Purpose

Worker cooperatives are businesses that are democratically owned and controlled by the people who work there.

The purpose of this course is to build capacity for sustainable worker-owned cooperative businesses in Los Angeles and to help prepare them for financing.

For some participants, this may be a first introduction to how businesses are constructed and sustained and how, in the process, that can be achieved in a manner consistent with democratic values.  For others, who may have been working in collective team endeavors for some time, this class is intended to help your efforts to a new level.

Your instructors are members and associates of the L.A. Co-op Lab, a collective that was established in 2015 to explore and invent ways to build L.A.’s capacity for worker ownership as a pathway towards a more equitable and democratic local economy.

The L.A. Co-op Lab is also part of a Financial Cooperative that helps cooperatives achieve sustainability with financing and other forms of support.  Many of the exercises in this course are designed to prepare participants for the kinds of questions that would be asked to help a lender like the Financial Cooperative better understand the workings of  your co-op, its prospects for success, and how capital might best be used in service to its sustainability.

The larger goal of this pilot course is to build more cooperatives in Los Angeles by working and learning together to achieve that.

Principles

The design of this course is grounded in some basic principles:

  • Cooperatives are teams:  Worker cooperatives are teams. For this reason, everyone in the class will be working on a team in order to fully benefit from the intended learning outcomes of the course. The different ways in which teams may be constructed for the purpose of this class will be discussed and deliberated in our first session.
  • This is a hands-on class: L.A. Co-op Lab is committed to providing course participants with tools and coaching that will enable them to construct (or refine) the building blocks of a worker cooperative business with their teams. Many of the sessions are designed around the following sequence:
    • Overview of the tool
    • Case example of the tool-in-use
    • Team practice with the tool
    • Shared results of that practice
    • Debrief and coaching of the shared results
  • Theory and practice are integrated throughout the course:  Using readings, videos, discussions and experience we will build a shared definition of what it means to build democratic economic power in our communities. Theory, for the purposes of this course, is about how we execute our principles-in-practice.

Key Learning Objectives

Course participants should expect to leave this course with:

  • a shared understanding of how worker cooperatives can be a vehicle for increasing democratic economic power in L.A.
  • a practical understanding of the integrated building blocks of a business model
  • how to translate the story of our business model cooperative into a science of numbers including budgets, break-even analysis, and financial projections.
  • a glossary of of key terms and ideas
  • a basic understanding of alternative governance and decision-making models
  • an overview of choices for a legal entity
  • how coops structure pay and distribution of profits
  • how to tell the story of your co-op in a pitch

There is More to Learn and Discuss…

There are some areas that are essential to the sustainability of any worker cooperative that are beyond the scope of this course. These include:

  • Detailed schemes for day-to-day management of a cooperative
  • Detailed marketing and communication plans

However, depending on your initiative and desire, there are several opportunities during the course to explore these areas:

  • your team’s interview with existing cooperatives
  • office hours with faculty
  • coaching sessions with L.A. Coop Lab outside of class
  • participation in the 2018 Worker Cooperative National Conference September 14-16 at Trade Tech College
  • Relevant readings, videos, and resources that may be posted on this site in response to questions during the semester