What’s next for the DC coop movement?

On Jan 13th, a small group of us met to discuss the potential to try to pass a local version of the National Cooperative Development Act. This act provides funding for loans and seed capital to cooperatives, and grants to organizations that provide technical assistance to cooperatives.

Because UDC’s Kirkman Center for Cooperatives is primarily a research resource right now and we don’t have strong (or any?) technical assistance providers in DC, we felt like this particular legislative battle isn’t the first step in building a more vibrant cooperative ecosystem in DC. We discussed the Cooperation Texas model, which provides affordable training and technical assistance to worker cooperatives. Some people on the Coop DC list serve have been forming Coop Incubator DC, though no one at the meeting has been able to get in touch with the group members recently for an update. We hope when it’s up and running it can help to fill this gap in the city. In the meantime, there are several groups looking for information on starting a cooperative. Eva is hoping to be able to provide legal support to cooperatives full time after graduating, which is great.

One of the groups is Nature’s Friends, run by Dele. She’s organizing a sunflower seed cooperative for DC youth gardeners. The sunflower seed gardening trainings will take place on March 2 and 9. People at the meeting offered both direct support and to make connections to others who can support the project.

What’s next? We keep making connections and organizing trainings and learning opportunities until DC has a cooperative technical assistance provider that fills some of this gap. As always, ideas are welcome.

Attendees: Josephine, Kara, Dele, Amanda, Greg, Eva, Allison

Other updates we learned after the meeting:

American and Georgetown University professor John Whitman and UDC law professor and clinic director Louise Howells are working to pass a worker coop friendly statute in DC. UDC law students will be working on this during the Spring 2013 semester.

John Whitman is also hoping to engage the DC Office of Employment Services in providing worker coop training, probably through their existing Workforce Training contractors. Here they especially want to engage those re-entering the community from prison.

He also hopes to promote teaching about coops in business and law schools, but this largely depends on student demand, so students should let their deans know. You can check out cooperative curricula here: http://cooperative-curriculum.wikispaces.com/

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