Center for Community Wealth Building plays a part in Colorado’s rapidly growing cooperative ecosystem. We align our work with many other ecosystem partners—including nonprofits, anchor institutions, government agencies, and existing cooperatives—in order to raise incomes and improve working conditions for cooperative members.
In addition to collaborating with ecosystem partners, we're continuing our popular education work to expand who has access to cooperative economics. Our training increases the number of BIPOC co-op educators and supports emerging trainers to practice and share the cooperative model with their communities.
Read more to learn how this robust ecosystem is forming.
Building with Co-op Ecosystem Partners
At the heart of any small business ecosystem are people and systems that put energy into helping small businesses to grow The Democracy at Work Institute defines 11 elements that are unique to a cooperative ecosystem:
In Denver, one important ecosystem partner is the Denver Foundation, which has supported worker cooperatives for many years. Their Strengthening Neighborhood grants provide much needed seed funding ($2,500-$5,000) to help with operational expenses before cooperatives launch. This year, CCWB supported four groups in completing this grant, which allowed them to buy equipment, receive industry training and contract with lawyers.
We have also had multiple partners in co-op education. First, we hosted the second-annual Summer Institute "Decidimos el Futuro" with GES Coalition and Project Voyce, a daylong bilingual, all-ages training focused on tenants rights, community owned real estate, worker cooperative skills and arts & culture. We also partnered with the Aurora South Metro SBDC in hosting two courses over six months for more than 40 Spanish-speaking childcare workers, helping them to form worker cooperatives.
Finally, we could not complete our mission without the support of the ecosystem partners of the City and State. With funds from Denver Economic Development & Opportunity, we offered free cooperative development technical assistance to Denver businesses. We have also supported multiple small businesses as they evaluate their employee ownership options or navigate the resources from OEDIT’s Office of Employee Ownership.
Consistently Developing Cooperatives Businesses (and more on the way!)
We have worked with more than 20 groups this year, but three emerging cooperatives are very close to completing their legal agreements. We have offered responsive technical assistance, facilitation, and commitment to ensure these three businesses successfully launch:
We're also actively developing three childcare cooperatives in Greeley, North Denver-Thornton, and Aurora. As a support structure for home-based childcare providers, who often work alone, these co-ops will support Colorado families who need childcare and empower workers who seek to earn higher income—a double win.
Strengthening Our Cooperative Education
Our Train the Trainer program is the key program we use to expand cooperative education. This annual training equips individuals with valuable skills, empowers them to bring cooperative models back to their communities, and trains others to reclaim historically rooted practices of mutual aid and self help as twin forces for economic mobility. Notably, Train the Trainer allows individuals to take on new leadership roles and foster the growth of the cooperative movement in their communities.
For example, two of our staff cooperative developers were former cohort participants and now lead CCWB’s training. This year, 16 trainers completed the 28-hour course, and we are expanding to two cohorts next year, one in Denver and one in San Luis Valley, to support their food cooperative enterprises.
Through a steering committee and active listening sessions, our trainers themselves actively shape the program's curriculum each year, allowing us to adapt this training to community needs.
Want to be part of the ecosystem?
We are committed to nurturing a dynamic cooperative ecosystem. Would you like to grow with us? Join an upcoming cooperative training opportunities on our events page or connect with a cooperative developer to begin the process of building a co-op in your neighborhood or community.