Cooperatives (Co-ops)

Taking Employee Ownership to Scale: Learning + Design Session

Democracy at Work Institute, The Democracy Collaborative

On June 13 and 14, 2016 in Washington, DC, many of the nation’s leading experts in employee ownership, sustainable business and finance, community and economic development, and philanthropy came together in a Learning + Design session. Co-hosts for the meeting were Marjorie Kelly and Jessica Bonanno of The Democracy Collaborative and Camille Kerr of Democracy at Work Institute. The purpose of the session was to discuss how to achieve unprecedented scale of employee ownership by focusing on achieving an audacious goal: 50 million U.S. employee-owners by 2050. This report summarizes and expands upon the June meeting:

Institutionalizing a Commitment to Racial and Economic Justice

Worker Co-ops Move Beyond Business as Usual

During the United States Federation of Worker Cooperatives membership meeting this past July in Austin, Texas, the Federation shared with its membership the newly created Racial and Economic Justice Member Council. The Council is hoping to facilitate the Federation’s adoption of three more principles that will guide worker cooperatives. This marks an important institutional change, as organizations strive to create and sustain racial and economic justice. Read more about Institutionalizing a Commitment to Racial and Economic Justice...

Can Cooperative Businesses Save Communities?

Matthew Robare
The American Conservative

This article highlights the work being facilitated by The Democracy Collaborative across the United States to help incubate cooperative business and change city economies from the ground up:

Powerful, under-used tool for reducing income-inequality: broad-based ownership

Marjorie Kelly
The Hill

In this article for The Hill, Democracy Collaborative Executive Vice President and Senior Fellow Marjorie Kelly describes the growing movement toward broad-based ownership and how communities are coming together to take control of their local economies. Kelly highlights some of the innovative strategies used by communities on the ground, such as the cooperative ownership business conversion, which is poised to achieve expanded scale in the near future:

Neighborhood Credit Union

Established in 1930 as Dallas Postal Credit Union, Neighborhood Credit Union is the oldest credit union in the Dallas-Fort Worth region. The credit union currently has assets greater than $325 million, 10 branches, and over 30,000 members, the majority of whom are underserved by traditional banking institutions.  With a goal of helping North Texans improve their financial health and wellbeing, it gives members access to free financial coaching and education. Read more about Neighborhood Credit Union...

Credit Union of TX (CUTX)

Founded in 1931 by a small group of Dallas teachers, Credit Union of TX (CUTX) now has over $1.2 billion in assets (ranking it as one of the largest credit unions in the country), more than 120,000 members, and 12 Dallas area locations.  The credit union remains focused on supporting education by providing scholarships to area students pursuing higher education and by supporting area schools. Read more about Credit Union of TX (CUTX) ...

City Credit Union

Established in 1942 in a small cubbyhole in the basement of the old City Hall, City CU now has over $320 million in assets, more than 40,000 members, and 7 Dallas area branches.  Committed to “People Helping People,” the credit union provides free financial counseling and educational classes for all community residents (including non-members). Read more about City Credit Union...

The Cooperative Growth Ecosystem

Melissa Hoover and Hilary Abell
The Democracy At Work Institute, Project Equity

This second paper in Citi Community Development’s Building the Inclusive Economy series focuses on scaling worker cooperatives as a means to create quality jobs and wealth-building opportunities for low-income workers. Authored by Hillary Abell, Co-founder of Project Equity, and Melissa Hoover, Executive Director of the Democracy at Work Institute, the report draws from the experiences of Cincinnati, Ohio, Madison, Wisconsin, New York City, the San Francisco Bay area, and western North Carolina to develop a framework for understanding the successful components of a “cooperative growth ecosystem.” These include collaboration across sectors, diverse funding streams, and a “guiding coalition” to create a strategic vision:

Co-ops Gain Ground in Communities of Color

Originally published in Rooflines: The Shelterforce blog on July 7, 2016.

Since 2010, 60 percent of new cooperative worker-owners are people of color and more than two thirds of total worker-owners are women. Read more about Co-ops Gain Ground in Communities of Color...

Green Taxi Cooperative: Building an alternative to the corporate "Sharing Economy"

New worker-owned taxi cooperative set to launch with 800 drivers in Denver

The “Sharing Economy” is comprised of corporations like Uber and Airbnb—that don’t actually do much sharing. But real alternatives that build community and cooperative ownership are under development across the country—like Green Taxi Cooperative, an emerging worker-owned business in Denver, Colorado that just received the regulatory approval they need to launch the 800-driver strong cooperatively-owned and union-organized company. Read more about Green Taxi Cooperative: Building an alternative to the corporate "Sharing Economy"...

