“In the restaurant where I worked before, they used a lot of bleach, and I had a lot of allergies and respiratory problems. I don’t have those anymore, and I don’t get the same aches in my body that I used to, either. Now I feel good physically and mentally. I feel proud to be in a green cooperative and I’m glad that my fellow socias feel the same way.”
WAGES provides a variety of technical assistance tools to individuals and organizations interested in learning about our high-impact co-op incubation model. The following external websites also offer information and support regarding cooperative incubation. While some of these resources are more tailored to our model than others, we hope they will be helpful to you.
Resources marked with an asterisk (*) are those specific to working with immigrant or other marginalized communities.
New to co-ops? Start here, for an introduction to co-ops, the co-op movement, and co-op values and principles
- What is a Worker Co-op? - A short two-page guide by the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives (USFWC) covering the essential characteristics of the worker co-op model.
- The 7 cooperative principles - By National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA), lays out the seven cooperative principles as established by the International Cooperative Alliance.
- Worker co-ops: key characteristics and brief history - The California Center for Cooperative Development (CCCD)’s overview of worker co-ops, from their historical origins to their present-day operations.
How to Start and Strengthen a Co-op
A collection of comprehensive and subject-specific resources for current and potential co-op developers
- In Good Company: The Guide to Cooperative Employee Ownership - A guide by the Northcountry Development Foundation; covers co-op basics and fundamental elements, meaningful membership, planning for perpetuity, and business management; also includes various case studies.
- Immigrant Worker Owned Cooperatives: A User's Manual* - Another comprehensive guide by El Centro Humanitario, specific to immigrant-led co-ops.
- How Do You Start a Co-op? - An overview by the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives (UWCC), with links to further information on steps, resources, and factors for success .
Pasos para iniciar una cooperativa de trabajadores* - Another start guide in Spanish, developed by the Center for Cooperatives, University of California and the Northwest Cooperative Foundation.
- 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.
Conferences and training opportunities in the cooperative field
- California Co-op Conference - An annual conference dedicated to sharing how cooperatives support sustainable communities and to connecting those in the field.
- Democracy at Work Network (DAWN) program - DAWN offers a one-year training program for those with experience as co-op worker-owners to become certified peer advisers for other co-ops (see "Professional Services" for more information on services provided by peer advisers). Application deadline in the fall.
- Green Collar Communities Clinic - GC3 offers community-based workshops and legal clinics for co-ops.
- USFWC Conference - Offered in even-numbered years, a biannual nationwide conference for education and information sharing. Open to worker cooperatives, cooperative developers, policymakers, community organizers, academics, and others. On off years, two regional conferences occur instead: the Western Worker Cooperative Conference and the Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy.
Organizations that offer professional services (consulting, accounting, legal advice, and financial support) to co-ops.
- 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.
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.
- East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC)* - (Berkeley, serving East Bay) EBCLC provides legal services to the low-income community in many areas, including immigration and economic development, and can be a valuable resource for immigrant-led co-ops.
- Insight Center for Community Economic Development - (California-based) The Insight Center’s attorneys offer customized legal services to community-based organizations, community-development corporations, cooperatives and collaboratives, and community members. They also offer a library of document templates, including information on the LLC model for worker cooperatives.
- Katovich & Kassan Law Group (K2) - (nationwide) K2 is a comprehensive legal practice offering a full range of services to social ventures (including for-profits, nonprofits, co-ops, and hybrids). They work with clients in every phase of development, from start-up through financing, ongoing operations, and succession planning.
Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) - (California-based) 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.
- 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.
Worker Owned Co-ops
For more inspiration and advice, consult these examples of worker-owned cooperatives in the Bay Area and beyond.
- Mondragon Cooperative Corporation - (Basque region, Spain) Mondragon is a leading example in the worker co-op field.
- 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).
- Rainbow Grocery Cooperative - (SF Bay Area) A vegetarian food store and worker-owned cooperative business.