The CA Co-op Conference offers tracks for both startup and existing cooperatives that focus on governance, communication, and technical topics for food, worker, housing, and other co-op types. One track is devoted to successful co-op development and another is dedicated to legal education and is MCLE* accredited.
Friday Keynote Address: Farmworker Housing Cooperatives: Born Out of Crisis & Resilient through Four Decades
, Horacio Amezquita
will share the story of how San Jerardo Housing Cooperative was born from the farmworker unionization campaign of the 1970’s, and how the cooperative is meeting the challenges it faces today. Horacio’s parents were co-founders of the cooperative and he was raised in the co-op. Today he is the co-op’s manager.Panel: Transforming Communities through co-op development.
Saturday Keynote Address: Great Basin Food Co-op: Spinning the Food Web to Strengthen Local Food System
, Amber and Nicole Sallaberry
. In 2005, with a hand drawn flyer announcing a buying club forming in Reno, the seeds of Great Basin Food Co-op were planted. Today, the cooperative has 7,000 member-owners serving more than 10,000 customers. GBFC is a crucial player in the local food and farming economy, not only because they are creating connections between urban city dwellers and Great Basin farmers and ranchers, but because they are central players in addressing policies affecting organic farmers and ranchers. Amber and Nicole, co-op co-founders and current managers, will share the history of how they got started, how they were able to mobilize local talent to create a beautiful store and innovative tools for linking consumers and farmers.Panel: Echos of the Past–Food System Movement of the 1970s–Panel will help compare experiences of San Francisco collaborations to create healthy food.
Conference Workshops For the workshop descriptions, click on the workshop title
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SESSION I: Concurrent Workshops
Cooperatives and Community Impact
Transitioning your Business to a Worker Co-op MCLE
Be the Change! Anti-Opression Assessment and Co-op Transformation
SESSION II: Concurrent Workshops
Starting a Cooperative
Union Cooperative Initiatives
Entity Choice Options for Worker Cooperatives After AB 816 MCLE
Co-op Financing Options
SESSION III: Concurrent Workshops
Strategic Tools for Worker Co-op Development in Marginalized Communities
Financing The Cooperative Dream: Smart Borrowing for Co-ops
AB 816- The Worker Cooperative Act MCLE
Tech Co-op Panel
SESSION IV: Concurrent Workshops
Growing the Worker Co-op Movement
Governance: Strengthening your Board of Directors
Member Investment Shares MCLE
Peer Evaluations: Getting Better Every Year
SESSION I: Concurrent Workshops
The History of the People’s Food System
Capital Campaigns that Work
Legal Aspects of California Cooperative Corporations MCLE
Financial Strategic Planning for Housing Co-ops
SESSION II: Concurrent Workshops
Discussion Group: Building Community Support for Opening Food Co-ops
Consensus Decision Making
Fair Housing and Member Relation Issues in Housing Cooperatives MCLE
Public Policy for Advancing the Cooperative Movement
SESSION III: Concurrent Workshops
Communication and Conflict Resolution Skills
Feasibility: What is it Really?
Worker Cooperative LLCs MCLE
Crowdfunding for Co-ops
Housing Co-op Workshop
Co-ops 101, Mai Nguyen. This workshop is a primer on the cooperative model, discussing cooperative principles, governance, and finance. Examples from a range of cooperatives will be used to show how cooperatives of different types use the model to meet member needs and how the cooperative business is distinct from other business structures.
Cooperatives and Community Impact, Christina Jennings. This session will look at real cases of cooperative impact in local communities, and examine the community development tools that can help – or hinder – co-op development.
Transitioning your Business to a Worker Co-op MCLE, Alison Ligane, Lars Ortegren, and Sushil Jacob. This workshop will present the process of transitioning your business to a worker co-op by sharing the story of one solar company’s journey. California Solar Electric (CSE), a Grass Valley solar company, is in the process of transitioning its business to a worker-owned cooperative as a member of Project Equity’s Cooperative Business Incubator. While focusing on CSE, alternatives and specific legal elements will be discussed.
Be the Change! Anti-opression Assessment and Co-op Transformation, Marc Mascarenhas-Swan. The work of centralizing anti-oppression values in your co-op is a many layered thing. This workshop will discuss the specific process of anti-oppression assessment of your organization’s internal workings and how the results can be used as a dynamic tool to inform your policies and the direction of your co-op in a meaningful way. Examples of how to use to use these tools in facilitation and communication to promote full participation are included. Participants should come with curious minds and a lot of questions
Starting a Cooperative, Alex Stone. This workshop will cover the critical steps needed to get your co-op up and running, including the creation of bylaws and articles of incorporation, determining the governance structure, how to incorporate, ensuring feasibility and more. We’ll also learn directly from co-opers through a panel of folks with experience starting different types of co-ops.
