Start a cooperative business with MCDC!


If you have an idea for a business you’d like to start, or you want to turn an existing business into a cooperative, you’re in good company! MCDC has already started four worker co-ops, with many more in the works.

When you’re ready to put your idea into action, we’re here to help! The first step is to attend one of our monthly “Co-ops 101” presentations. The next one is coming right up:

When: Monday, Nov. 18th, 6-8 pm

Where: Goodman South Madison Library, 2222 South Park Street

Also: a light dinner will be provided!

Presented by a partnership of the UW Center for Cooperatives, Madison Cooperative Development Coalition and the Madison Public Library, with funding from the Madison Public Library Foundation.

If you have questions or comments, please write us at steve@social.coop.

PS: We’ve already held our first Co-ops 101 in Spanish! In 2020, we plan to give presentations in Spanish and Hmong on a regular basis. Help us spread the word! Co-ops are for everyone!


Cómo formar una cooperativa con MCDC

English follows below.

La Coalición de Desarrollo de Cooperativas de Madison (MCDC por sus siglas en inglés) es una iniciativa del gobierno municipal de Madison para crear cooperativas de trabajo que hagan frente a la desigualdad de ingresos y las disparidades raciales mediante la creación de trabajos sindicalizados y con salarios dignos. Somos un colectivo de organizaciones basadas en la comunidad y desarrolladores de cooperativas. MCDC trabaja para apoyar el crecimiento y la creación de cooperativas de trabajo, específicamente abordando los factores que afectan a comunidades de color locales, personas de escasos recursos y trabajadores tradicionalmente excluidos. La meta es crear un sistema sostenible que combata la pobreza, empodere a los trabajadores y aumente la equidad para fortalecer la salud económica de Madison a largo plazo.

Hay muchas maneras en las que usted o su organización pueden ser parte de esta iniciativa innovadora! Proveemos apoyo y recursos — incluyendo subvenciones — a gente que quiere formar una cooperativa y organizaciones que queren integrar la formación y desarrollo de cooperativas en sus programas.

Para aprender más, ¡contáctenos hoy!


The preceding text and flier in Spanish is an announcement that we will be doing our first public event in Spanish. We will, of course, continue to do public events in English, so we’ve included a flier for the next one, as well. We are making plans to hold events in still more languages in 2020!

The Madison Cooperative Development Coalition (MCDC) is the City of Madison’s initiative to form worker cooperatives that address income inequality and racial disparities by creating living-wage union jobs. We are a collaborative of community-based organizations and cooperative developers. MCDC works to specifically address factors affecting local communities of color, low wealth, and traditionally excluded workforces. The goal is to create a sustainable system that will combat poverty, empower workers and increase equity in order to strengthen Madison’s long-term economic health.

There are many ways you or your organization can be a part of this groundbreaking initiative! We provide support and resources — including grants — to people that want to start a co-op and organizations that want to work co-op development and education into their programming.

To learn more, contact us!


Who wants to help start a brewing co-op?

Mead, cloudy and clear. Not actually Derek’s. Source. CC-BY-SA 2.0.

We are pleased to announce that we have a brewer who is interested in forming a co-op. His name is Derek, and he lives on a farm south of Madison (the co-op will be based in Madison). He is currently experimenting with mead, fruit wines, and malting and brewing beer (once he can grow all the ingredients on his own land).

The co-op will focus on fermentation of local ingredients — a bonus if the product comes from co-op member farms. The co-op would facilitate fermenting, aging, storing, and distributing the beverages, helping small-scale producers bring their unique products from farms to consumers. People who have experience with brewing, and would like to collaborate with Derek, should contact MCDC to arrange a meet-up. Folks with experience in other aspects of running a brewing businesses, such as logistics or marketing, are welcome as well. The plan is to start small, and focus on developing the craft. It will be local production for local consumption. If that matches your style, write to steve@social.coop to start a conversation.


MCDC and MadWorC will participate in a panel on economic democracy

Goodman Community Center, 149 Waubesa Street, Madison, WI 53704

October 11, 2019, 6:00-8:30 pm,

“You can’t have meaningful political democracy without functioning economic democracy.” – Noam Chomsky

Sponsored by: Alliance for Economic Democracy, Economic Democracy Advocates Foundation, Lift Economy, Northside Planning Council, Prout USA



The Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy is now taking registrations!

Participants in a workshop at an earlier ECWD.

What is the Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy? Well, glad you asked.

The ECWD, founded in 2002, is a conference that builds awareness of worker-owned businesses while strengthening existing worker co-ops. For 17 years, the ECWD has forged relationships between democratically-owned businesses, labor institutions, and cooperative resource organizations to expand workplace democracy. The ECWD has been convened every two years in the Eastern United States, and was last hosted by Baltimore in 2011. As a signal of our growing alignment, this will be the first year that the program is organized directly by the US Federation of Worker Co-ops, this country’s national grassroots membership organization for worker-owned cooperatives.

October 18-20
Baltimore, Maryland
University of Baltimore School of Law
See the full program here

MCDC is sending both our staffers, and our collaborator at the public libraries, Martin Alvarado, is going as well. We hope to see you there!


We’ve updated our CBO grant application guidelines

A sign in Berlin. Credits. CC-BY-SA.

As some of you may recall, MCDC has grants available for local non-profits, which we like to call “community-based organizations,” or CBOs, for short. We’ve already given out two over the last year.

