In good and bad times, The Cooperative Foundation is a steadfast supporter of cooperative development, research, and education. For more than 60 years, vision and generosity has guided the work of the foundation and in turn benefited cooperative members and communities.

Formed by cooperative leaders in 1945, The Cooperative Foundation received much of its financial assets through the vision and generosity of St. Paul architect Thomas Ellerbe Sr. and his family. The Ellerbe contribution is a striking reminder that individuals can make lasting positive impacts. That endowment and contributions from cooperative benefactors continues to support the work of the foundation.

The Cooperative Foundation’s legacy is one of providing the right investment at the right time to foster cooperative growth and innovations. Established organizations such Group Health Association, the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, the North American Students of Cooperation and the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives were recipients of The Cooperative Foundation grants in their formative years.

Through its mission to expand and enhance cooperatives through research, teaching, extension, innovation, and development, The Cooperative Foundation remains a vital part of the past and future of cooperation in the United States.

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The Cooperative Foundation financed a study of cooperative education needs and resources in 2014.

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Cooperative Education Inventory Study – Summary

As a funder of groups developing new cooperative education materials, The Cooperative Foundation commissioned a study to answer the following questions:

  • How do we assess that the materials are being produced by the best available source?
  • How do we assure that the materials are available for use beyond the local or regional organization?
  • How do we assure that there is not unnecessary duplication of effort among these organizations?

Major lesson: Need for materials “in the middle.”

  • Basic information – plenty of documents and websites that provide basic information on what is a co-op, the seven co-op principles, the different types of co-ops.
  • Research information – a variety of academic level information provided by researchers in peer reviewed journals. (These materials can only be used among a well-educated audience.)
  • Mid- level information – Need for practical information beyond the introductory level.

Specifically, what should the mid-level materials cover?

  • Human resources specific to co-ops
    • Leadership challenges in the co-op setting
    • Conflict management
  • Cooperative finance
    • Co-op financial structure
    • Internal capital accounts for worker co-ops
    • Financial decision making for members and boards
  • Co-op law
    • State specific
    • Incorporation options (LLC, L3C, nonprofit vs. for profit)
  • Operations and governance specific to co-ops
    • alternatives to Roberts Rules of Order and Carver model of policy governance

How should the mid-level materials be presented?

  • Culturally varied
  • Simple vocabulary, less text heavy layouts, break down materials into manageable units without oversimplifying the information
    • Easily modified for use among underserved or cultural groups
    • Easily translated
  • Participatory and interactive methods of presentation
    • Easily placed on websites
    • Use of games (such as co-opoloy)
    • Suggestions for group exercises, interactive simulation activities

Who should produce co-op education materials?

  • Those with experience in co-op development
  • Those with demonstrated skills in curriculum development and popular education techniques
  • Those willing to share materials

Related Materials:

Cooperative Education Inventory Study: Complete Report

List of cooperative educators and developers

Annotative bibliography of useful cooperative education materials

Cooperative Education Inventory Study Webinar: