Join Peer Learning Sessions to Grow the Cooperative Ecosystem in Appalachia

Each month the CFAES Center for Cooperatives team hosts Zoom “peer networking calls” as part of the Appalachia Cooperates Initiative. If you’re a community, business, or economic developer, or simply have an interest in supporting cooperative development, you’re invited to join the sessions. Read on to learn more about the Appalachia Cooperates Initiative and peer networking calls and register for calls on Friday, August 19, 2022 from 1 p.m.- 2 p.m. Eastern and Friday, September 16, 2022 from 1 p.m.- 2 p.m. Eastern.

A view of mountains and blue sky backdrop of a green meadow in Moorfield, West Virginia area.

Appalachia has a diverse and long-established cooperative community. For example, Casa Nueva, has been operating as worker-owned cooperative restaurant in uptown Athens since the mid-1980’s (check out this ‘virtual tour’ of Casa Nueva as part of the Youth Cooperative Leadership Experience online platform) while Unity Café is a newer worker-owned café and eatery in Parkersburg, West Virginia. Cooperatives are providing vital services to their communities across Appalachia. Buckeye Rural Electric Cooperative provides electricity to over 18,000 consumer member-owners in Southeast Ohio and has since the late 1930’s. Today, some communities in Appalachia are leveraging the cooperative model to bring broadband to their rural areas – a topic we explored in the 2021 webinar, “Cooperating for Connectivity: An Appalachian Broadband Webinar” hosted by the CFAES Center for Cooperatives. To learn more about Central Appalachia’s cooperative community, check out “Exploring Appalachia’s Cooperative Economy,” a webinar where experts from our Center explored the region’s cooperative foundations and modern co-op efforts.

An Ecosystem Approach to Co-op Development

Since 2019, the CFAES Center for Cooperatives has led the Appalachia Cooperates Initiative (ACI), a learning network connecting cooperative, community, business, and economic developers and advocates in Central Appalachia. The goal of the ACI is to contribute to the development of a thriving co-op ecosystem in Central Appalachia by building awareness of the co-op model, equipping practitioners with knowledge and skills, and facilitating a connected network of co-op and community developers. The initiative was born out of collaborative dialogue of partners in Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

In a 2016 report, lead authors Hillary Abell and Melissa Hoover advocated for an ecosystem approach to building worker cooperative communities, pointing out elements in thriving cooperative ecosystems like access to quality and affordable technical assistance providers and cooperative developers, business advisory services and industry peer networks, cooperative awareness, and integration of cooperatives into entrepreneurship education. Learn more in the report, “The Cooperative Growth Ecosystem: Inclusive Economic Development in Action.”

Learning and Peer Networking Opportunities

As part of the ACI, our team at the CFAES Center for Cooperatives has hosted learning sessions like community workshops, film screenings, and educational webinars where experts and developers from across the region have shared their knowledge on topics like the Mondragon cooperative model, conversion of existing businesses to cooperatives, and more. You can find recordings of selected past ACI learning sessions and learn how to sign up for emails to receive details about future events on our Center’s website.

Graphics of people connected in network graph styleIn 2020, we started hosting monthly Zoom sessions for community, business, economic and other developers interested in the co-op business model. The idea was to build connections among people spread across a wide geography, and potentially working in distinct spaces. Each month, our team hosts a Zoom meeting where practitioners from across the region gather as their schedules allow in an informal but dedicated space.

All participants are encouraged to share updates, ask questions, and engage with the group. Peers can meet one another, share their current projects or expertise, ask for resources, or best practices, and identify opportunities for potential collaboration.

Those who are interested can register for sessions as their schedules allow. Registration details for upcoming calls in August and September 2022 are below. To receive emails with details of future ACI events and peer networking calls, sign up for the Center’s email list here. There is no cost to attend, and sessions will NOT be recorded.

Upcoming ACI Peer Learning Calls

Friday, August 19, 2022, 1-2 p.m. (EST)

To register for this event, click here.

Friday, September 16, 2022, 1-2 p.m. (EST)

To register for this event, click here.

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