Wondering how we’ve been spending our summer? In addition to holding several Co-op 101 sessions and our first ever Co-ops 201 session, in August, we attended the Association of Cooperative Educators (ACE)’s annual Institute. This year, the conference was held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, which has an incredible cooperative infrastructure and a variety of types of cooperatives to learn from.
MCDC staff member Charity Schmidt presented about Madison’s worker cooperative ecosystem along with MadWorC staff member Rek Kwawer and Worker Justice Wisconsin staff member Frida Ballard. MCDC has provided funding to both MadWorC and Worker Justice Wisconsin over the last few years as Community Based Organizations supporting worker cooperatives, and staff from the three organizations meet regularly to coordinate the work of strengthening Madison’s worker cooperative ecosystem.
Our presentation, titled “Building a Resilient Worker Cooperative Ecosystem in Madison, WI” described what we currently have going on here in Madison (~20 worker co-ops!), how we got to this point (the history of worker cooperatives and the efforts of cooperators ), and then delved into the different ways the three organizations work together to ensure that cooperatives have the education, technical assistance, and support to get operational and to grow and thrive. We also highlighted our partnership with Martin Alvarado at the Madison Public Library to build a co-op resource collection, provide business development support, and deliver co-op education.
We also had the opportunity to connect with cooperative educators and developers from around the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico, tour cooperatives in different parts of the island, and learn about the many different approaches people are using to support and grow worker-owned and other forms of cooperatives.