Collecting Ourselves: A Cooperative Entrepreneurship Curriculum

Northountry Cooperative Foundation

Author +
Emily Lippold Cheney

Year: 2017

The Cooperative Entrepreneurship Curriculum walks participants through an examination of the philosophy and practice of cooperation, the meaning of “development” and “entrepreneurship” in their lives, the steps required in starting a cooperative business, and an exploration of two of the most important steps – organizing people into a Steering Committee, and creating a Business Plan. All activities use Popular Education methods, drawing directly on the expertise and insight of participants to guide the learning process.

Download Collecting Ourselves: A Cooperative Entrepreneurship Curriculum here

“Collecting Ourselves” is comprised of 9 full workshops encompassing up to 16 hours of cooperative entrepreneurship training – the curriculum can serve as content for a semester class in university, be used in regular community study groups, or be fodder for a retreat-style academy. It was developed for youth (teens to 30s), but is modular and adaptable for most age groups (as well as for identities, experiences, etc).

The workshops are not exhaustive in terms of the technical aspects of business development, however a lot of that information is accessible on the internet or via in-person resources (e.g. your county’s small business development office). Relatedly, don’t overcomplicate things or doubt your own abilities. People have started cooperatives throughout history without the support of “experts,” though experts can certainly be a great support and are sometimes totally necessary. All that said, this resource is a source of foundational information and empowerment to get a group sufficiently inspired and on the path of cooperative entrepreneurship

Table of Contents


   Curriculum History
Education Philosophy
Practicing Popular Education

Space & Supplies

   Summary of Workshop Objectives
Beginning the Work

Setting the Table
Warming Up the Group
Getting in Line
Cooperation 101
Coops in Theory
Coops in Practice
The Coop Difference
Coops as Tools 
Cooperative Stories
Understanding The Why
Using Coops
Cooperative News
Understanding The How
Demystifying Development
Defining Development
Development Continuum
What’s Your Process?
Riding the Bus
Building Trust
Organizing Your People
The Meeting
Taking The Wheel
What’s the Plan?
What, Who, When, Where, Why
Getting Down To Business (Planning)
Bringing it All Together
Closing Discussion
First-Next-Steps, Needs, & Evaluations
Appreciations & Opportunities
Agendas (Tool)
Accessibility Checklist (Tool)
Cooperation 101
Cooperative Identity (Handout)
Own, Control, & Benefit (Worksheet)
Coops As Tools
Cooperative Stories (Tool)
Using Coops
Cooperative News (Worksheet)
Cooperative News Scenarios (Tool)
Understanding The Development Process
Cooperative Development Continuum (Handout)
Continuum Components (Tool)
What’s Your Process?
Turf, Trust, & Time (Worksheet)
Organizing Your People
Character & Cooperative: Steward’s Guide (Handout)
Character & Cooperative: Rolling Key (Handout)
Character & Cooperative: Role Sheet (Worksheet)
Steering Committee Agenda (Handout)
Writing Your Plan
Character & Cooperative: Steward’s Guide (Handout)
Character & Cooperative: Rolling Key (Handout)
Character & Cooperative: Role Sheet (Worksheet)
Cooperative Business Planning Agenda (Handout)
Coop Biz Planning: Key Questions (Worksheet)
Coop Biz Planning: Learning Aid (Handout)
Bringing It All Together
Workshop Evaluation (Worksheet)