How We Helped Launch 8 Co-ops (and Built an International Education Platform) with the Cooperative Development Institute


Remember VH1’s Behind the Music series? We didn’t realize, but it’s still on the air. The channel gives you an all-access pass to the celebrity artists of the day. You can hear how Ludacris used to be an intern, or about Carrie Underwood’s search for love.

We’ve been inspired to riff off that idea and so we’re launching a new series here about the whys, hows, and whats behind the work we do.

We won’t get personal—no love life stories, don’t worry—but our Behind the Project series will give you the scoop about TESA’s work. We want to show you what we do and how we do it. We’re proud of our work, inspired by the work our partners do, and we’re committed to transparency as an organization. You’ll get an inside look at what we do and the kinds of projects we can do with you.

Inspired? Get in touch—we’d love to work with you, too!

We’ll kick off the Behind the Project series with the Cooperative Development Institute (CDI), the Northeast’s center for cooperative business education, training, and technical assistance. CDI’s mission is to build a cooperative economy through the creation and development of successful cooperative enterprises and networks in diverse communities in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Maine, Rhode Island and New York.

Cultivate.Coop and Cooperative Connecticut Business Academy (CCBA)
TESA has been working with CDI since 2010 on a number of projects. With the CCBA, we helped create and implement a nine-month program that worked with eight aspiring cooperatives in low-income, rural Connecticut.

With Cultivate.Coop, we created and continue to maintain an online education portal on all things co-op, used by people around the world every day.

Challenges faced
The CCBA was a big undertaking that, in many ways, helped define the creation of cooperative academies for years to come. CDI wanted to create a cooperative program that would focus on bringing aspiring cooperatives within the same area together to help in their own formation, and also start a cooperative economy in the region. However, at this point, CDI’s years of experience had mostly been focused on working one-on-one with co-ops. They reached out to TESA to help create the formation of a cooperative curriculum, which would be used by nearly a dozen trainers, that was participatory in nature and that could meet the different needs of several groups at once.

Cultivate.Coop began as a collaboration between CDI and TESA to address the issues of a lack of reliable, accessible, and interactive online content on cooperatives and cooperation. So many different co-ops and organizations have created co-op content, resources, and knowledge on cooperatives over the years, but much of it is dispersed on different websites—and it is often only part of the story. Cultivate.Coop was created to be an editable repository of information that could be a primary hub of knowledge and educational resources for the cooperative movement. Since its inception, Cultivate.Coop has been used by thousands of people across the world.

How TESA helped
TESA worked with CDI from start to finish on the CCBA program to find workshop leaders, mentors for participating co-ops, and to help create and implement the curriculum. We helped lead a train-the-trainers for workshop facilitators on popular education as well as cooperatives. We worked to oversee the relationship between mentors and their assigned cooperatives, as well as with workshop leaders on the creation and implementation of their sessions. We helped manage the overall program from day-to-day operations as well as big picture goals. The work we did with CDI on the CCBA has helped lay the foundation for the plethora of co-op academies that are springing up around the country.

TESA created the concept behind Cultivate.Coop and then worked with a worker co-op web development team to create the site. We curated content from cooperators and leaders across the country, created educational resources specifically for the site, and oversaw the distribution efforts that helped put Cultivate.Coop’s materials before thousands of people. Since its launch in 2010, Cultivate.Coop has been one of the leading sources for co-op knowledge and educational materials around the world.

What would CDI say to others about TESA?
“TESA worked with us to design and deliver a Training for Trainers and Mentors as part of a program to develop several nascent cooperative enterprises in northeast CT. From conception, to design, implementation, and follow-up support, TESA’s approach is professional, collaborative, focused on the participants’ experiences, and well-informed by theory and practical know-how. The results were outstanding, with participants thanking us and remarking on the quality of the program. We look forward to working with TESA in the future to re-implement this training in other settings and design other participatory, democratic trainings related to co-op development. For us as an organization committed to democratic cooperative principles, it is fundamental to integrate democratic education into the way we carry out our mission, and TESA is a key partner to help us do that.”

—Noemi Giszpenc, CDI Executive Director

A note from TESA
CDI is filled with people who are dedicated not just to their organization, but to the mission of realizing a better world through cooperative principles and foundations. Their goal is our goal: to create a more democratic and just society. Not only that, but they’re also great people who are wonderful to collaborate with. They are responsive, timely, good at what they do, and perhaps most importantly, imaginative.

We have enjoyed every second of working with CDI since 2010, and we can’t wait for more years of wonderful collaboration together.

TESA Consulation

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