As of now, the most recent version of the guidelines to apply for the grant is up on our website. By far, the most interesting change is that fact that the maximum amount CBOs can apply for has increased to $30,000.


So, what kinds of things might a CBO do with this money? Here are some examples…

  • Support for community organizing to identify potential worker-owned cooperative groups
  • Workshop and education program development around the worker cooperative model
  • Support for integrating the cooperative model into existing business or entrepreneurship training programs.
  • Support for staff training and capacity building to help organize cooperatives
  • Support for providing assistance to cooperative start-up groups.

And there may be still other ideas we haven’t thought of. If any of these sound like something your non-profit would like to do, download the guidelines and take a look. If you like these ideas but don’t have much experience implementing them, we understand. Not many people do, and we’re looking to change that. We’ll work with you.

The deadline to apply for the grant is September 13th. We hope to hear from you by then!

As always, you can write us with your thoughts or questions at steve@social.coop.


Help out Soaring Independent by taking their survey

Here’s something concrete you can do to help Soaring Independent Co-op. They are doing a market survey to better understand their potential clientele. It’ll only take you a few minutes, and it would mean a lot to them. Just click the link and answer a few brief questions. Thanks!



MCDC is on the air!

We were very pleased to be invited on Madison’s own WORT twice in the same week! I (Steve) was on the 8:00 Buzz on Monday along with Martin Alvarado, being interviewed by Brian Standing, and again on Wednesday, interviewed by Jan Miyasaki. To listen, visit the archives and look for July 8 and 10.  

A big part of what we talked about is our series of Co-ops 101 presentations. Speaking of which, the next one is coming right up!

Worker Cooperatives 101: Equitable Economic Development

Join us at the Goodman South Madison Library – 2222 S Park St.

Tuesday July 16, 12-1:30 pm

A light lunch will be provided.

Interpretation into Spanish will be provided.

RSVP helpful but not necessary.

Worker Cooperatives 101 is a program of the Madison Cooperative Development Coalition and Madison Public Library to promote awareness for equitable economic development through worker cooperatives in Madison.

This monthly series provides essential education about worker co-ops and available resources provided by MCDC, such as technical assistance, connections to local and national experts, and support grants. 

We will be joined by Georgia Allen, co-founder of Soaring Independent Cooperative. SIC is a worker-owned business led by women of color who are experienced caregivers  As they see it, empowering themselves and taking better care of their clients go hand in hand.

  • Worker cooperatives create meaningful change for communities affected by inequality.
  • Worker co-ops are designed to improve low-wage jobs and build wealth in communities.
  • Worker co-ops help build skills, earning potential, household income, and assets.

Where: Goodman South Madison Library

2222 South Park St

July 16, noon to 1:30.

More information about starting a worker cooperative is at www.mcdcmadison.org


Two ideas — one quite specific, the other, not so much

Both this week’s co-op ideas are very local, but the similarity ends there.

Source. CC BY-SA 3.0

The first, as the picture above has probably already revealed, is hops. Hops are one of the primary ingredients in beer, and (as I happen to know from personal experience) are not particularly difficult to grow. There’s a bit more to growing them and marketing them at scale than there is to growing a plant or two in the backyard, but it’s nothing a co-op couldn’t handle. And there’s pretty clearly a market.

The second idea requires a bit more context. If you’ve read through the co-op ideas, you’ve probably noticed that many of them focus on environmental sustainability, and even regeneration. This idea falls squarely into that category, but it doesn’t have a convenient title, beyond “sustainable energy storage.” Most of us are familiar with sustainable energy generation, such as the ever-increasing number of homes, businesses, and other buildings with solar panels on them. That’s good news… sort of. There’s a dark side to the current state of renewables that isn’t as renewable as it sounds, such as mining materials like cobalt and lithium (for rechargeable batteries) under conditions that are socially and/or environmentally deplorable. Additionally, there are other obscure but important materials that are simply too rare to keep up with demand.

So, the idea is a research and development co-op to seek out forms of energy storage that could store renewably-generated energy at scale, using cheap, common, local materials.

This sort of challenge isn’t for everyone, but if it’s for you, write to steve@social.coop and say so. If you have a challenge that’s a better fit for you, write in and say that. Either way, we look forward to hearing from you.


Solstice (almost)

Friday is the longest day of the year. Of course, if the rain continues, it might be hard to tell.


It might also be hard to tell what’s happening at MCDC, because we don’t talk a lot about what’s happening behind the scenes. Without delving too far into the details, I can say that we’re talking with nearly a dozen co-ops in development, some of which are still at the idea stage. We’re also investigating new funding sources for both our co-ops and for MCDC itself. Additionally, we’ve had discussions with people from Baltimore and Chicago looking to draw ideas from our model to use in their own settings.

And, of course, we’re actively maintaining the co-op ideas page. Just in the last week, we’ve added two new ideas. The first is a 3D printing co-op, which could also tie in with the Precious Plastic model of retrieving plastic from the wastestream.

The second is a bit of a departure for us, but in a good way. We’ve been talking with a group of programmers who go by the name Rootstock. They are proposing an alternative to the venture-capitalist-driven model of software development. In this model, VCs invest large sums of money in various projects in return for equity, hoping that one will be a big enough success to cover their losses on the rest. What Rootstock proposes is to invest labor, in the form of coding, rather than capital, so we’re calling this model “venture cooperativism.”

If this sounds like something you’d like to be a part of — or if you have a completely different idea you want to share — write us at steve@social.coop and let us know.