Workshops & Presenters (2015)

[Below is 2015 conference information to highlight the type of workshops and keynotes we have hosted in the past]

We’re pleased to welcome Gopal Dayaneni as our 2015 keynote speaker!


Gopal has been involved in fighting for social, economic, environmental and racial justice through organizing & campaigning, teaching, writing, speaking and direct action since the late 1980’s. Gopal is an active trainer with and serves on the boards of The Ruckus Society and the Center for Story-based Strategy (formerly smartMeme). He also serves on the advisory boards of the International Accountability Project, and Catalyst Project. Gopal works at the intersection of ecology, economy and empire.

Gopal has been a campaigner for Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition on human rights and environmental justice in the high-tech industry and the Oil Campaigner for Project Underground, a human rights and environmental rights organization which supported communities resisting oil and mining exploitation around the world. Gopal has been active in many people powered direct action movements, including the Global Justice/Anti-Globalization Movement, Direct Action to Stop the War, Mobilization for Climate Justice, Take Back the Land, and Occupy.

Gopal is the father of two young direct action junkies, Ila Sophia and Kavi Samaka Orion, and lives in an intentional community with 9 adults, 8 kids and a bunch of chickens.

Workshops & Presenters

The Western Worker Co-op Conference features an exciting line-up of workshops and speakers. Workshops cover effectively starting a worker co-op, strategies to effectively operate your co-op, and methods to progress the co-op movement. Below is a list of the workshop topics; clicking on the titles will take you to the full workshop description and speaker biography.


Keynote:  Grassroots Ecology, Cooperative Economy, and the Revolution Right Now by Gopal Dayaneni. 

Gopal is a staff collective member of Movement Generation, an organization dedicated to making the necessary connections between social/economic justice and ecological sustainability.  Gopal was formerly a worker-owner at Design Action Collective and resides at a housing cooperative he co-founded.


Resilience Based Organizing and Cooperative Economics, by Gopal Dayaneni and Ellen Choy.

The first rule of ecological restoration is the restoration of our labor – which means that we must reorganize our work towards the goal of meeting our needs and the needs in our communities. Cooperation, far from being just a great alternative is necessary to face the scale, pace and implications of ecological erosion – because it is the very exploitation of labor that enables the destruction of the living world. Building worker ownership and democracy, rooted in cooperation is an essential ingredient to solving the ecological crisis, but while it is necessary, it is not sufficient. We must also build power.

Resilience-based Organizing is an organizing model that differs from traditional campaign organizing. It is based on directly applying our labor to meet our needs in our communities through shared work, democratic self-governance towards the ultimate goal of calling the question, “Who has the right to define the economy and govern our communities?”

Learn about Resilience-based Organizing, the role of worker-ownership and the movement infrastructure need to assert new economic rights.

See Gopal’s biography at the top of the page.

Ellen grew up just south of Los Angeles as the daughter and granddaughter of Chinese and Korean immigrants. Since graduating from UC Berkeley in ’07, she has been working to uplift and support the leadership of low-income communities of color in the fight to address climate change and build grassroots community solutions. Out of college she began as a program associate and director of the Climate Literacy Training program with the Environmental Justice & Climate Change Initiative. She was a core organizer with the Mobilization for Climate Justice West from 2009-2011. She worked at various youth-led and youth-centered programs in the Bay Area, as well as helped to build a national coalition of young people of color in the US called Youth for Climate Justice. Ellen recently worked as the Youth Program Coordinator for Mandela Marketplace, working with youth in West Oakland to increase access to healthy food in their community while working to build alternative economic models.

As a member of the MG collective, Ellen’s work centralizes in leading MG’s communications, facilitating workshops and trainings, and working on the national Our Power Campaign with a focus on local connections in Richmond, CA. Ellen is an active member of HOBAK (Hella Organized Bay Area Koreans) – an anti-imperialist organization of young Koreans in diaspora in the Bay Area – as well as a community radio producer on APEX Express (KPFA) and a hiphop/soul/funk DJ.

She’s constantly reclaiming her connection to land, joining the ranks with the DJs of the movement, and staying fly in true West Coast style.


Youth Caucus, by USACYC
The Youth Caucus is a participatory addition to the conference. The most basic goal of the Youth Caucus is to gather all youth (17-30) present at the conference together to talk about their experiences and how they can support one another to more fully participate in both the conference space and broader worker cooperative movement. Youth Caucuses include a brief educational overview of group process at the front end, which equips youth who may have never experienced a facilitated discussion space to effectively engage. Caucus facilitators will have several prompts through which to lead the group that seek to get feedback – *from ourselves and for ourselves* – on key issues in their worker cooperatives and the broader cooperative movement today, as well as sketch out *our collective vision* for the future of cooperative movement. USACYC organizers are conducting Youth Caucuses at several events throughout the country in 2015. The results from each session will be aggregated into a resource to aid the cooperative community in better engaging youth and achieving the long term goals of the movement.


