The 4th CoopEcon training conference was a huge success!

Thanks to all the organizers who worked hard to put on such a wonderful weekend of cooperative movement building, business development, inter-generational and cross-background networking! In particular Pam Madzima from the Federation of Southern Cooperatives and Esme Baltazar from Highlander deserve special recognition for their hard work.

CoopEcon 2014 Group Photo

CoopEcon 2014: Building Democratic Ownership in the US South

CoopEcon 2014: Building Democratic Ownership in the US South

CoopEcon 2014 is a weekend-long networking and training opportunity geared toward helping current and future cooperators across the South who are building and strengthening new community-based enterprises in their communities.

CoopEcon 2014 will be held October 3-5, 2014.

CoopEcon 2014 is the fourth gathering sponsored by the Southern Grassroots Economies Project (SGEP). SGEP is building networks across the US South to promote and launch sustainable cooperative economies. Our work is inspired by the rich history of social justice struggle in the South and looks to the examples of the worker-owned cooperatives of Mondragon, Spain and Emilia Ramagno, Italy for guidance. SGEP is made up of individuals and organization across the US South, including: the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, the Fund for Democratic Communities, Highlander Research & Education Center, Cooperation Texas, the Farmworker Association of Florida, Cooperation Jackson. Associated member organizations include GEO/EDINA, The US Federation of Worker Cooperatives, and The Working World. For more information on SGEP, click here.

While there is great interest in CoopEcon, space is limited to 100 attendees representing the Southern communities on the frontlines of economic and environmental degradation. This core constituency includes African-Americans, Native Americans, immigrants, women, youth, low income whites, and formerly incarcerated people located in the historic US South, which includes Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Media inquiries, please use our contact form located here.

CoopEcon 2014 Program - Friday

9:00 am - 12:00 pmPre- conference: Co-op 101 Workshop
Facilitators: Carlos Perez de Alejo & Nicole Marín Baena

The pre-conference offers time for people new to cooperative movement and the language it uses to get up to speed with folks already doing cooperative work or who are further along in the process. Modeled as a “Co-op 101” training workshop, this pre-conference features presentations and open space breakouts facilitated by current cooperators (members of co-op businesses). Participants will learn about different co-op models and gain basic knowledge allowing them to fully engage with the CoopEcon 2014 conference.
11:00 am - 3:00 pmLunch, registration and settling in
3:00 pm - 4:15 pmWelcome, framing and introductions
Facilitators: Ed Whitfield & Elandria Williams
4:15 pm - 4:30 pmBrief history of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund
John Zippert, Cornelius Blanding, Pamela Madzima
4:30 pm - 6:00 pmOpening plenary: Uncovering Our Cooperative Past: How Grassroots/Local Co-ops can Discover Their History
Facilitator: Dr. Jessica Gordon Nembhard.

This year’s opening plenary will feature Dr. Jessica Gordon Nembhard’s book, Collective Courage; and a panel of local grassroots cooperative members. The panelists will discuss: how new & younger members are connected to their cooperative history; how to connect new members; background on civil rights, voting struggles, and research and ideas of uncovering our cooperative past.

Speakers on the Panel include: Melbah Smith, Coalition for a Prosperous Mississippi; Carol Zippert, Federation of Greene County Employee’s Credit Union (FOGCE); Samuel Fairley, Southeastern Goat Cooperative of Alabama.
6:30 pm - 7:30 pmDinner
7:30 pm - 8:00 pmReview of next day’s activities. Sign up for open space time. Day one closing.

Program - Saturday

7:45 am - 8:45 amBreakfast
9:00 am - 9:30 amDay Two Opening
9:30 am - 10:30 amPanel: Cooperative Governance
Facilitator: Carlos Perez de Alejo

This panel will explore the important role of governance in creating and maintaining successful cooperatives. What is governance? What does it look like in practice? Panelists from a variety of co-ops will share how governance functions in their business, offering significant lessons for existing and start-up co-ops.

