Building a Nine Month Program to Launch Cooperatives in Rural Connecticut

The Cooperative Development Institute (CDI) is the Northeast’s center for cooperative business education, training, and technical assistance. CDI’s mission is to build a cooperative economy through the creation and development of successful cooperative enterprises and networks in diverse communities in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Maine, Rhode Island and New York.

Connecticut Business Academy (CCBA)

TESA has been working with CDI since 2010 on a number of projects. With the CCBA in 2010 – 2011, we helped create and implement a nine-month program that worked with eight aspiring cooperatives in low-income, rural Connecticut.

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Challenges faced

The CCBA was a big undertaking that, in many ways, helped define the creation of cooperative academies for years to come. CDI wanted to create a cooperative program that would focus on bringing aspiring cooperatives within the same area together to help in their own formation, and also start a cooperative economy in the region. However, at this point, CDI’s years of experience had mostly been focused on working one-on-one with co-ops. They reached out to TESA to help create the formation of a cooperative curriculum, which would be used by nearly a dozen trainers, that was participatory in nature and that could meet the different needs of several groups at once.

How TESA helped

TESA worked with CDI from start to finish on the CCBA program to find workshop leaders, mentors for participating co-ops, and to help create and implement the curriculum. We helped lead a train-the-trainers for workshop facilitators on popular education as well as cooperatives. We worked to oversee the relationship between mentors and their assigned cooperatives, as well as with workshop leaders on the creation and implementation of their sessions. We helped manage the overall program from day-to-day operations as well as big picture goals. The work we did with CDI on the CCBA has helped lay the foundation for the plethora of co-op academies that are springing up around the country.

An activity from the train-the-trainers TESA ran for CDI.

An activity from the train-the-trainers TESA ran for CDI.

What would CDI say to others about TESA?

TESA worked with us to design and deliver a Training for Trainers and Mentors as part of a program to develop several nascent cooperative enterprises in northeast CT. From conception, to design, implementation, and follow-up support, TESA’s approach is professional, collaborative, focused on the participants’ experiences, and well-informed by theory and practical know-how. The results were outstanding, with participants thanking us and remarking on the quality of the program. We look forward to working with TESA in the future to re-implement this training in other settings and design other participatory, democratic trainings related to co-op development. For us as an organization committed to democratic cooperative principles, it is fundamental to integrate democratic education into the way we carry out our mission, and TESA is a key partner to help us do that.

—Noemi Giszpenc, CDI Executive Director

A note from TESA

CDI is filled with people who are dedicated not just to their organization, but to the mission of realizing a better world through cooperative principles and foundations. Their goal is our goal: to create a more democratic and just society. Not only that, but they’re also great people who are wonderful to collaborate with. They are responsive, timely, good at what they do, and perhaps most importantly, imaginative.

We have enjoyed every second of working with CDI since 2010, and we can’t wait for more years of wonderful collaboration together.

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