CONFERENCE SESSIONS

We’ve confirmed workshops!

Workshops are for worker owners, developers, and allies on research, practical skills, building local capacity, and more. Courses will be presented in English and Spanish, and live interpretation will be offered in select sessions. Additionally, we will provide time for open space, lunch table discussions, and technical assistance clinics.

Check out the sessions below, and plan what you want to attend today!


Workshops Session 1 (Saturday 10:45am-12:15pm)

Challenges, Opportunities and Tool to Grow and Maintain Membership in Our Cooperatives

Pancho Arguelles, Living Hope Wheelchair Association

The session will explore challenges, opportunities and best practices for base building (membership recruitment and retention) in our current context and applied to cooperatives. We will do this by exchanging experiences through dialogue and with participatory exercises. The session will be offered in Spanish, with English interpretation.

Developing Purchasing Cooperatives, Franchises, and Sector Associations to Support Scale

Nicole Koch, Technicians for Sustainability and Amicus Solar; Maru Bautista, Center for Family Life; Jennie Msall, The ICA Group; Joe Marraffino, Democracy at Work Institute

This session will highlight new developments in creating second- tier businesses associations that to scale the purchasing power, distribution, and industry alignment for worker cooperatives. The presenters will show how the development of independent businesses to serve worker cooperatives at a location up the supply chain can support scale and resilience.

Cooperative Startup Roadmap

Daniel Arrañaga, US Federation of Worker Cooperatives

The Startup Roadmap session lays out the key steps in creating a successful worker cooperative startup, and introduces basic concepts that distinguish this model. Participants will end the session with a checklist of questions to ask and decisions to make which will guide their business development, and a list of business resources to help take the next steps.

Facilitation In Motion: Using Movement, Visuals, and Games to Facilitate Group Decision Making

Manju Rajendran and Peter Dakota Spencer, AORTA

Too often “meeting” is code for sitting and talking (sometimes in circles). Facilitation techniques that include visuals, allow people to move their bodies, and break up whole group conversation can make meetings more engaging, help groups move through conversation, come to decisions faster, and make co-op processes more democratic by subverting dynamics that allow a subset of the group to dominate meeting space. In this workshop we will share facilitation techniques that you can integrate into your meetings and discussions, as well as discuss how to identify when to use them, and why. This workshop is for facilitators of all levels, as well a meeting participants that want to build up your understanding of group process.

Sanctuary Workplaces: Creating Safe Spaces and Movement Building

Ana Martina Rivas, US Federation of Worker Cooperatives

 

Immigrant-led worker cooperatives have been a successful tactic for migrant communities to build power, build wealth, and develop member-leaders. However, the recent political situation is a reminder that migrant workers and other communities remain vulnerable to injustice and disempowerment. This is a call to action to extend protection and safety to all communities facing harassment and persecution in the workplace, including all people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ, Muslims, and people with disabilities. This session will define what expanding sanctuary means, how this strategy has been utilized over time to create safe and hate-free spaces for everyone, in particular, those being persecuted for their immigration status. We will share a new resource guide that has been recently launched by the USFWC and DAWI in collaboration with Urban Justice Center, where people can obtain information about their rights as worker-owners within the workplace and as individuals/families.

Solidarity Los Angeles: Countermapping the Solidarity Economy

Linda Wei, Robby Herbst, and Yvonne Yen Liu, Solidarity Los Angeles

 

Los Angeles is home to the glitter of Hollywood, a vibrant labor movement for immigrant workers, and an emergent solidarity economy. The diverse economy has always existed in Los Angeles, many practices are rooted in the survival of immigrant and refugee communities. This session shares the attempts to document the diverse economy by Solidarity Los Angeles and Llano del Rio Collective. The Solidarity Los Angeles project aims to countermap anticapitalist practices, to tell stories of cooperative economics in the city’s past and present, and to create a directory of cooperative enterprises and mutual aid associations. The Rebel City guide helps users visualize the city from below, providing details of a developing infrastructure of people-centered institutions supporting human activities outside corporate dominion; from electricity, housing, education, medicine, and banking.

This is How We Do It: Project Management for Co-op Success

Brian Mueller, Isthmus Engineering

 

This workshop will cover basic principles of project management and how they can be applied in a democratic working environment. The need of businesses to target improvements that deliver strategic objectives, reduce risk, or increase profits have driven industry best practices for managing projects. While the practice of project management works well, it is mostly defined in the context of classic organizational structure and not for worker cooperatives. Here we change that. An overview of a project charter and taking that project through initializing, planning, executing, and closing phases will be presented.

