In order to achieve the greatest success in creating a cooperative economy, Cooperation Richmond will provide a variety of services that span the range of cooperative development from beginning to end, including customized technical assistance and capital based on the needs of each project.
These services will include:
- COOPERATIVE EDUCATION
- CAPITAL and CREDIT DEVELOPMENT and FINANCIAL LITERACY
- Outreach and education about cooperatives
- A cooperative center established as a physical office with knowledgeable staff and source of information and entry into the cooperative movement for Richmond residents.
- Informative materials such as a library of books, videos and events.
- Participatory and popular education workshops on cooperative economics and just transition with key partner organizations throughout Richmond.
Public workshops on cooperation and cooperative economics.
- The Incubator will offer a “matchmaking” service for prospective cooperative starters and owners looking for others with whom to form an enterprise. This would be via messaging, websites and occasional events meant to gather interested people together.
- Assessment of capabilities, needs, business plan, programs, products, and/or skills to strengthen the worker-owners or cooperative
- Each team (at least 3 cooperators who have chosen to create a worker cooperative business together or a community cooperative) is interviewed in detail 1 or 2 times after having completed extensive questionnaires as part of the their application. They are being assessed for solid, reliable participation in a program designed for them and must show commitment. Their business idea will receive supportive scrutiny at this point with an evaluation of the business plan and a critical examination of what would move them to success.
- The staff and coaches then assess the team in regard to their ability to operate as a cooperative. This assessment itself can stand alone as a service and may be all that’s needed for some teams.
- Cooperation Richmond will provide coaching as part of a team-specific program developed from the assessment. Cooperation Richmond can recommend and arrange a specific program of courses, coaching, and mentoring in business and cooperative skills that are required for the team’s success.
- There will be a prioritization of the services that are needed, and the creation of a Business Development Plan that outlines the sequence and types of assistance needed.
- Cooperation Richmond would provide, whether in-house or through partnerships, trainings or coaching in a variety of issues needed for cooperative development, such as:
- The traditional core business fundamentals of sales and finance, including tax rules
- Sustainability principles and values
- The skills of communication, democratic management, and decision-making that distinguish a cooperative from other kinds of businesses.
- Legal assistance with business incorporation and structuring
- Website development and other marketing assistance
- Training and support in fundraising
- Mentorship in funding pathways for members of each cooperative team.
- Coaching and mentoring is relevant for building capacities found to be needed in the team during assessment. Some cooperative teams know what they need and only need specific coaching and mentoring.
- Ongoing assistance and support toward independence: Independence is usually reached in 3-5 years. The cooperative then becomes a member of a community of coops through the incubator and beyond. Cooperatives will be able to access a peer-support network on an ongoing basis.
- In addition to supporting start-up enterprises, we will provide comparable assistance for converting existing businesses to cooperatives.
CAPITAL and CREDIT DEVELOPMENT and FINANCIAL LITERACY
- Cooperators will be assisted in establishing and developing credit to improve access to capital under more equitable terms without extractive debt
- Resources will be provided to support financial literacy, knowledge, and expertise on the financing necessary to form sustainable enterprises.
- Cooperation Richmond will have funds for investing and may choose to invest in qualifying enterprises whose teams go through the assessment and capacity-building. The incubator may choose to engage other lenders for this purpose as well, such as the Richmond Worker Cooperative Loan Fund or others.
- The revolving loan fund will aggregate capital from a variety of sources, including divestment capital, individual lender-supporters, and gift funding. The revolving loan fund will operate on the principles of Non-Extractive Finance, creating not only capital resources for projects, but also expanding local wealth generation by re-investing to create more projects through profit-sharing of the existing cooperatives