Williamson Street Grocery Co-op (“Willy Street Co-op”)

Willy Street Co-op is a full-service cooperative grocery store specializing in local, organic, natural, sustainable, humane, and fairly-traded products.  Established in 1974, the co-op now has two locations and over 31,000 member owners.  To help support the community, it launched a Community Reinvestment Fund—seeded by inactive owners’ equity shares—which, since 1992, has distributed $342,000 to local nonprofits and other cooperatives. Read more about Williamson Street Grocery Co-op (“Willy Street Co-op”)...

Madison Community Cooperative (MCC)

Madison Community Cooperative (MCC) is a federation of 11 Madison-based, low-cost housing cooperatives with around 200 members.  Formed in 1968 to boost the capacity of area housing co-ops, today MCC provides it members with a broad range of operational services, including strategic planning, budgeting, remodeling, and community outreach.  Committed to the broader community, MCC has a Community Services Trust Fund that pools member contributions and provides small grants to grassroots community organizations on an annual basis. Read more about Madison Community Cooperative (MCC)...

UW Credit Union

Founded in 1931, UW Credit Union now has more than 210,000 members and assets totaling $2.1 billion.  Committed to education, the credit union offers free financial education seminars to the general public and has created a $1.5 million fund through which it offers needs-based scholarships to dozens of Wisconsin students each year.  Also focused on environmental sustainability, UW Credit Union purchases 100 percent of its branches’ electricity from renewable resources, follows LEED certification guidelines for all new construction and remodeling projects, and has taken numerous steps to re Read more about UW Credit Union...

Heartland Credit Union

Based in Madison, Heartland Credit Union is a full-service, financial cooperative aiming to provide its members with quality, cost-effective financial services that contribute to their social and economic well-being.  With roots back to 1936, the credit union now serves 17,500 members in Southwestern Wisconsin and Eastern Iowa. Read more about Heartland Credit Union...

Dane County Credit Union (DCCU)

Dane County Credit Union (DCCU) is one of Madison’s largest locally-owned financial institutions, with nearly $140 million in assets and 15,236 members.  With a commitment to youth financial education, the credit union offers savings accounts designed for children and teens and provides a free financial education curriculum to area teachers.  The credit union also has a partnership with the nonprofit, GreenPath, Inc., through which it provides all DCCU members with free access to credit counseling, money management, and financial education services. Read more about Dane County Credit Union (DCCU)...

We Own It: A Guide to Worker Co-ops in NYC

Ingrid Haftel and Sandy Xu
The Center for Urban Pedagogy

The Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) teamed up with Sunset Park-based Center for Family Life, designer Amanda Buck, and illustrator Melissa Crowton to create We Own It, a fold-out poster that breaks down how worker co-ops work. Visuals and text in Spanish and English compare worker co-ops to typical businesses, explain the steps that go into starting or joining one, and show what a day on the job looks like for a worker-owner. 

Want to Hire a Worker-Owned Co-op? There’s an App for That

Michelle Stearn
Yes! Magazine

Originally published on, this article by The Democracy Collaborative's Michelle Stearn highlights the work of Si Se Puede!, the Robin Hood Foundation, and a Cornell Tech graduate student program, all of whom converged as a team to develop an app for worker cooperative bookings:

Rochester Mayor: Investing in Co-ops Builds “Stairway Out of Poverty”

Oscar Perry Abello
Next City

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren announces an amazing city initiative to build community wealth. We've been working with the Rochester municipal government to develop a plan to uplift communities by investing in worker-owned businesses, inspired in part by the Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland. As this article from Next City describes, the plan involves the creation of a community-owned and -operated "Market Driven Community Cooperatives Corporation" to oversee the effort.

What can Cleveland co-ops teach Rochester?

David Riley
Democrat & Chronicle

Our work in Rochester, New York is making waves to connect the cooperative movement across the U.S. as a tool to address poverty and democratize wealth. This article details some of the key lessons learned in Cleveland, OH, where the Evergreen Cooperatives have carved a path toward success. The Democracy Collaborative is now working with the Rochester City Government to develop a plan that addresses economic inequality from a systemic lens that includes cooperative development strategies:

Ujamaa Collective

Established in 2008, Ujamaa Collective aims to provide spaces, opportunities, networks, education, and support for women of African descent to grow as entrepreneurs, artisans, and servant-leaders.  The Collective encompasses a retail boutique, an entrepreneurship Preparation Program, an open-air marketplace, and agricultural initiatives, including a 15-acre urban farm in Pittsburgh’s Hill District.