“African American Worker Cooperatives from the 1880s to the 21st Century”, by Jessica Gordon Nembhard

The history of African American cooperative economic activity begins with solidarity and collective action (economic and social) in the face of oppression, racial violence, discrimination, and sometimes betrayal. From the cooperative cotton gins and other worker co-ops organized by the integrated Knights of Labor union in the 1880s to gain not just better working conditions but also more control over work, to the catering, craft, sewing, child care and home care worker cooperatives of the 1990s on into the 21st century, African Americans have been part of the worker co-op movement. This workshop will explore these experiences, the successes and the lessons learned; as well as the role of Black women and the ways that they have supported and been supported by worker cooperatives. Several case studies will be specifically examined. Participants will discuss how to better incorporate these histories and experiences into the mainstream co-operative and worker co-op movements.

Gordon Nembhard is a political economist and Professor of Community Justice and Social Economic Development in the Africana Studies Department at John Jay College, City University of NY.   Her recent book Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice chronicles African American cooperative business ownership and its place in the movements for Black civil rights and economic equality.  She has long been a member of the Grassroots Economic Organizing collective that, among other things, puts out GEO Newsletter.


Transitioning Your Existing Business to a Worker Cooperative: Case Studies & Readiness Factors, by Alison Ligane.  

We’ll discuss the many aspects of transitioning from a ‘typical’ business structure to a worker cooperative, including motivating factors for owners and/or workers, and factors that promote success.This workshop will elaborate on factors that contribute to successful transition, including readiness factors and the key preparation steps a business should take when considering a transition. All content is based on a dozen case studies of businesses that have transitioned from a ‘typical’ business structure to a worker cooperative, through conversations with business owners, workers, and organizations that support businesses to ‘convert.’

Alison Lingane, Co-Founder, Project Equity, started her career in community-based work, designing and leading micro-enterprise programs for urban youth. In the past 15 years, she has held leadership roles in mission-driven companies designed to have human impact at scale, including Benetech (where she built and launched their first product, a digital book service for individuals with reading disabilities), GreatSchools (the 6th largest parenting website), and InsideTrack (a venture-backed scaled services company delivering 1:1 coaching to students to increase college completion rates. Alison co-founded the world’s largest triple bottom line business plan competition (Global Social Venture Competition) while getting her MBA at the Haas School of Business. She brings her experiences of scaled human impact and business development together with her founding partner Hilary Abell—a national expert on worker coop development—to tackle the core economic issues of our times.


Egalitarian Accountability – Toward Humane and Healthy Governance, by Tulasi Johnson and Leslie Leyba.

How do we build policies that have buy-in and guard against institutional harm when our members and co-owners are not accountable? What values around workplace accountability can we adapt to our compassionate, egalitarian workplaces? How do we balance our needs as workers and people with the long-term health and sustainability of our businesses? In this workshop, we will create a dialogue around what unique challenges we face as non-traditional workplaces and look at ways to craft policies that can help.  We will emphasize how our seven cooperative principles can uphold egalitarian, non hierarchical business structures. When businesses are committed to these principles and build them into their governance structures, many people who have been historically underrepresented can find a voice when polices have full buy-in and are upheld fairly.


Participants will bring home a toolkit that includes handouts of example policies and the skills to build accountability within their co-op communities.


Tulasi has worked in three co-ops in three states for the last 14 years. Currently she is happy to be the CFO, Chill, and Nonfoods Buyer at Other Avenues in San Francisco, where she’s worked since 2007. She has developed many policies relating to meeting process, facilitation, and policy governance. She has also served on the planning board of the Western Workers Coop Conference for the past two terms.

Leslie Leyba has been involved with cooperative development for 13 years, as a founding member of the Looking Glass Cooperative aka The Lusty Lady Theater, San Francisco (2003 – 2007), a staff member at the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives (2008 – 2010), and at Rainbow Grocery (2006 – present), where she has worn too many hats. This is her sixth time attending the WWCC. She lives in Oakland, CA with her adorable cats and has an enduring obsession with labor issues, democratic self-management, and group process.


Getting Your Cooperative Loan-Ready,  with Dan MacDonald, Dick Fletcher, and Mark Fick.

