As Courtney Berner of the Center for Cooperatives wrote in NPQ earlier this year, between 2016 and 2019, 47 percent of new co-ops formed in the US were worker co-ops. If one considers a longer period stretching from 2011 to 2019, nearly one in three newly formed co-ops in which the ownership type is known (253 of 771) were worker co-ops, an extraordinary development given that historically fewer than one in 100 co-ops nationally have been worker owned. And while the current decade is still young, the pace of worker co-op development—especially in BIPOC communities—has only accelerated.
The need for educational infrastructure to support this growth is evident. Indeed, a half-dozen years ago, Melissa Hoover, Executive Director of DAWI, and Hilary Abell—co-founder of Project Equity, an employee ownership technical assistance nonprofit—identified education as a key element of what they labelled a cooperative growth ecosystem.
Now, with financial support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Democracy at Work institute (DAWI) has developed an online worker cooperative education curriculum, hosted by the New Jersey/New York Employee Ownership Center at Rutgers University, to fill a portion of that gap.
Course instructors include Vincent Green, who became a worker-owner in November 2020, when the nonprofit-owned Baltimore-based social enterprise ice cream business where he worked, Taharka Brothers, converted into a worker co-op. He is now one of five worker-owners of that business.