By Kenzie Love (updated May 19, 2022)
Starting any business is challenging, and co-ops are no different. As veteran co-op developer Russ Christianson observes: “Like any good business, a co-op requires an excellent business plan, sufficient start-up capital, and the tenacity of its founders. Typically, there will be long hours, many meetings, and low pay in the start-up phase.”
Fortunately, the Canadian Worker Co-op Federation (CWCF) is offering a way to smooth out this phase of a worker co-op’s development with the upcoming launch of our Worker Co-op Academy, a five- to six-month program that guides groups of entrepreneurs who are ready to move forward into the business planning stage of their enterprise. This program helps participants discover the other side of launching a co-op: the fact that, as Russ further observes, “there will also be breakthroughs, exciting developments and the internal reward of accomplishing something important to you and your community.” In contrast to traditional businesses, worker-owners at worker co-ops participate in the profits and oversight of the enterprise on a democratic basis. The model has proven to be an effective tool for creating and maintaining sustainable, dignified jobs; generating wealth; and improving the quality of life of workers.
The online Worker Co-op Academy with Russ as its Lead Instructor and now launching in June, 2022 (the application due date is to be confirmed, but approximately two weeks ahead) offers the opportunity to achieve all of these things, supported by experienced co-op developers who will provide each group with 20 hours of one-on-one coaching. Groups will be surrounded by other participants who will share the successes and challenges of bringing their ideas to life. Each of the three co-ops in the first cohort in 2021 played an important role in the development of the Worker Co-op Academy itself, as this pilot program helped CWCF test its process, tools and virtual aspects.
CWCF knows that in this time of pandemic and with people searching out economic alternatives, there are currently many great potential co-ops, co-ops for which the Worker Co-op Academy could make the difference between success and failure. Whoever you are, wherever you are in Canada*, and whatever your plan, we encourage you to consider applying.
If you want to find out more about what a worker co-op is please join us in our monthly webinar “What is a worker co-op?”. Note that this is also a prerequisite for those who are planning to apply for the program. Answers to questions you might have about the Academy are available here. Additional program information is available here; the intake process, intake form and application form can all be found here. If you have any questions feel free to contact Communications and Member Services Manager Kaye Grant.
*Note that if your co-op will launch in Quebec, we refer you instead to the Parcours COOP program offered by the Réseau COOP; see this link.