Presenters from three funds with demonstrated commitments to worker cooperative lending will discuss how lenders assess a loan application; measures a cooperative can take to establish loan-readiness and sound financial management; terms/considerations common in lending arrangements (equity-to-debt ratios, collateral, guarantees, etc.); and developing financial projections for a loan application (what is a Statement of Sources and Uses, how many years to project cash flow, etc.).

Dan MacDonald, Deputy Director of Lending, Northern California Community Loan Fund. Dan came to NCCLF after eight years with Bank of the West as an underwriter and relationship manager, providing letters of credit and construction and mini-perm loans to the senior housing industry. His background includes institutional real estate debt and equity asset management, loan underwriting and workout management, development project management and real estate consulting. Dan has a B.A. from The Evergreen State College and a Masters in City and Regional Planning from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Dick Fletcher, Executive Vice President / Chief Lending Officer, Beneficial State Bank. Prior to joining Beneficial State Bank in 2010, Dick was a community bank executive with Tamalpais Bank and Westamerica Bank in northern California. Previously in his career, he worked for Pricewaterhouse Coopers and the Bank of America in various senior domestic and international positions.

Dick’s commitment to community development and sustainability extends to volunteer leadership as well. He serves as treasurer of the Investment Committee and a member of the board of trustees for EARTH University in Costa Rica, a leading global institution dedicated to sustainable agriculture and natural resource development. He also serves on the board of directors of the Community AgroEcology Network; Oakland Leaf Foundation; and Chabot Space & Science Center. Dick earned a BA from the University of Virginia and his MA from the Johns Hopkins University School for Advanced International Studies; he also holds the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation from the CFA Institute. An alumnus of the WK Kellogg Foundation National Fellowship Program and former Fulbright Scholar, Dick has traveled extensively in Central and South America and speaks Spanish and Portuguese.
He and his family have lived in Oakland for 23 years.

Mark Fick, Director of Lending, Northcountry Cooperative Development Fund. NCDF is a cooperatively-owned community development loan fund which invests in cooperative enterprises across the United States. Mark is responsible for the business development, lending and portfolio management functions of the organization. Previously, Mark spent ten years as the Senior Loan Officer and Director of Lending Operations with the Chicago Community Loan Fund where he expanded investments into cooperative and social enterprises. He has led a variety of community projects over the past 20 years with a focus on creating equitable and democratic economic systems. This work has included the development of housing cooperatives and cooperative businesses as well as working with credit unions, community development corporations and grassroots organizing campaigns. More recently, Mark has been active as a co-founder of Chicago’s newly formed cooperative business alliance.


From Leaderless to Leaderfull, by Marc Mascarenhas-Swan

What does Leadership look like in our cooperatives and how can we build everyone’s capacity to lead? How can we use evaluation and accountability mechanisms to build our collective capacity? In this workshop we will develop a broader set of criteria for what leadership looks like in our workplaces, and outline principles and practices that support leadership development. We will look at different models for evaluation and accountability that build our collective muscle. Handouts and resources will be available.

Marc Mascarenhas-Swan was bred in England and buttered in the Bay Area Marc has been active in social justice movements and grassroots economic alternative all of his adult life. He enjoys collective process, facilitation and political education, and was a co-founder of the now dissolved worker cooperative Local Flavor Catering. For many years he was a member of the Heads Up Collective, an organization of anti-racist white folks engaged in social justice organizing and solidarity work in the Bay Area.  He has two amazing kids that he tries to spend as much time as possible with.


Flipping the Script – Being an Effective Ally, by Marc Mascarenhas-Swan and Dee Ouellette

Everyone benefits when we learn to be good allies to ourselves, to members of groups we belong to, and to individuals and groups with identities different from our own. We will look out how oppressive behavior and culture play out in our workplaces, look at some fundamentals for being an effective ally, and work with some real life scenarios. Handouts and resources will be available.

Dee Ouellette is a long-standing member of the Arizmendi bakery and pizzeria in Emeryville, California. She lives with her wife and son in East Oakland.

Marc Mascarenhas-Swan was bred in England and buttered in the Bay Area. Marc has been active in social justice movements and grassroots economic alternative all of his adult life. He enjoys collective process, facilitation and political education, and was a co-founder of the now dissolved worker cooperative Local Flavor Catering. He has two amazing kids that he tries to spend as much time as possible with.


Communication Basics: Strategies for Cooperative Communication, by Kate Sassoon.

Healthy communication is important, but in a cooperative workplace, it’s absolutely crucial. In this workshop we explore the specifics of communication health in a co-op setting, introduce and learn to use the Safe Space dialog tool, and troubleshoot cooperative communication conundrums brought by the participants.


Decision Making Processes: Approaches to Governance from Roberts Rules to Consensus, by Kate Sassoon. 

