Worker Cooperatives: Pathways to Scale

The Democracy Collaborative

Author +
Hilary Abell

Year: 2014

Public interest in cooperatives has surged since the global financial crisis, as people cry out for an alternative to business-as-usual. In spite of their many benefits for individuals, businesses, and society, however, cooperatives are not well understood in the United States. The field of worker co-op development is just beginning to create the infrastructure and knowledge base needed to increase its scale and impact.
This report aims to help build the field of U.S. worker co-op development by providing a current view of the cooperative landscape and by analyzing factors that inhibit or promote cooperative development. Although informed by the cooperative giants in Europe, this analysis highlights lessons learned through the development and growth of worker co-ops in the United States. Analyzing four common “origin stories” for worker cooperatives and five distinct models for cooperative development, the report highlights the benefits of democratic workplaces while providing strategic clarity about scaling up their impact.

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  1. Executive Summary
  2. Overview of Cooperatives and Worker Ownership 
  3. The Case for Cooperatives
  4. Worker Cooperatives: Origins and Development Strategies
  5. Lessons Learned: Barriers and Success Factors in Worker Co-op Development
  6. Opportunities to Increase Impact and Scale
  7. Closing
  8. Appendix 1. Acknowledgments and Interviewees
  9. Appendix 2. Learning from Europe: Applying Success  Factors to U.S. Worker Cooperatives
  10. Appendix 3. Recommended Reading and Resources