Union Cooperative Initiatives, Liz Ryder and Gary Holloway. Worker cooperatives have, among their core principles, a democratic workplace. Unions have historically struggled for greater workplace democracy. Recent efforts in Cincinnati and Los Angeles highlight the convergence of these two traditions as “union cooperatives”. Join in a discussion of efforts in those two cities and brainstorm how to do outreach to the labor community in your area to build bridges between the union movement and the worker cooperative community.
Entity Choice Options for Worker Cooperatives After AB 816 MCLE , Sushil Jacob, Tim Huet. Worker cooperatives have, among their core principles, a democratic workplace. Unions have historically struggled for greater workplace democracy. Recent efforts in Cincinnati and Los Angeles highlight the convergence of these two traditions as “union cooperatives”. Join in a discussion of efforts in those two cities and brainstorm how to do outreach to the labor community in your area to build bridges between the union movement and the worker cooperative community.
Co-op Financing Option, Elena Fairley. The workshop description will be available soon.
Strategic Tools for Worker Co-op Development in Marginalized Communities, Kim Coontz. This workshop will discuss particular circumstances that make cooperative development among marginalized community members both exciting and challenging and focus on strategies that contribute to development success. The workshop will include rich “co-op stories” as examples.
Financing The Cooperative Dream: Smart Borrowing for Co-ops, Christina Jennings and Estee Segal. The session will address how to plan, structure, and access financing for start-up or expanding cooperative businesses. Drawing on case studies from worker and food co-ops, the interactive session will look at a) factors you should consider when deciding whether to borrow; b) how much you need and how much you can borrow; c) what you can do to qualifying for a loan and understanding how the lender will assess your plans; and d) how to find co-op friendly financing.
AB 816- The Worker Cooperative Act MCLE, Sushil Jacob and Cameron Rhudy. This workshop will introduce AB 816, the Worker Cooperative Law, and put it into context with the existing formation options for CA Worker Cooperatives, including general partnerships, LLCs, stock corporations, mutual benefit corporations and the California Cooperative Corporation.
Tech Co-op Panel, TBD. This is an exploratory workshop discussing how people engaged in various aspects of tech work can organize as a cooperative and build an alternative to “business as usual.”
Growing the Worker Co-op Movement, Mike Leung. Why are so few startup businesses worker cooperatives? This workshop will explore the strategic issues limiting the growth of the worker co-op community. We will discuss the main reasons for the low rate of startup formation and the rarity of worker cooperatives in capital-intensive industries. We will look at key distinctions between worker cooperatives and non-cooperative businesses and show how the standard framework for business valuations, investments, and accounting has inadvertently restricted the growth of worker cooperatives. We will discuss how reevaluating our assumptions can overcome these barriers.
Governance: Strengthening your Board of Directors, Linda Brockway. This workshop presents the fundamental legal and ethical responsibilities for the elected cooperative leadership: the Board of Directors. Discussion will include the roles of various stakeholders in the co-op, strategies for encouraging board member cohesion, and how to avoid any perception of conflict of interest.
Member Investment Shares MCLE, Therese Tuttle, now a potentially attractive consideration for California Co-ops and their members. This workshop explains the benefits and mechanics of offering preferred-share financing programs for California cooperatives. * This workshop has been approved for 1.25 MCLE credit hours.
Peer Evaluations: Getting Better Every Year, Marc Mascarenhas-Swan. What would it be like to look forward to your evaluation each year? Unfortunately, too often evaluations end up as places wrought with hurt feeling and conflict because complaints are shared without solutions for growth. Learn how to develop and implement a strong and healthy evaluation system that can strengthen communication, prevent conflict, decrease turnover, and help hold people accountable to the group. Where evaluations nurture a culture of growth and mutual support. This workshop focuses on worker co-ops but can be applicable to other arenas as well.
History of the People’s Food System, Shanta Sacaroff. In the late 1960’s a second wave of cooperatives started in the San Francisco Bay Area through Food Conspiracy Clubs. Over about 10 years, buying clubs, grocery stores, and even a warehouse was developed to create an alternative food system. The attempt to coordinate these activities through the People’s Food System attempted to unite all of the count-cultural players of the era: hippies, communists, cults, even armed revolutionaries. It came apart in dramatic fashion but some individual members gave birth to several cooperatives and businesses that are key players in the cooperative and sustainable agriculture food system today. Panelists who were part of the People’s Food System will share juicy stories from the era, discuss the impact that they have on Northern California’s food system today, and what they see for the future of cooperatives in the next 30 years.