In this workshop, we’ll discuss different decision making processes used by co-ops, focusing on the benefits, challenges, and appropriate contexts for each process. Participants will guide a large portion of the discussion through analyzing their own co-op decision making case-studies and the group will create a ‘brainstorm book’ of decision making tips and tools.

Kate “Sassy” Sassoon is the founder of Sassy Facilitation: supporting cooperative communication, a consultancy offering facilitation, education, and group process design for organizations committed to democracy. As a member, worker, and participant in democratically owned and run organizations for over 20 years, Sassy has experience with many faces of the co-op sector (housing, childcare, worker), as well as democratic management, communication education and training, community organizing, event production, decision-making process design, and group mediation. She has served on cooperative Boards of Directors large and small, teaches at conferences across the US, and holds two degrees from UC Berkeley. She strives to bring lucidity, productivity, and humor to her classes and her clients. You can download free tools, learn more about cooperative communication, and explore Sassy’s work at


Bringing International Lessons Home: Argentina, Nicaragua, and the UK, with Debbie Clarke and Brendan Martin.

In contrast to continental Europe, the UK’s 500 worker co-ops are principally small entities, with only five numbering more than 100 members. Pertinent perhaps to their size, they also cluster at the radical end of the worker co-op spectrum, mostly operating with little hierarchy, often with flat pay, and nearly always incorporating strong social and/or environmental goals.
Debbie Clarke, a worker-owner from Unicorn Grocery in Manchester will share with us regarding the UK worker co-operative movement.In contrast to continental Europe, the UK’s 500 worker co-ops are principally small entities, with only five numbering more than 100 members. Pertinent perhaps to their size, they also cluster at the radical end of the worker co-op spectrum, mostly operating with little hierarchy, often with flat pay, and nearly always incorporating strong social and/or environmental goals. Debbie will provide insight into the current UK worker co-op sector, including case studies of the world’s largest flat-pay, multi-skilling workplace (Suma Wholefoods), and the role of initiatives like Co-operatives UK, the Worker Co-op Council and the brand new Worker Co-op Solidarity Fund in facilitating ‘Solidarity in Co-operation’.
Brendan Martin founded The Working World/La Base, a cooperative financial institution and business incubator in Argentina that expanded to Nicaragua; he is literally bringing lessons home in that Brandon moved back to his native U.S. in 2012 to launch Working World operations in the States.
Debbie has been a co-op member at Unicorn Grocery for over ten years and is also a director of non-profit The Kindling Trust. She is in the US to visit and learn from other worker and consumer co-ops, particularly around issues of
  • Upholding direct member participation and democratic management in expanding co-ops
  • Co-op structures that accommodate multiple branches
  • Promoting the worker co-op model and supporting like-minded start-ups
  • Maintaining co-ops’ focus on progressive social and environmental aims

Brendan Martin is founder and director of The Working World, a cooperative financial institution and business incubator based in Argentina, Nicaragua, and the United States. Brendan originally moved to Argentina in 2004 to work with a group of Argentines looking to support the “recovered factory” phenomenon, and out of this was born The Working World financial institution and its methods of non-extractive finance and just-in-time “evergreen” credit. Despite dire predictions of investing in the chaotic groundswell that was the recovered factory movement, The Working World achieved a 98% return rate across over 715 loans, and all with repayments only from profit sharing and without guarantees. This experience demonstrated that grassroots cooperative movements can be economically viable and that finance can be non-extractive and subservient to people, yet still be solvent. After this success, Brendan helped open a second branch in Nicaragua in 2009 and another in the United States in 2012. The same grassroots cooperative efforts have proven effective and provocative in the context of the US, where The Working World has already funded six cooperatives, including New Era Windows, the manufacturing cooperative that emerged from the infamous Republic Windows and Doors in Chicago. Brendan is a 2009 Ashoka fellow, a two-time Ashoka Globalizer, a nominated Prime Mover, and a frequent speaker on the solidarity and cooperative economy.


Beyond Email: A Toolbox for Democratic Governance, by Danny Spitzberg

This workshop explores ways to make practicing democratic governance easier by choosing the right tool for the job. We’ll review familiar and fancy-seeming tools, from email and wikis to Slack and Loomio, and compare their usefulness for discussion, decision-making, and documentation. By taking a member-centric view, we will also evaluate what tools and habits support appropriate participation (and occasional celebration).

Danny Spitzberg is an ethnographer and digital campaigner in Oakland, California. He founded Peak Agency, a online crowdfunding collective that that builds shared story and participatory memberships. Danny works with cultural and economic justice projects to research and roll-out campaigns.