Using Financial Data: The Coop Care of Wisconsin Story

Tracy Dudzinski, Cooperative Care of Wisconsin; Debra Schultz, Cooperative Care of Wisconsin; and Dave Hammer, The ICA Group

 

What might happen if you sat down and systematically analyzed the financial data on your cooperative's operations? Well, you might change your whole management structure and operations. Home care is an industry with extremely tight margins, and every efficiency counts. In this session, hear from Cooperative Care of Wisconsin and ICA Group how they worked together to identify the right questions to ask, got to some surprising answers, and then took decisive action on that information in a robust and well-supported process.

 


Workshops Session 2 (Saturday 4:00-5:30)

Capitalizing the Co-op Renaissance

Joe Riemann and Me'Lea Connelly, Assn for Black Economic Power; Brendan Martin, The Financial Cooperative

Access to capital remains a barrier for co-op development, especially for BIPOC-led cooperatives; this interactive workshop will discuss community-based approaches to raising capital. The Working World’s National Peer Network brings together place-based organizations from around the country to build a national infrastructure of cooperative lending and non-extractive finance that forms the infrastructure through which the Financial Cooperative – a national revolving loan fund – can invest in cooperative community development. Cooperative Principal investment clubs have created pathways for communities to pool resources and help to finance cooperative development. Investment clubs can offer patient, flexible capital for coop development and have an explicit equity lens for how those funds are invested.

Current Research: State of the Worker Coop Sector and the 2017 Individual Member Census

Tim Palmer, Democracy at Work Institute and Laura Hanson Schlachter, University of Wisconsin – Madison 

This session is for those hoping to dig in to the data — on worker cooperatives and worker cooperative members. Growing interest in worker cooperatives across the United States raises a number of important questions about how democratic worker ownership impacts the lives of employees and worker-owners on and off the clock. For instance, how is workers' participation in firm governance related to their participation in volunteering, voting, and other forms of civic activity outside the workplace? This session will explore these questions and more using data from the 2017 Worker Co-op Census. We will also dig into the most recent State of the Sector report, giving an overview of trends at the workplace level. Please join us for an interactive discussion of the groundbreaking research in the field.

Growing the Future of Food with Cooperatives

Cary Junior, South East Michigan Producers Association; Jonah Fertig, Cooperative Development Institute; and Mai Nguyen, National Young Farmers Coalition

 

Worker cooperative farms offer pathways for fair farm labor while retaining valuable working lands. Because food systems create cohesive value chains, there is an opportunity for food production to take a cooperative approach and increase local economic activity at each step of the process. Developing local food systems in underserved communities can resolve many economic and food security concerns, while promoting sustainability. This session provides case studies of worker cooperative farms: start-ups, conversions, and farm succession, including black, immigrant, or refugee-owned cooperatives. We will hear from, SEMPA a small producer cooperative of African American farmers building capacity and developing a local food system to supply food insecure areas in the Detroit area. We will also hear from two speakers who are simultaneously farmers and co-op developers. They will share their experience supporting these cooperatives in California and Maine. Drawing on lessons from these local efforts, both farmers and co-op developers will gain practical tools for assisting worker cooperative farms.

La Protección de Activos para Empresarios Inmigrantes

Anh-Thu Nguyen, Democracy at Work Institute and Tobias Damm-Luhr, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights

 

 

Este seminario (presentada en Ingles con interpretación simultáneo en Español) adaptada para empresari@s inmigrantes aborda cuestiones relacionadas con la protección de activos, la propiedad y la planificación de la sucesión. Proporcionaremos una descripción general de temas y consideraciones relacionados con la protección de los activos personales y comerciales. Revisaremos los pasos que puede tomar para proteger los activos y los mecanismos de cobertura para la propiedad, con un enfoque específico en dos herramientas legales: fideicomisos revocables y poderes legales. L@s guiaremos sobre cómo se pueden implementar estas herramientas para proteger los activos de los propietarios de negocios inmigrantes que están en riesgo de ser sometidos a detención y deportación. L@s participantes del seminario recibirán una copia de la presentación y una lista de verificación sobre la protección de activos. Nos referiremos y compartiremos otros recursos, incluyendo la "Guía de Preparación para Propietarios de Empresas No Ciudadanas," creado por el Comité de Abogados por los Derechos Civiles de la Área de la Bahía de San Francisco (LCCR) y la Guía de Appleseed. This presentation (presented in English with Spanish simultaneous interpretation) tailored for immigrant entrepreneurs addresses concerns around asset protection, estate and succession planning. We will provide an overview of issues and considerations relating to protection of personal and business assets. We will review steps to take to protect assets and cover mechanisms for estate planning, with a specific focus on two legal tools: revocable trusts and powers of attorney. We will share guidance on how these tools can be implemented to protect the assets of immigrant business owners who are at risk of or subjected to detention and deportation. Participants will also receive a copy of the presentation and asset protection checklist. We will refer to and share other resources including the Noncitizen Business Owner Preparedness Guide, created by the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area as well as The Appleseed Guide.

Planning is Best Done in Advance

Marc Mascarenhas-Swan, AORTA

 

Does your co-op feel like it is stuck in the day to day, and has no plan for growth? Does change happen whenever one or two people step up to make it happen. In this workshop we will take on the role of a small co-op with their minds set on expansion and renewal through the nuts and bolts of strategic planning, from visioning and values through to action items and timelines. Participants will leave tools to make organizational planning understandable, engaging and participatory. Handouts provided.

Union Co-op Curious: Exploring the Power and Potential for Scaling the Movement

Mary Hoyer, Lis Ryder, and Paul Ahrens, LA Union Coop Initiative (LUCI)

 

A participatory session that explores the possibilities of unionized worker co-ops and union co-op networks to help scale the worker-owned cooperative movement. Questions will be explored in a conversation that responds to audience interests. Add your voice to the conversation that will include: worker owners in union co-ops, labor activists, and union co-op developers from around the U.S., including Cincinnati, Dayton, New York, and Los Angeles. Many of the presenters speak fluent Spanish and the session will be translated.

What We Can Learn from Tech Startups About Developing Coop Products and Services

Sam McAfee

 

 

95% of businesses fail in the first few years. Despite this scary statistic, startup companies that are able to make it at all don't get there just because they have venture capital. The very best product teams use specific best practices, such as Agile software development, Design Thinking, and Lean Startup, to greatly improve the chances of building a product that customers like. Cooperatives can and do face the same competitive pressures to provide quality services and products to the market as privately owned companies do. Why not leverage the advanced techniques of the pros to help increase the rate of successful coop enterprises?

 


Workshops Session 3 (Sunday 11:15am-1:00pm)

Are You Ready for This? Preparing to Ask for a Loan

Mark Fick and Brenda Pfahnl, Shared Capital Cooperative

This session is for anyone who may need to borrow money and raise capital for their business. Participants will learn 1) what kind of money their business might need, 2) how lenders and investors evaluate a loan request, 3) how to be sure that the worker-owners maintain control of their capital, and 4) how the cooperative can best prepare for and represent themselves through the borrowing process. We will explore healthy lending practices and how debt has been used historically to extract wealth from communities. This session will involve presentation, facilitated discussion, and interactive activities.

El Coaching y el Cooperativismo

Claudia Arroyo and Maria Rogers Pascual, Prospera

 

 

La integración de herramientas de comunicación en un grupo cooperativo es indispensable y coaching es una excelente herramienta que favorece los flujos de comunicación cooperativa. En este taller visualizamos a los participantes conociendo y practicando dos herramientas de coaching: Los Tres Niveles de Escuchar y Preguntas Poderosas. Estas herramientas ayudan en el día a día de las relaciones humanas. El músculo de saber escuchar y saber preguntar hace fuerte a una cooperativa, hace como su ausencia puede causar mucho daño. El taller está dirigido a trabajadores-dueños de cooperativas y aspirantes a serlo en un futuro. El formato y las herramientas de la sesión es Educación Popular, es decir, todos somos maestros y todos alumnos. Hay una participación e interactividad total!

Robust Human Resources for Human-Centered Workplaces

 

We hear a lot about "accountability" and the need for better systems of accountability in cooperatives. But how well is that desire for accountability really working? What if instead we focused specifically on people — what they each need to do well at work, and how to part ways when it's not working. This session approaches two sides of the HR coin: first on motivation, support, professional development, and building an ownership culture person by person, and second, on fearless firing when people aren't meeting standards even with all the support in the world. We will share some effective practices and tools that participants can put to use right away.

The Cooperative/ESOP Hybrid: the Best of Both!

Martin Staubus, The Beyster Institute

 

Cooperatives assure true worker control over the business they operate. But they don't offer all the tax and financial advantages of the ESOP form of worker ownership. ESOPs offer unique financial and tax advantages that can make a real difference in helping a worker-owned business grow and succeed. But they don't assure true worker control over the business. Can we somehow have the best of both? Yes! A solar power installation company in Berkeley recently pioneered the coop/ESOP hybrid that assures true worker control while providing all the financial and tax advantages of an ESOP. This session will lay out exactly how that works, and why it can be so valuable.

The New Tax Law and What It Means for Worker Co-ops

Bruce Mayer, Wegner and Associates, CPA

 

Information on the tax law changes is important for decision making. The value of different forms of organization - partnership, Sub-chapter T corporation and S-corporation has changed. In some cases what is deductible or not has changed. Longtime cooperative accountant Bruce Mayer will review the basics of worker co-op taxation to make sure everyone is on the same page, and then go into the ways that the new tax law might change how they make financial decisions and operate their worker co-op. We will keep it as simple as the subject allows, with ample time for audience questions. The primary audience for this session is people somewhat familiar with how co-ops work financially.

