Relationships to Make Your Co-op Successful

Co-op.ed.logoThe worker-cooperative movement continues to grow, which means more and more people are being introduced to business ownership and the practices of workplace democracy that drive the movement.  On its own, starting a new business is extremely difficult, add in new practices like member meetings, democratic decision making, and horizontal management techniques, and the challenges facing a new cooperative or group of cooperators only appear more daunting.  Moreover, even as an educator of cooperative techniques and methods, I constantly find myself in need of new skills and advice, whether it be basic accounting, or techniques to educate about non-violent communication. Thankfully the cooperative movement is full of knowledgeable and talented people. 

In the spirit of Principles 5 and 6, a group of cooperators from a variety of worker cooperatives are teaming up to start a free Peer Mentorship Program (PMP).  This new Peer Mentorship Program has been endorsed by the US Federation of Worker Co-operatives. The PMP was conceived by Molly Zeff, a worker-owner and Worker-Owner Cabinet member at Equal Exchange, a worker-owned, Fair Trade co-operative. Besides Molly, the mentorship program’s Advisory Team includes the following members of other co-operatives: John Abrams of South Mountain Company; Tim Huet of the Arizmendi Association of Cooperatives; Andrew Stachiw of TESA, the Toolbox for Education and Social Action; and Annie Winkler of Real Pickles.

The goal of the PMP is to provide an ongoing, monthly opportunity to build deep relationships between worker-owners of different co-operatives and enable them to learn from one another, develop specific skills, and share knowledge. This PMP will offer an opportunity for worker-owners to delve into issues facing their co-op on a regular basis.

There are two ways to be involved:

  1. You can be a peer mentor, which means having at least one meeting/month (by phone, video chat, or in person) with just the two of you, and/or
  2. You can be available to give advice on co-op-related topics when someone reaches out (this is more like a mentor-mentee relationship, needed vs. “meeting” once/month)

We are looking for both mentors and mentees, so if you are interested, or want to learn more, you can email Molly Zeff at mzeff@equalexchange.coop.