Education and Training
Education and Training is one of the 7 core International Cooperative Alliance principles of cooperatives. Continuous education is the key to the long-term success of cooperatives as well as to creating the possibility of new cooperative enterprises. Accordingly, CDI devotes time and resources to providing opportunities and materials for cooperative education and training.
Interested individuals and groups can learn a lot about what cooperatives are, how to start them and run them by browsing through the CDI website. In addition, we recommend other online tools and resources, such as:
- eXtension Cooperative Community of Practice
- Co-op Zone (Canadian)
- Co-op Learning Centre (Canadian)
- NASCO organizer's handbook on starting a housing co-op
- NCDF Toolboxes on consumer, housing, worker co-ops and more
- Food Co-op Initiative
The best learning often comes from peers. We encourage people to gather with local cooperators as often as possible, join networks, and attend conferences. Some groups and events we recommend include:
- Valley Alliance of Worker Cooperatives (VAWC)
- Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA)
- Northeast Cooperative Council (NECC)
- New England Farmers Union (NEFU)
- Consumer Cooperative Management Association (CCMA)
- National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA)
- Co-op Maine
- Boston WORC'N
- NYC NoWC
- Willimantic Inter-cooperative Zone (WICZ)
- VT Co-ops (in formation)
- New England Farmers' Market Exchange (NEFME)
- Harvest New England
- Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy (ECWD)
- National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA)
Workshops and Trainings
CDI believes that education about democratic enterprises such as cooperatives should itself be democratically organized. Our workshops rely on participants to express their needs and goals with respect to learning and apply lessons directly to their own situations. All of our facilitators are trained in the principles and methods of participatory, democratic education. We have certain prepared workshops that we can adapt to the particular needs of your group, including length of time; we can also design a new workshop in response to the needs of cooperators in our region.
There are a few different ways to define what a cooperative is, what it isn't, and what it should be, as well as different ways to categorize co-ops into different types. If after reading through our description of "What is a co-op" and viewing our generic presentation [link], your group wants to dig deeper into how the cooperative principles apply to the realities of your enterprise, you can have CDI run a long-distance webinar or an in-person workshop customized to your group's needs.
Co-ops Seeding Co-ops
Every co-op that is up and running as an enterprise, providing benefit to its members, also has the potential to seed the development of new cooperative enterprises. CDI has researched a number of different models of growth, through spin-offs, replication, product diversification, market diversification, and vertical expansion. See our NCBA-sponsored webinar, or invite CDI to facilitate a brainstorming session, lead a follow-up planning session, or guide a feasibility analysis or business planning process for a new enterprise.
Training of Trainers and Mentors
How do the principles of democratic education and the principles of cooperatives relate? How do you teach, guide, or advise in a way that strengthens autonomy and independence? CDI's all-day workshop invites participants with some knowledge of business or organizational development and of cooperatives to deepen their understanding of the above questions through dialogue and experiential practice. A reading list for participants prior to the workshop can be found on Cultivate.coop, along with this workshop's outline.
Inclusion and Diversity / Anti-Oppression
The first principle of cooperation is voluntary and open membership. This means that anyone, regardless of sex, age, race, ethnicity, nationality, ability, orientation, religion, status, income, or other characteristic, may be a member of a cooperative, as long as that person is able and willing to take on the responsibilities and duties of membership. But many cooperative businesses realize that to be successful, a more positive and proactive approach is needed – not just lack of exclusion, but deliberate inclusion. In this workshop, participants explore their current assumptions regarding their co-op's membership, clientele, suppliers, and supporters, and start to work out what inclusion would look like in every aspect of their operations, from planning, to marketing, to membership recruitment and education, to personnel, to governance and decision making.
The Tyranny of Structurelessness? Identifying, Addressing, and Dealing With Informal Power Dynamics in Cooperatives
In this workshop, the group will grapple with the concept of "the tyranny of structurelessness" within cooperatives. The participants will be asked: how does a lack of structure cause informal hierarchies and influence power dynamics? Through activities, readings, and small-group discussion and writing, participants will address how to prevent a "tyranny of structurelessness" in their own cooperative situations.
Worker Co-op Specific Trainings
Democracy without Cooperation? An Introduction to the Role of Self-Managed Businesses in Our Society
In this workshop participants explore the differences between mainstream top-down corporations and cooperatives/collectives. This lesson addresses what self-managed business can mean for the society that we live in. Participants explore the following question: how can we have a "big D," a democratic society, without "small d's" (democracies in our schools, towns, and workplaces).
Cooperative Dialogue and Decision Making: Practices, Purposes, and Techniques
This workshop introduces participants to the importance of a strong cooperative decision making culture within co-ops and collectives. It explores both consensus and majority-rule decision-making methods. During this session, participants also engage the concept of "owning" their labor and what labor "owning" capital means as it contrasts to the functions of a standard corporation--and how this influences cooperative decision-making.
Cooperative Problems, Cooperative Solutions: Job Rotation, Shopfloor Committees, and Work Teams
The purpose of this workshop is to introduce participants to some of the many problems and challenges that cooperatives face in the real world. For some, when learning about co-ops, it can be easy to gloss over the existing, historical, and lasting problems of the cooperative movement. This is dangerous for any individual or group considering getting involved with cooperatives: if the problems are masked and ignored, people will be unprepared when they actually encounter them.
Oppressions within the Cooperative Movement: A Reality That Must Be Confronted
Worker cooperatives are by no means exempt from the societal injustices that have persisted throughout our history and still exist today. This workshop will specifically address three of these oppressions: racism, sexism, and classism. Participants will examine these injustices within the context of worker co-ops and the movement in general. This workshop draws on cooperative literature and real life cooperatives as a jumping off point for dialogue.
Do you want to request assistance from a Cooperative Development Specialist? If so, please fill out this Request for Assistance. Your group may be eligible for a free consultation or even free in-depth technical assistance. View our consultations page for more details.
How to Start a Co-op
Interested in starting a cooperative, but unsure of the steps and details involved? Download CDI's Informational packet here.
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