Teaching Coops to Women in Transition in Massachusetts

For the last three years, TESA has partnered with Greenfield Community College, New England Learning Centre for Women in Transition (NELCWIT), Montague Catholic Social Ministries, and other organizations in Western Massachusetts to provide education to women who use their services.

Women’s centers and support groups provide a range of services to women in transition, from helping with employment and ESL classes, to supporting women facing domestic violence and other crises. Our classes focus on teaching the cooperative model as an alternative for creating meaningful employment opportunities, and how the model can be applied locally.

This year, the class was a 5-week workshop series on cooperatives. We opened with teaching the basics of coop businesses and the coop economy. Then the bulk of the class was spent exploring how the coop model can be applied to the women in the class, or any other individual or collective ventures in the community.

This course was designed to challenge one’s perception of the status quo and to demonstrate how co-ops can make a difference. The tools and resources provided by the instructor satisfied my goal for this class which was to expand my knowledge about co-ops. I thoroughly enjoyed the open discussions.
—Nalini Goordial, class participant

This year’s class had 14 people and many rich conversations. We’ve had critical discussions about how coops serve under-resourced and impoverished communities, if they can be the answer to a deeply unjust economy, and if coops can thrive as regular businesses struggle.

This year’s class follows a successful 2016 course where participants developed a community garden, using cooperative principles to determine the garden’s structure and organization.

This initiative is made possible through the local Growing Agricultural Resiliency and Developing Economic (GARDEN) Project.

The class is held in partnership with Greenfield Community College, New England Learning Centre for Women in Transition (NELCWIT), Montague Catholic Social Ministries, and Seeds of Solidarity Education Center in Orange, Massachusetts. Each year, we’ve taught a different class in a different part of the state. This year’s class was the last in the 3-year-long project, but TESA hopes to find other opportunities to collaborate and provide education to women in transition.

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