Worker Cooperative Development Fundamentals

The need for skilled worker cooperative developers is increasing throughout the United States. The Democracy at Work Institute's Worker Cooperative Development Fundamentals training lays a foundation to meet that need. Alongside a small group from around the country, trainees independently learn, participate in facilitated group conversations, and gain practice in real technical assistance placements with cooperative organizations. Attendees gain nuts and bolts skills, deepen their strategic analysis, and prepare for future development work.

The training is designed for two groups

  • Members of worker cooperatives who want to support their movement through the Democracy at Work Network
  • Community organizers and economic development staff who want to make worker cooperatives part of their toolkit

2016 trainees

The application period for 2016 is closed. The following people were invited to join the 2016 cohort:

  • Aisha Shillingford Boston Center for Community Ownership, Boston, MA
  • Allison Basile, Tightshift Laboring Cooperative, Washington, DC
  • Ana Urzua, Santa Ana Building Healthy Communities, Santa Ana, CA
  • Andrew Delmonte, SBDC at SUNY Buffalo State, Buffalo, NY
  • Bianca Sanchez, Teamworks Cleaning, Sunnyvale, CA
  • Brandon King, Cooperation Jackson, Jackson MS
  • Damon Terrell, Union Cab, Madison, WI
  • Elizabeth Arredondo, Teamworks Cleaning, Foster City, CA
  • Hope Kolly, Equal Exchange, Pawtucket, RI 
  • Keely Byrne, Cooperation Louisiana, New Orleans, LA
  • Matt Feinstein, Future Focus Media / Worcester Roots, Worcester, MA
  • Miriam Olivera, Lompoc Cooperative Development Project, Lompoc, CA
  • Rick Scrivner, Northwest Construction Cooperative, Olympia, WA
  • Smiley Rojas-Nunez, The Working World, New York City, NY

Serving the Democracy at Work Network

This training builds on the five year-old training program serving the Democracy at Work Network, a group of certified Peer Advisors that provide technical assistance to U.S. worker cooperatives and startups. Completion of this training is a prerequisite to joining DAWN along with other eligibility requirements. 

What is Worker Cooperative Development?

Development work can encompass a broad range of activities and approaches, from playing the role of a coach, guiding and encouraging workers to build a cooperative for themselves, all the way to developers investing financial capital in the business and taking on supporting responsibilities.  The training will cover multiple perspectives within this range

Skills, analysis, and practice with a small cohort

The training takes place over the course of a year.  Attendees are expected to attend all aspects, including:  

  • 2 in-person weekends, with day-long trainings.  April 15-17 in Oakland, and October 7-9 in New York City.
  • 10 online skills trainings, through video and written materials, to be taken at your own pace
  • 8 facilitated conversations by webinar, first Thursdays of the month from 3 to 5pm Eastern.
  • A 40 hour internship placement supporting an existing worker cooperative or development effort
  • A research project and 20 minute presentation of results to other trainees


The program cost is $500. Travel and lodging expenses for the in-person weekends are not included, so the estimated total cost may be as much as $1,500. Some financial support is available.

Learn more

For more information contact info [at]

For a list of previous trainees in the Democracy at Work Network training see


"I am really glad I became a DAWN Peer Advisor. The training program enabled me to develop my career while working full-time, creating opportunities for me to support other coops and earn extra income." - Alison Booth Gribas, Equal Exchange

"The training I experienced in the DAWN program helped me gain a deeper understanding of cooperative development and the cooperative movement.  Through the DAWN network I've been introduced to some great people, ideas and opportunities."  - Deborah Craig, Northwest Cooperative Development Center, DAWI 2015 Fellow

Program and Schedule

In-person weekends

Two in-person weekends will build group cohesion and enable more in-depth conversations and consulting practice.  One will be in the spring in Oakland and the other in the fall in New York City.  The weekends will begin with a Friday dinner and have day-long activities on Saturday and Sunday. Trainees must be able to attend both of these weekends in full. The in-person weekends will be on

  • April 15-17, 2016 in Oakland, CA
  • October 7-9, 2016 in New York City, NY

Skills trainings

Self-paced online skills trainings will come from a combination of video and written materials. These trainings will act as a "textbook" for the monthly discussions and in-person weekends. Trainees will be expected to watch and read all of these throughout the year. Topics will include:   

  • What is development?
  • American worker cooperative history
  • Roadmaps for startup and conversion
  • Effective communication
  • Legal entity choice and incorporation
  • Financials and patronage
  • Loan readiness
  • Governance and management
  • Accountability systems
  • Planning for growth

Facilitated discussions

Facilitated webinar discussions will engage trainees questions about how to do worker cooperative development in a strategic and socially just way.  Trainees will be expected to attend at least 6 of these 8. Topics will include

  • Developing for scale and impact
  • Development with a racial equity lens
  • Cooperative ecosystem strategies
  • Business conversions
  • Choosing a strategic business sector

The webinar conversations will be held on first Thursdays of the month from 3 to 5pm Eastern Time

  • Thursday, March 3, 2016
  • Thursday, May 5, 2016
  • Thursday, June 2, 2016
  • Thursday, July 7, 2016
  • Thursday, August 4 , 2016
  • Thursday, September 1, 2016
  • Thursday, November 3, 2016
  • Thursday, December 1, 2016


DAWI will place you with a worker cooperative or developer to support them on a project as an unpaid intern. The project should take approximately 40 hours over the course of the year.  Placements will be based on your interests, skills, and location.  Most internships will be remote relationships where your support will be by phone and email communication and digital materials.     

Research projects

Participants will research an aspect of the worker cooperative movement and make a presentation to other trainees. This aspect of the program will focus on presentation methods and public speaking.