A report from a graduate student workshop at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School for Public and International Affairs.
“This report was prepared for Advance Memphis by a class of graduate students at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. Advance Memphis is a faith-based workforce development and training center in Memphis, Tennessee, interested in worker cooperatives as an innovative local economic development strategy.
Worker co-ops are businesses that are collectively owned and democratically managed by their employees. Based on the experience of several worker cooperatives in the U.S. and abroad—including the most successful of all, the Mondragon Corporation in Spain—this report analyzes key factors and challenges to consider in planning an effective cooperative development strategy including:
- identifying a viable business idea for a cooperative with multiple bottom lines;
- raising start-up capital and approaching potential funders;
- providing training to ensure worker-owners have the necessary job AND management skills;
- creating and sustaining a democratic workplace that can maximize the benefits of co-ops;
- forming a cooperative development agency and prioritizing which capacities to develop first;
- building a winning coalition of partners and local leaders for the promotion of co-ops; and
- ensuring the necessary patience to see the project through.
We hope that this report and the following considerations will be useful to both Advance Memphis and other cooperative
entrepreneurs in the U.S”