- Ben Burkett, Indian Springs Cooperative
- Celia Santiz Ruiz & Celerina Ruiz Núñez, Jolom Mayaetik, Chiapas, Mexico
- Alex Villanueva, Green Muse Home Cleaning
10:30 am - 10:45 amBreak
10:45 am - 11:45 amCooperative Governance Breakout Workshops
11:45 am - 12:30 pmPanel: Cooperatives Facing the Prison Industrial Complex
Facilitator: Dr. Jessica Gordon Nembhard

This panel will start people thinking about building cooperatives in prisons with incarcerated members, and outside with members who were formerly incarcerated and to support re-entry. Panelists will discuss research on Italian worker co-operatives and offender rehabilitation and Italy’s enabling laws; and on Puerto Rico's cooperatives in prisons program and how the Puerto Rican cooperative community supports these new kinds of cooperatives. Models and implications for developing such co-ops in the US will be discussed.

- Ann Hoyt, University of Wisconsin
- Roberto L. Rodríguez Rosario Cooperativa de Seguros Multiples, Puerto Rico
- Lymarie Nieves Plaza Cooperativa de Seguros Multiples, Puerto Rico
12:30 pm - 1:30 pmLunch
1:30 pm - 4:30 pmSpecialize Workshop Tracks (two concurrent sessions in each track)

Track 1 – This workshop will focus on the basic steps needed to start a cooperative, from business idea to business plan, and information on how to organize effective meetings. This workshop assumes basic knowledge of the cooperative model and will draw on the ideas and needs of the participants. There will be space for participants to share their thoughts and challenges and work on their respective projects.

- Steps Cooperative Start-up, (Tent)
- Conflict Resolution (Auditorium)

Track 2 - This workshop will cover a range of topics from conflict resolution to expansion as they come up for existing cooperatives. This workshop will draw on the experiences of the participants and focus on sharing useful tools and best practices.

Facilitators: Ed Whitfield, Fund for Democratic Communities; Cornelius Blanding & John Zippert; Federation of Southern Cooperatives/LAF; Melissa Hoover, Democracy At Work Institute/U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperative
4:30 pm - 4:45 pmBreak
4:45 pm - 6:30 pmOpen Space Meetings

Using Open Space meeting technology, participants will engage in collaborative group discussion sessions on variety of topics chosen and developed by those present at the conference. FSC staff will also offer a tour of their forestry project during this time.
6:30 pm - 7:30 pmDinner
7:30 pm - 8:00 pmReflection Time
8:00 pm - 9:30 pmSocial Time

Free time for participants to connect with each other. Did you meet some interesting folks from two states away? Find a relaxing spot and hatch some plans. Co-opoly Games will be available if folks feel like playing as well.

Program - Sunday

7:45 am - 8:45 amBreakfast
8:45 am - 9:00 amDay Three Opening
9:00 am - 9:45 amBottom- up Solidarity Economy Building (focusing on worker cooperatives)
Facilitator: Iya Ifalola H. Omobola, Cooperation Jackson

This panel will explore how cooperatives can be used to support communities in the face of economic crisis and disaster capitalism. How can particular initiatives start, survive, and thrive over time? And how can they play a role in a broader vision for sustainable economies and communities for generations to come.

- Worker/owner at New Era Cooperative
- Kali Akuno: Cooperation Jackson
- El Kilombo Intergaláctico
9:45 am - 10:00 amBreak
10:00am - 10:45 amSouthern Grassroots Economies Panel & Discussion
Facilitator: Ed Whitfield

We’ll hear from SGEP leaders and engage in a broad discussion of the goals and plans for this Southeast regional effort.

- Introduction
- Policy Advocacy
- Financing/Funding the Movement
- CoopEcon Institute: Building Democratic Ownership in the US South
- Large Group Question and Answer
10:45 am - 11:45 amOpen Space Meetings
Break out into regional groups.
11:45 am - 12:30 pmGroup Discussion
Where do we go from here?
12:30 pm - 1:30 pmClosing Lunch and Conference Evaluation