Capital Campaigns that Work, Stuart Reid. New co-ops need money to start their businesses, sometimes a lot of money. Much of that capital will come from your owner-members. Learn how to budget and plan for member loan and preferred share campaigns. We will be introducing Food Co-op Initiative’s new Capital Campaign Workbook with detailed guidance, actual campaign examples and templates you can use for your own campaign. This session is focused on capital for consumer co-ops, but may have applicability for other types of co-ops.
Fair Housing and Member Relation Issues in Housing Cooperatives MCLE, Karen Tiedemann. This MCLE accredited workshop explores how fair housing and related laws apply to Housing Co-ops. Important topics will include member selection/screening, member “termination,” occupancy restrictions, and membership transfers.
Consensus Decision Making, Kate Sassoon. In this workshop we will explore Consensus as both a Decision Making Process and a ‘decision rule’. We’ll place Consensus within the spectrum of Democratic Decision Making practices, take a decision through a standard Consensus process, and unpack the Pros Cons and Conundrums facing organizations using Consensus. Participants will be encouraged to share experiences, policies, and practices within a safe communication space, and will come away with tools to improve decision making – of any kind – in their cooperative communities.
Discussion Group: Building Community Support for Opening Food Co-ops, Stuart Reid, Luis Sierra. Food Co-op organizers and other supporters will meet to discuss challenges in building community support for opening a food co-op. Each food co-op organizing effort has its own challenge, and we’ll share how we’ve built on our community’s assets to address the different bottlenecks for getting closer to opening day.
Financial Strategic Planning for Housing Co-ops, Linda Brockway. This workshop is a housing co-op essential. It will discuss how to monitor and assure co-op financial health and to plan for the future. Topics will include recommended reserves, the reserve study, tools for projecting the anticipated life of appliances and all physical plant aspects of the co-op, capital improvement plans and other important information.
Legal Aspects of California Cooperative Corporations MCLE, Van Baldwin. This MCLE accredited workshop will discuss the important legal aspects pertaining to the California Cooperative Corporation Law, normally used by consumer, worker, and some other cooperatives. The presentation will cover legal aspects of this statutory framework, including elements that differentiate cooperatives from other types of corporations (e.g., governance, profit distributions). In addition, there will be a cursory discussion of California securities regulation as it applies to cooperatives. Subchapter T of the Internal Revenue Code, applicable to co-ops distributing tax-deductible patronage refunds, will also be discussed. (Note—this workshop will not discuss in any depth the new worker co-op portion of the law, as that is covered in other workshops.)
Public Policy for Advancing the Cooperative Movement, Christina Oatfield, Ricardo Nuñez, and Camille Kerr. The Sustainable Economies Law Center and the Democracy At Work Institute staff will share about their recent work in the area and facilitate a brainstorm and discussion about possible future policy campaigns to help cooperatives grow and/or foster the creation of new cooperatives, and/or to promote conversion of existing businesses to cooperatives.
Communication and Conflict Resolution Skills, Georgia Kelly. In this interactive workshop, we will discuss and practice techniques for improving our communication skills and respectfully dealing with difference. Areas covered include boundary setting, ground rules, reframing issues that are difficult, and understanding how to approach different types of people. We will also explore meeting facilitation, team building, and group dynamics. If there is time, we will review the Basque Parliament’s Plan for Peace that reflects the Mondragón Cooperatives’ ethics and philosophy. There will be handouts for future reference.
Feasibility: What is it Really? Stuart Reid. Food Where do dreams, plans, and mission intersect with stark reality? Feasibility. Feasibility is the evidence that your co-op can provide the goods, services, education and everything else you want to offer your community and be successful as a business. We will discuss what must be considered in a feasibility study and what it actually means for a co-op to be “feasible.”
Worker Cooperative LLCs MCLE, Camille Kerr and Sara Stephens. This MCLE accredited workshop is an in-depth discussion of organizing a worker cooperative as an LLC. It will cover the reasons or circumstances when LLCs may be more appropriate than co-op incorporation or other statutes. Discussion will include the pros and cons using an LLC and how to do it well.
Housing Co-op Workshop, TBD. The workshop description will be available soon.
Crowdfunding for Co-ops, Danny Spitzberg. This workshop will discuss how to build community around a celebration and how to use crowdfunding to raise funds for cooperatives.
Closing Plenary, Kate Sasson. A great closing with the possibility of games.
With appreciation to the 2016 California Co-op Conference Sponsors:
*This conference is co-sponsored by the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC), a State Bar of California approved MCLE provider. SELC certifies that this activity, except as otherwise provided, has been approved for 1.5 hours of MCLE credit per accredited workshop.