Times Up! Approaches to Addressing Sexual Harassment

Anisha Desai, AORTA

 

How are we best able to have a survivor centered approach to sexual harassment in the workplace and be diligent in our investigations? How do we rigorously follow the requirements of the legal system, and bring a transformative approach to injustice? In this panel presentation we’ll hear from collectively governed organizations and coops and hear how they respond to sexual harassment, and consider the ways that we can respond with clarity, and compassion rooted in our values. This is not a sexual harassment training but rather an exploration of approaches, policies, and protocols. Hosted by AORTA, with Democratic Socialists of America LA, and others.

 


Workshops Session 4 (Sunday 2:00pm-3:30pm)

Asian American Solidarity Economies: Intersections and Possibilities

Yvonne Yen Liu, Solidarity Research Center

Asian Americans have been practicing mutual aid and cooperative economics since we first immigrated to the U.S — lending money, sharing resources, and offering mutual support to community members formally excluded from financial institutions, labor unions, and social protections. This is still true today: new migrants and more established communities engage in a range of ancestral and modern cooperative and mutual aid practices grounded in practical solidarity. Our panel links this history of building collective economic agency to contemporary examples of cooperative organizing in AAPI communities in the United States— exploring contexts, challenges and opportunities through the experiences of AAPI cooperative practitioners. We will feature two Asian American worker cooperatives based in Los Angeles: LA Worm Farm Cooperative and Courage Cooperative.

Become a Conversions Guide: How to Help Small Business Owners Explore Converting to Cooperative Structures

Todd Leverette, Democracy at Work Institute

This workshop will train attendees on how to prepare and guide business owners through their business succession needs. Often viable mid-size business close due to a lack of succession planning. You will learn the basic conversion process, learn about best practices for building a local network of specialized technical expertise needed to complement the role of a local guide. Explore case studies and a field of partners and specialized technical expertise needed to complement their role as a local guide. Get practice identifying businesses in your community that are well suited for employee ownership and help owners explore this opportunity!

Board Basics: What They Do, How They Run, and Why

Aaron Dawson, Equal Exchange; Deborah Craig, Northwest Cooperative Development Center; and Rebecca Bauen, Democracy at Work Institute

 

 

So your workplace became a cooperative, and now you have a board of directors. What's a board? What does it do? And how does the manager of a newly converted cooperative relate to it? For that matter, how does the manager or management team of a longstanding cooperative relate to their board? In this workshop, hosted by the School for Democratic Management, you will learn the role and responsibilities of the board in relation to management — and vice versa. Participants will hear stories from Equal Exchange, discuss board responsibilities, and interact with best-practice tools including job descriptions. Targeted participants for this workshop are worker cooperative managers and management teams as well as board members.

Engaging your Worker Cooperative in Financial Decisions

Daniella Preisler, Prospera, and Stephen Rye Switzer, Rye Financial

Financial decision making can often fall upon a small group, with damaging results to growth. Daniella and Stephen will facilitate a popular-education centered workshop including time tested tips and tricks on how to engage your entire cooperative in your financials and decision making. We’ll cover a sample training and engagement plan and provide all the tools you’ll need to educate, facilitate, and empower ALL of your members. We’ll break down best practices for bookkeeping, accounting, and facilitating financial decisions at the micro and macro level.

Innovating Pay Structures in Our Workplaces

Neily Jennings, AORTA

 

One of the biggest challenges we as worker-owners encounter is deciding how much to pay ourselves. This session will share AORTA’s approach to democratically designing a pay structure that allows all workers to thrive while upholding values of equity, transparency, and solidarity. We’ll also cover strategies for deciding how to allocate (limited) financial resources toward salaries, benefits, and other expenses. Participants will be invited to share what’s working and collectively troubleshoot challenges related to compensation in democratic workplaces.

Resolución de Conflictos

Claudia Arroyo, Prospera

 

 

 

Este taller espera que al final de este, los participantes reflexionen en la oportunidad de crecimiento para el proyecto cooperativo que el conflicto puede generar, aprendan y practiquen la herramienta del “I statement” (Opiniones en primera persona) y puedan aprender y practicar herramientas de coaching para la resolución de conflicto. El taller está dirigido a trabajadores-dueños de cooperativas y aspirantes a serlo en un futuro. El formato y las herramientas de la sesión es Educación Popular, es decir, todos somos maestros y todos alumnos. Hay una participación e interactividad total!