Findings from the Cooperative Policy Roundtable (5/19)
Colorado is poised to provide a national model for creating an inclusive, democratic economy.
This starts with our leadership in employee ownership, as well as other kinds of community ownership like credit unions, rural electrics, food hubs, and online platforms. Co-ops have helped build Colorado, and we want to work with the state government to make Colorado the best place in the country to build cooperative businesses.
We invite the state to help us do this by:
Different kinds of cooperatives have been a bedrock of the Colorado economy throughout the state’s history—especially for the most marginalized—from 19th-century Grange halls to an early Black-owned saddlery co-op in Denver. This legacy continues today. Our economy depends on its rural electric co-ops, telecom co-ops, credit unions, farmer co-ops, and small business purchasing co-ops. These amount to about 400 cooperative businesses and almost a thousand co-op franchisees and branches.
Now, a new generation of cooperators is trying to use this model to access a more equitable and just economy. But the tools developed for earlier generations aren’t always up to the task of our new challenges. Policies designed for farmer cooperatives aren’t prepared for accelerating co-op tech startups or empowering immigrant worker co-ops. That’s why we’re helping to lead a national conversation about the kinds of policies and entrepreneurship we need to make cooperative enterprise more available and more accessible than ever before.
These are some strategies we’re exploring to strengthen the Colorado co-op economy:
Awareness and education
Too few Coloradans know what co-ops are—much less how to work or shop at one.
We have only about a dozen co-op developers working statewide—it’s time to scale up.
The economy is tilted towards investor ownership—we can level the field for communities.
This convening was possible through the support of the National Cooperative Business Association and the Cooperative Development Foundation, with the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, CoBank, the Center for Community Wealth Building and the Colorado Co-ops Study Circle. Colorado.coop branding is a product of Cooperatives for a Better World.