Organizing and Marketing: Parallel approaches to building co-op power, by Danny Spitzberg, Lisa Sussman and Lisa Eriksson

Danny Spitzberg from, Lisa Sussman and Lisa Eriksson from will be doing a workshop on how to create a marketing and social media strategy for worker owned businesses.


Financial Empowerment, with Jane Erbez and Tulasi Johnson

Members of worker-owned coops often feel like they’ve taken a crash-course in financial literacy– the hard way! As cooperative co-owners, we all need to cultivate some level of financial awareness in order to confidently make sound, sustainable decisions for our businesses. Though day-to-day bookkeeping and financial planning tasks are often taken care of by just a few members of the collective, it is their job to make sure that financial information is shared in a timely, clear, and accessible manner to all members of the coop. The collective decision-making process is immeasurably aided when all members feel confident with finances. From cost of living projections to budgets for capital improvements, having access to financial literacy tools leads to worker buy-in, enables individual empowerment, and can even aid in equal sharing of tasks and agenda items!

This “Financials 201″ workshop aims to provide tools to measure the financial success of your cooperative business. We will present a toolkit of handy terms and metrics, as well as clear ways of presenting such sometimes overwhelming information to groups whose members have varying degrees of knowledge about the subject. This workshop will be ideal for people with some understanding of bookkeeping processes and are familiar with Excel and Quickbooks, but is open to all.

Jane Erbez and Tulasi Johnson come from the Cooperative Grocery world with a combined 22 years of experience between them, having worked at People’s Food Coop in Portland, The Food Coop in Port Townsend, Weaver’s Way in Philadelphia, and Other Avenues in San Francisco. They look forward to sharing some skills with you!


Meeting process and facilitation, with Kirsten Marshall.

As coopers we spend a lot of time in meetings. This workshop will go over tips on how to maximize participation while still being efficient and why that is important. There will be plenty of handouts and I’ll let you know what I have found useful in the past 15 or so years of being in coops. I will also give time for practice and for you to share what works and doesn’t work in your coops.

Kirsten is a member of Rainbow Grocery Cooperative’s Effective Meetings Committee and has served as the cooperative’s primary facilitation trainer for several years. She has also provided facilitation and training at a number for housing cooperatives.


Patronage, Taxes and Segregating Financial Duties in a Worker Co-op, with Audrey Griffin and Elizabeth Heins-Van Der Weide.

This workshop will be split into roughly 30 minute sections: a) Overview of IRS rules on patronage and taxes and example of how patronage is calculated for a worker coop b) question and answer session on patronage and taxes – bring your questions and concerns and we’ll talk through them! c) segregating duties in a worker coop, how to do it and why it’s especially important.

Audrey Griffin, CPA, Supervisor, is a Supervisor in Wegner CPAs’ Assurance Department. Audrey has worked for the last seven years on the audits of nonprofit and cooperative organizations in Georgia, Wisconsin, and Montreal, Canada. Audrey lives in Atlanta, Georgia and works primarily on cooperatives.
She worked for 3 years for Wegner CPAs in Madison and now works out of Atlanta.

Elizabeth Heins-Van Der Weide, Senior Accountant, is a senior accountant in Wegner CPAs’ Assurance Department. Since joining the firm in January of 2013, she has worked on the audit staff performing tax return preparation, financial statement and compliance audits of a number of different nonprofit organizations. Elizabeth has also worked on for-profit engagements, specifically cooperatives, and therefore has knowledge and experience working with a variety of organizations. Elizabeth annually attends continuing professional education seminars on accounting, auditing, compliance, and tax issues.


How Does the Union Co-op Model Work?, with Liz Ryder (AFSCME), Yvonne Yen Liu (Industrial Workers of the World), Gary Holloway (United Steelworkers) and Kevin Christensen (AFL-CIO).

The 2009 agreement between the United Steelworkers and Mondragon has produced a Union Co-op Model. The Cincinnati Union Cooperative Initiative is an outgrowth of this agreement and one attempt to put this new model into practice.

Our nation’s largest worker co-op, Cooperative Home Care Associates, is a collaboration with Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Union cab in Madison Wisconsin came into existence because of a union strike.

Dignified labor, Egalitarian cooperative culture, democratic process and Workplace democracy are the common goals of the labor movement and the worker cooperative movement. Can these two social movements find common ground?

Panelists will explore the history and present day issues surrounding the intersection of organized labor and worker co-ops. Lessons learned and best practices will be provided by representatives with first-hand knowledge.


How to Prepare For and What to Know About Buying Property–An Introduction, by Dan McDonald.

Workshop description coming soon!

