If you’re like us, over the past 11 months of this pandemic, time has kind of warped together into a weird mishmash that’s a little hard to sort out. So we decided to take a moment to proactively reflect on the past year of our work, and while doing so, we found we’re incredibly proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish despite everything. While we know we’re not out of the pandemic woods yet, it felt like a good time to look back and share some highlights of our achievements.
Building Housing Security through Cooperative Ownership
TESA has been supporting the Compost Co-op since 2015, which is a worker-owned business that provides composting services in Massachusetts. 2020 proved to be a pivotal year for the cooperative. After years of struggling with member’s housing insecurity, the Compost Co-op took matters into their own hands, and purchased a building in partnership with a local design co-op. Together, they will cooperatively manage the building, which will be remodeled to provide affordable housing to Compost Co-op members as well as their wider community. TESA worked closely with these co-ops throughout the process, providing trainings and other support. The goal is for this property to be part of a larger, regional Permanent Real Estate Cooperative focused on taking property out of the speculative market and making it available to those who have been historically marginalized in housing and property ownership. More on this effort in 2021!
Releasing STRIKE! The Game of Worker Rebellion
Initially developed and Kickstarted in that ancient year of 2019, we released STRIKE! The Game of Worker Rebellion in partnership with Jobs with Justice last year. Production on the game was originally intended to finish in the first couple of months of 2020, but things changed when COVID-19 caused a wave of shutdowns. So we were forced to navigate new waters in order to both finish the production of STRIKE! as well as to get it into people’s hands. And at the same time that we finally did receive it and were prepared to ship it, devastating wildfires began sweeping across the west coast, which fractured our distribution system. Still, we managed to figure out a path forward, and all of our supporters (thank you!) were completely understanding. Finally, by the middle of the year, STRIKE! made it into people’s hands and brought numerous households the opportunity to find levity, fun, and imagination as they quarantined. STRIKE! can be purchased here.
Partnering to Develop “Zero to Co-op”
TESA partnered with Carolina Common Enterprise (CCE) to design and build an online cooperative education and development tool called Zero to Co-op. Zero to Co-op will be released in the first half of 2021, and will be a free tool that empowers users to move through a three-part curriculum that ranges from how to facilitate your first meeting with potential co-op members to developing a business plan and financial projections. This self-facilitated curriculum will provide both a pipeline to CCE’s in-person technical assistance services, and it will also be a free tool that anyone can access and utilize as desired.
Collaboratively Creating “Game Changer: The Game of Activist Tactics”
Despite the challenges that 2020 brought, it also brought new partnerships: we finally got the chance to work with the Center for Story-Based Strategy, an organization we’ve long admired. Together, we developed Game Changer: The Game of Activist Tactics, which is a fun, funny, and fast card game about and for direct action organizing that engages players’ radical imagination. In collaboration with Felicia T. Perez, we created this game that’s meant to bring out the laughs as well as the thinking caps. The game takes minutes to learn and enjoys a high level of replayability. It’s currently available for pre-order and is slated to ship by the end of February. (Originally it was supposed to ship in January, but, you know, pandemic stuff. Thanks to everyone who has pre-ordered the game already!)
Riquezas Del Campo: Supporting the Creation of a Worker Co-op Farm
TESA has been working with the Pioneer Valley Workers Center (PVWC) in one way or another for the last seven years, starting with teaching co-op classes in spanish and english and growing into supporting the development of their worker co-op incubation program. 2020 was the first full season of the worker co-op farm, Riquezas del Campo, which was started for PVWC’s farm worker members. TESA has provided ongoing trainings and technical assistance on everything from developing operating agreements to crop planning and budgeting. In 2021, the farm is expanding to a second site, and they will be greatly increasing their scale.
Building Planned Parenthood’s “Get Out the Vote Bingo” Online Game
Late last year, we were approached by Planned Parenthood Votes to create an online game for them that needed to be developed quickly. It also needed to be easy to learn and easy to play. The goal was to make a game to support the important work of their Get Out the Vote volunteers. We sprung into action, and created the digital game GOTV Bingo, which was played by hundreds of people all at once in small personal games as well as in large groups. Its first use case was during the national election and then, later, it was used again during the Georgia runoffs. The game was a huge success, and we were proud to support the work of Planned Parenthood Votes and their fantastic volunteers!
Expanding our Long Standing Relationship with The Cooperative Development Institute
In 2020, TESA expanded its long running partnership with the Cooperative Development Institute (CDI), embarking on two new projects. In addition to TESA’s existing work as a Technical Assistance provider, we will now also be providing on-demand trainings with CDI’s clients, which has already enabled us to work with two new composting cooperatives in both Maine and Massachusetts. Furthermore, TESA is going to be working with CDI to evaluate their existing co-op educational and training materials, with an eye towards identifying gaps, strengths, and areas to develop further. Even better, this will allow us to do what we love, and support CDI to overhaul existing materials and cultivate new ones!
Successfully Navigating a Holiday Shipping Season Like No Other
2020 required a lot of pivoting and on the fly adjustments, in terms of both immediate needs as well as long established plans and practices. This came to a head during the holiday season, when, on December 7th, our warehouse service informed us they were experiencing massive backlogs due to the unprecedented number of online orders while simultaneously taking extra precautions to protect their workers from the COVID surge (which we fully supported). We had two options: shut down holiday shipping early, which would be a big bummer for a lot of our community as well as be a financial blow to us, or take on shipping duties ourselves. We chose the second option, and began fulfilling orders ourselves – with the help of some friends and community members. We managed to send out hundreds and hundreds of games to people around the world. Things have thankfully returned mostly to normal, but it was quite the experience that built solidarity and resiliency! Thank you so much to everyone who purchased from us during the holiday season, and we hope you, your friends, and family are enjoying our games about changing the world.
It’s hard to believe that’s not even everything we accomplished throughout this pandemic year; and we’re definitely proud of everything we managed to achieve while simultaneously caring for our members’ needs and supporting our communities.
In 2021, we plan to keep going big, creating tools, programs, and games for changing the world. If your organization is interested in working with us, drop us a line. And if you’re interested in purchasing any of our games, our solidarity sale – which we have been running throughout the duration of the pandemic to make our games more accessible for those experiencing hardships – is running strong.
Thanks for being a part of our community through this unpredictable year; we hope you and yours are staying as safe and healthy as possible. Now let’s keep changing the world together.