Presentations from the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives 2010 Conference

The USFWC has posted some of the outlines and handouts from their 2010 conference presentations (see also the 2008 presentations), including:


Bringing Your Idea to Fruition Part 1: What is a Worker Coop?

What is a worker cooperative, exactly? How is it structured and how does it work? What special legal and financial structures exist for cooperatives? What kind of knowledge and skills does it take to work in one? What are the benefits and drawbacks? How are worker co-ops connected to other small businesses? To movements for economic justice? Is the worker cooperative a good form for you? This introductory workshop is for those new to worker cooperatives, or curious about their basic functioning. It will cover the unique cooperative legal and financial structures, and lay out some basic governance and decision-making models.  No prior knowledge is necessary.


Presenters: Lori Burge, Peoples Food Coop and Poonam Whabi, Design Action Collective


Bringing Your Idea to Fruition Part 2: Going into Depth with Your Plan

This workshop goes in-depth to support people who are planning a worker cooperative project, and who need more information and tools to move forward. We ask participants to bring their project plans to the workshop for active development and reworking.  We will focus on moving projects forward. First we’ll do an overview of various models and methods of worker coop development. Then participants will present their ideas, at whatever stage of development they exist, and work to identify where they may need more information or support. This workshop is intended to help participants make effective use of the remaining conference workshops.  Participants will leave with a better understanding of the nuts and bolts of the cooperative development process, and a clearer vision for what support they will need to advance their own cooperative development plans.


Presenters: Stacey Cordeiro, DAWN and Melissa Hoover, USFWC


Accountability, Evaluations and Grievance Process

This workshop makes the radical proposition that strong structures of accountability lead to happy and functional cooperatives. We will focus on existing models for accountability structures: setting clear expectations, having job descriptions and defined job roles, doing regular evaluations, carrying through a termination process, and setting up grievance procedures.  We will demonstrate tools for accountability from a few different perspectives from management coops to nonhierarchical collectives.


Presenters: Jenny Glazer, Rainbow Grocery Cooperative and Joseph Tuck, Alvarado Street Bakery. Moderated by Melissa Hoover, USFWC


How to Read A Balance Sheet

The Balance Sheet holds the key to understanding your cooperative’s financial health, and it is a valuable tool for everything from cash management to strategizing about growth to deciding how much debt to take on. This workshop will review the basics of accrual accounting and will discuss in detail the various elements of the balance sheet. We will give special attention to the equity portion of the balance sheet, which can look very different for cooperatives than it does for other kinds of corporations.  There will be plenty of time for questions and answers.


Presenters: Dirk Prindle and Roger Van Someren, Carlson Highland CPA


How to Talk to Your Lender

Asking for a loan is a stressful experience for anybody, but it can be less so if you come armed with information about what Lenders look for and how they think.  Learn about “the 5 C’s of Credit” -- a standard model of risk assessment widely used by small business lenders, and how to present your co-op to an outside lender in the most compelling way.  In addition to banks and credit unions, we will look at other alternative lending sources such as Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and discuss the affect that the current financial crisis has had on resources for cooperative enterprises. 


Presenter: Margaret Lund, Cooperative Finance Consultant


Worker Coops and Unions: A Strategy to Create Jobs and Union Members

This workshop will focus on current successful examples of unionized worker owned companies and work that labor unions and support groups are doing to create co-ops providing workers more control of their work and increasing union membership. There will be a presentation on creating a special type of ‘worker owner” union membership to complement the existing collective bargaining type of membership, providing unions with an additional source of members and providing worker owned companies with much needed technical and professional resources.  Union resolutions supporting education about and possible funding to underwrite formation of worker co-ops, that have been presented to union members and governing councils, will be presented. These include work on educational videos and toolkits to introduce labor to worker co-op ideas. There will be presentations on specific projects in Oregon, Oklahoma and Maryland, and the historic United Steel Workers collaboration with Mondragon.  USFWC Union Co-ops Committee, which was established at Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy in 2007, will present its work, and discuss other ways that working people can control of local economic development.


Presenters: Mary Hoyer, USFWC Union Coops Committee; Gary Holloway, United Steel Workers


Goodbye Wall St, Hello to coop equity financing with worker control: the Equal Exchange experience

We knew it all along but the last 18 months made it painfully clear:  we have been living beyond our means at many levels.  In the last 24 years Equal Exchange has grown from a start-up to a cooperative business with sales of $35 million and assets of $20 million.  One key to this success has been our live-within-our-means capital model which, in addition to member-invested capital and generally friendly lenders, includes a critical role for outside investors while maintaining member control. The workshop will share a real live example of accessing outside investors who almost by definition do not seek to control the business, but rather to support the mission of the organization while realizing a modest return.  We will concretely describe the tools we use, from our bylaws to the disclosure documents to board-authorized dividends.


Presenter: Rob Everts, Equal Exchange


Introducing the Coop Index

The CoopIndex diagnostic tool was developed by cooperative members and developers out of a desire to help cooperatives grow closer to an “ideal co-operative” organization, guided by the co-operative values. Although it is recognized that each co-operative is unique, it is believed that key elements bridge the differences and can provide a guide for the developing worker coop. The CoopIndex tool measures the coop’s adherence to the co-op principles and values, as well as adherence to its own identity, and its success in meeting its mission. In addition, it provides an overview analysis of the governance and operations from the perspective of the co-op’s members and employees, with recommendations for initiatives is specific areas. It will help cooperatives focus on areas that need improvement which will enable a more effective use of resources in the cooperative.


Presenters: John McNamara, Union Cab Cooperative; Peter Hough, Canadian Worker Cooperative Federation