online inquiries from co-ops interested in referrals for accountants in their area.

Legal advice

  • Cutting Edge Counsel – (nationwide) Cutting Edge Counsel is a legal practice offering a full range of services to for-profit businesses, nonprofits, co-ops, and hybrids in every phase of development. Their sister business, Cutting Edge Capital (nationwide) helps social ventures raise capital through direct public offering, crowdfunding, and capital market tools.
  • Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) – (California-based but applicable to federal matters) SELC cultivates a new legal landscape that supports community resilience and grassroots economic empowerment. They provide essential legal tools in their free eResource library which is stocked with legal guidelines, FAQs, and templates to help navigate complex regulatory landscapes for urban farming, cooperatives, small and community-owned enterprise, community currencies, and food and farming enterprises.

Financial support

  • Financing Support – The USFWC has compiled a list of financial institutions that support worker cooperatives.
  • Kiva Zip An experimental site that offers person-to-person lending for entrepreneurs, who can register as borrowers and directly raise capital from lenders around the web.

SOME COOPERATIVE BUSINESSES 

For more inspiration and advice, consult these examples of worker-owned cooperatives in the Pittsburgh area and beyond.

  • Mondragon Cooperative Corporation – (Basque region, Spain) Mondragon is a leading example in the worker co-op field.
  • East End Food Co-op  is a 40-year-old grocery store with many activities to reinforce cooperative culture in the Pittsburgh area.
  • Rainbow Grocery Cooperative – (SF Bay Area) A vegetarian food store and worker-owned cooperative business.
  • Fourth River Workers Guild is an active proponent of cooperative business in the Pittsburgh area.
  • Arizmendi Association of Co-operatives – (SF Bay Area) A cooperative of seven member businesses: six cooperative bakeries (including the Arizmendi Bakeries and Cheeseboard Collective) and a development and support collective.
  • Evergreen Cooperatives* – (Cleveland, OH) The Evergreen Cooperative Initiative works to create meaningful green jobs in six low-income neighborhoods in the Greater University Circle (GUC).
  • Ujamaa Collective is a cooperatively operated artist and fashion business of African American women

Are unions and cooperatives compatible? The United Steel Workers says yes!