Dan joined NCCLF in 2012 after almost 30 years of diverse real estate experience, including senior housing and commercial property finance, asset management and workouts, development and consulting. He has been active in the Bay Area nonprofit community, volunteering for the Coalition on Homelessness and the Homeless Prenatal Program, serving on the board of the local American Red Cross Chapter and as a founding board member of the Community Housing Partnership, a provider of supportive housing to formerly homeless adults. Also, he was a member of a citizen’s advisory board for the environmental remediation and redevelopment of the Treasure Island Naval Station.

Prior to graduate school, he worked for the US House of Representatives, the Washington State Department of Agriculture and a farmer-owned produce marketing co-operative. While living in Olympia, Washington, he was a member of the Olympia Food Co-op and active in the Provender Alliance. He has a B.A. from The Evergreen State College and a Masters in City and Regional Planning from the Harvard Kennedy School.


Cooperative Ecosystems: Lessons from Regional Organizing, with Hilary Abell, Melissa Hoover, and Ricardo Samir Nuñez.

This workshop will present a new Cooperative Growth Ecosystem framework to help participants analyze and mobilize the pieces of a thriving local ecosystem to grow worker cooperatives. We will hear stories from two regions describing their work – everything from finding partners and starting an advocacy campaign, to building skills and capacity, to setting shared goals and ways to measure collective impact. We’ll then take an in-depth look at the San Francisco Bay Area, where three organizations collaborated to create a Bay Area Blueprint for Increasing Worker Ownership, which looked at multiple pathways to scale, including: supporting small worker coops through a new Worker Coop Academy, developing startup coops designed for growth, and converting conventionally-owned businesses into worker coops. Come hear about the Bay Area Worker Coop Academy (WCA), a recent collaborative success to pass a California worker coop statute and an Oakland city resolution in favor of worker coops, and other efforts that are building momentum for coops in the Bay. From this example and others, we’ll draw lessons that can inform and inspire work in your own region.

The WCA and the Bay Area Blueprint are a collaborative effort of Project Equity, Sustainable Economies Law Center, and Green Collar Communities Clinic. The Cooperative Growth Ecosystem framework was developed by the Democracy At Work Institute and Project Equity.

Hilary Abell is co-founder of Project Equity, a nonprofit that fosters economic resiliency in low-income communities by demonstrating and replicating strategies that increase worker ownership, and a 2014 Echoing Green Fellow. Hilary was a worker-owner at Equal Exchange in the 1990s, Executive Director of WAGES from 2003 to 2011, and a consultant with coop initiatives around the country, before Project Equity’s launch in 2014. Hilary’s white paper, Worker Cooperatives: Pathways to Scale, is a key field building and practitioners’ resource. Building on the success factors outlined there, Project Equity is now developing “pathways to scale” for worker coops, with a focus on helping existing businesses transition to worker ownership, through an incubator launching this fall.

Melissa Hoover is the founding Executive Director of the Democracy at Work Institute, the think-and-do-tank that expands worker ownership as a tool to address economic inequality. Prior to that, she served as the first Executive Director of the United States Federation of Worker Cooperatives. Melissa worked as a cooperative developer with the Arizmendi Association of Cooperatives in the Bay Area, doing business and capital planning, training coop members, and serving as CFO in the first year of operations. She currently sits on the Board of Directors of The ICA Group/Local Enterprise Assistance Fund and The Working World. Melissa graduated from Stanford University with a BA in History and a research focus on immigrant women’s role building cooperative movements in the U.S.

Ricardo Samir Nuñez works at the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC), which provides research, education, advice, and advocacy for just and resilient economies. Ricardo is the Director of two programs at SELC: the Legal Services Program, which provides workshops, teach-ins, and direct legal advice to organizations building more just and resilient communities; and the Cooperatives Program, which works to vastly expand the legal resources available to cooperative enterprises of all types. Ricardo was the general coordinator for the Bay Area Worker Coop Academy, a collaboration of SELC, Project Equity and the East Bay Community Law Center.


Inclusive Strategic Planning – On a Budget!, by Jayne Rossman.

Strategic plans needn’t be dusty documents drummed up by Boards of Directors or high-cost behemoths produced by outside consultants. Done right, a strategic planning process inspires new ideas, questions assumptions, builds consensus, and provides a shared foundation for making difficult decisions (like creating budgets!). In this workshop, we’ll briefly review what a strategic plan is, and what its purpose should be. Then we’ll discuss tools and tactics that you can use to plan a strategic process that is low cost, inclusive, and results in a useful final product. Examples of strategic plans and suggestions for further reading will be provided.

