Developing the cooperative economy in Central Appalachia is no easy task, but the CFAES Center for Cooperatives at Ohio State is working toward that goal with the Appalachia Cooperates Initiative. Shifting to virtual programming throughout the pandemic, the Center has been able to reach more cooperators across the Appalachian Region.
The Appalachia Cooperates Initiative (ACI) is an education and peer-learning network for community, business, and economic development practitioners interested in the cooperative model.
“Whether the model is used in food and agriculture, housing, workplace ownership, or other areas, cooperatives can help community members solve problems and build wealth locally,” said Hannah Scott, Program Manager for the CFAES Center for Cooperatives.
ACI programs develop awareness of the cooperative business model and share resources to help communities recognize and act on cooperative opportunities. Programs have featured guest speakers from Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives, a co-founder of a community-owned broadband cooperative, cooperative attorneys, and more.
Under the ACI, the center is also working to develop connections and relationships among cooperative practitioners. “Our ultimate goal is to facilitate joint cooperative development activities in Central Appalachia, allowing practitioners to better utilize existing resources,” Scott said. Creating community-based employment and supporting workplace democracy are some of the areas of focus for ACI.
Recently the Center developed an online page devoted to hosting recordings of ACI learning sessions. Cooperative Development Specialist Ryan Kline stated, “this new webpage is a great place for those looking to make change in the region through cooperation! From topics like the history of Appalachian cooperation to changemakers in rural broadband, our recordings can be instrumental for economic, community and cooperative developers to learn more about co-op development in the region.”
More information about the ACI and past program recordings are available at go.osu.edu/appalachiacooperates .