Third coast workers for cooperation : establishing a non-profit cooperative development organization to support economic empowerment through green worker cooperatives

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Southern New Hampshire University
In Austin, TX, more than 116,000 adults live in poverty, including more than 34,000 working adults, indicating the lack of quality jobs. People of color are particularly affected by economic inequality, seeing higher rates of poverty, lower median incomes, and lower rates of business-ownership. Worker cooperatives are a proven innovation for economic empowerment, leading to improved economic outcomes, while also supporting broader community development. Training, technical assistance, and ongoing support services are essential to effective worker cooperative development. Without an organization providing such services in the Austin area, the economic empowerment benefits of worker cooperatives will not be realized there. A core group of volunteers have launched a new worker cooperative development agency, Third Coast Workers for Cooperation (TCWC). Their organizational development plan focused on coordinating knowledge, skills, and resources to build a stable institutional foundation. These include funding, staff, an organizational entity, space, a basic curriculum and program design, and strong linkages. The group unexpectedly began cooperative development programming in response to a client-driven opportunity. Having originally planned for a September 2010 start-date, the first session of their Cooperative Business Institute (CBI) met in February 2010. The resulting rearrangement of staff time, along with infrastructure deficiencies, caused delays in fundraising efforts. Progress in other areas remained largely on schedule. The initiation of cooperative development programming before full capacity was achieved threatens the sustainability of the CBI and its outcomes. Several outputs, necessary to the success of the cooperative development program, were scheduled for completion between February and September, and remained unfinished at the start of the CBI. While these outputs can be achieved before their absence becomes critical, it will require deliberate staff effort. The reallocation of staff time to the CBI will hinder future progress on organizational development goals. Reduced fundraising capacity remains a critical issue, particularly for building a much-needed reserve. The resulting delays in paid positions makes staff burnout more likely, posing a serious threat to the organization. While progress in all areas remains achievable, and is in some ways assisted by the early introduction of the CBI, organizational development will be slower than planned. (Author abstract)