Jayne Rossman worked at the Olympia Food Co-op, which is a consumer-owned co-op managed by a non-hierarchical worker collective that uses consensus decision-making, for eight years. She currently leads the HOPE Garden Project in Shelton, WA. Jayne received her Master in Public Administration, with an emphasis on Non-Profit Administration, from The Evergreen State College.


Holacracy and Self-Management at Three Stone Hearth, with Raty Syka and Jessica Prentice.

This session will share the organizational journey of Three Stone Hearth Community-Supported Kitchen. From the CSK model’s origin featuring five co-founders and a strong student and volunteer presence, finding a systematic approach to organizing and coordinating TSH’s work has presented a unique challenge. This workshop will highlight cooperative principles, the use of Holacracy, tools for self-management (via Frederic Laloux’s Reinventing Organizations), and wisdom from egalitarian-individualist indigenous cultures.

Raty Syka is a worker-owner at Three Stone Hearth. She is interested in applying her background in anthropology toward strengthening local economies, production, and artisanship.

Jessica Prentice is a co-founder of Three Stone Hearth. She is also the co-creator of the Local Foods Wheel, and the author of Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection.


Cultivating Policy Environments for Worker Cooperative Development, facilitated by Ricardo S. Nuñez and panelists include Councilmember Campbell Washington, Camille Kerr, and Christina Oatfield.

Recently, a wave of worker cooperative and economic democracy advocates have scaled up efforts to implement policy initiatives around the country. These advocates have galvanized local, regional, and state legislators to implement policies that enable the growth of the worker cooperative sector. This workshop will bring together a panel of worker coop policy advocates, allied policy makers, and case studies of pro-worker coop policy efforts from around the country.

We will discuss:

  • the role of and need for more coops as an economic development tool;
  • the need for more city support of coops;
  • the value and purpose of Oakland City Council’s September 8th resolution;
  • the strategies that local, regional, and national organizations are employing to advance cooperatives as an economic development tool (e.g. Oakland, New York, Madison, et.);
  • the intent behind elements of the proposed worker cooperative ordinance for Oakland and how it can be used as a model for other cities.

Anne Campbell-Washington is a member of the Oakland City Council representing District 4. Council member Campbell-Washington holds a B.S. in Industrial Management/Graphic Communications Management from Carnegie Mellon University and an M.P.P from the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley. Her professional experience includes working as the Director of Operations & Special Projects at the Stuart Foundation in San Francisco and as the Executive Director of the I Have A Dream Foundation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She was also the Chief of Staff to former Oakland mayors Jerry Brown and Jean Quan. She recently introduced the “Resolution Supporting the Development of Worker Cooperatives in Oakland.”

Camille directs the Democracy at Work Institute’s Workers to Owners project, a collaboration of leading actors in the worker cooperative field, as well as stakeholders outside the field, to drive more conversions to worker ownership. Previously she worked as the Director of Research at the National Center for Employee Ownership, launching the organization’s outreach initiative and managing its various research projects.

Christina is a leader of SELC’s Food Program and she supports the Grassroots Finance Program. She also leads California state legislative campaigns in a variety of issue areas. While she is not yet licensed to practice law, her areas of expertise include food safety laws, agricultural laws, securities laws, and cooperative and nonprofit corporations.


Worker Co-op Solutions in the Prison Industrial Complex”, by Lymarie Nieves Plaza, Roberto Rodriguez Rosario, Jessica Gordon Nembhard and Max Perez.

This panel will start people thinking about building cooperatives in prisons with incarcerated members, and outside with members who were formerly incarcerated and to support re-entry. Gordon Nembhard will discuss Italian social and worker co-operatives in offender rehabilitation, along with Italy’s enabling laws; and Canadian examples of using cooperatives in and outside prisons. Lymarie Nieves Plaza will report on how the Puerto Rican cooperative community supports these new kinds of cooperatives in prisons, the process of working with the Correctional Department, and the development of legislation to facilitate these co-ops in and out of the correctional system in Puerto Rico. Former worker owner, Roberto Rodriguez Rosario, of Coop ARIGOS will discuss how and why he and other inmates demanded cooperative business education to develop the first co-op in a Puerto Rican prison. Models and implications for developing such co-ops in the US will also be discussed.

Starting in his teens, Max was an organizer for the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in Florida, where he co-founded a watermelon-harvesting cooperative. After serving time in prison, Max moved to California where he became a founding member of the Arizmendi Bakery in San Francisco’s Mission District. He has continued his activism for farmworker justice and helps lead Arizmendi’s anti-gentrification initiative.

Lymarie Nieves-Plaza is the Marketing Manager and Cooperative Educator at the Cooperativa de Ahorro y Crédito Candel Coop in Manatí, Puerto Rico. With over 12 years of experience in the cooperative movement, she serves as a spokesperson, consultant, and educator with a focus on what she calls “transformational cooperativism”. She has worked with Cooperativa de Servicios Múltiples ARIGOS, a project that serves male prisoners at the 945 Guayama Penitentiary. She also supports the development of Cooperativa Taínas Coop at the Industrial School in the Women’s Penitentiary at Vega Alta, Puerto Rico. In addition, she contributes to the prisoners’ educational programs for the group Vencedores Coop at the Bayamón Correctional Institution.

At present, Lymarie works with a group of ex-convicts who have been recently released from prison and who are members of Cooperativa ARIGOS. With the assistance of Roberto Rodríguez, she is working to develop the first ex-prisoner cooperative in the Island. In 2009, Lymarie received the Cooperativist Leader Medal for her devoted work.

Lymarie Nieves Plaza es Supervisora de Mercadeo y Educadora de Cooperativas en la Cooperativa de Ahorro y Crédito Candel Coop en Manatí, Puerto Rico. Con más de 12 años de experiencia en el movimiento de cooperativas, ella sirve como portavoz, asesora, y educadora con enfoque en lo que ella llama “cooperativismo transformacional”. Ella ha trabajado con Cooperativas de Servicios Múltiples ARIGOS, un proyecto que ofrece servicios a los prisioneros masculinos de la Penitenciaría de 945 Guayama. Ella también apoya el desarrollo e la Cooperativa Tainas Coop en la Escuela Industrial de la Penitenciaría de Mujeres en Vega Alta, Puerto Rico. Además, ella contribuye a los programas educacionales de los prisioneros por el grupo Vencedores Coop en la Institución Correccional de Bayamón.

Actualmente, Lymarie trabaja con un grupo de ex convictos que han sido recientemente liberados de la prisión y que son miembros de la Cooperativa ARIGOS. Con la ayuda de Roberto Rodríguez, ella está trabajando para desarrollar la primera cooperativa de ex prisioneros en la Isla. En el 2009 Lymarie recibió la Medalla Coperactivismo de Liderazgo por su devoción al trabajo.

Roberto Rodriguez: In 1995, at age 19, Roberto Luis Rodriguez Rosario was sentenced to 125 years in a correctional institution. While in prison, he completed his high school degree and began a bachelor degree, served as a vocal advocate for the rights of inmates in Puerto Rico, and played leadership roles in several groups, including a book club and a literary magazine.
From 2004-2009, Roberto served on the Board of Directors of the Cooperative ARIGOS, a cooperative of inmates that produces and sells artisanal crafts and ornamental plants. Through his involvement with this project, Roberto became convinced that cooperative businesses were the ideal model for inmate rehabilitation.

Roberto was released on parole in 2009. After leaving prison, he wrote for and edited a credit union publication. He also worked to promote the development of the Puerto Rican cooperative movement.

In 2011, Roberto wrote his first literary work entitled “Corazón Libre, Cuerpo Confinado” in which he shares his personal story of being incarcerated and demonstrates that the heart of an inmate is no different from that of the people outside in the community.

On August 16, 2014, he extinguished his sentence, becoming a totally free man. At present, Roberto continues to share his personal experiences through writing.

En el 1995, en la edad de 19 años Roberto Luis Rodríguez Rosario fue sentenciado a 125 años en una institución correccional. Mientras en prisión, el completo su escuela secundaria y comenzó una licenciatura, sirvió como abogador vocal por los derechos de los prisioneros en Puerto Rico, y jugó un papel de liderazgo en varios grupos, incluyendo un club de lectura y revista de literatura.

Del 2004-2009 Roberto sirvió en la Junta Directiva de la Cooperativa ARIGOS, una cooperativa de prisioneros que producen y venden artes artesanales y ornamentos para plantas. Por medio de su envolvimiento con este proyecto, Roberto se convenció que el negocio de cooperativas era el modelo ideal para la rehabilitación de prisioneros.

Roberto fue puesto en libertad condicional en el 2009. Después de salir de la prisión, él escribió y editó para una publicación de unión de crédito. El también trabajo para promover el desarrollo del movimiento de la cooperativa Puerto Rican.

En el 2011 Roberto escribió su primer trabajo literario titulado “Corazón Libre, Cuerpo Confinado”. En el cual el comparte su historia personal de haber sido encarcelado y demuestra que el corazón de un prisionero no es diferente al de una persona fuera en la comunidad.

En Agosto 16, 2014, el termina su sentencia, convirtiéndose en un hombre totalmente libre. En el presente Roberto continúa compartiendo sus experiencias personales por medio de la escritura.