Currently, no program really exists to train people with the skills that can make them a good leader across different types of co-ops, so PACA (Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance) is launching the Cooperative Leadership Institute (CLI), a rigorous training program for individual leaders working within cooperatives. While programs exist to train leaders in food co-ops or credit unions, no program exists to train leaders across different co-op exists. Cooperative leadership is also different from traditional leadership, since co-ops are owned and operated by its members.
After receiving more than 50 survey responses from local co-operators in order to help to design the format and curriculum, PACA is piloting the CLI program in early, with a full launch later in 2016.
According to Michaela Holmes, the project manager for CLI, the survey helped PACA determine a few things: One, that co-operators are really hungry for new skills and knowledge. Two, there is a need for a program like the CLI and people are genuinely interested in it. Three, for whatever reason, some people are not necessarily getting the skills to do their best work in house.
Holmes added that while each co-op in the Philadelphia area has multiple people serving in key leadership roles (whether they’re staff members, board members, or volunteers), many local co-ops struggle to support their leaders who are eager to work at a co-op.
“Unfortunately most people don’t come to co-ops with the diversity of skills needed to be strong leaders, but come with a strong ideological commitment to cooperation, and shared wealth building, as well as a passion for building community,” said Holmes. “This has led some co-ops to struggle with turnover, or to be limited by the ineffective and unsupported leaders that are guiding their co-op.”
The CLI curriculum will aim to develop skills that are applicable to multiple sectors of co-ops, focusing on topics like: leadership, financial literacy, co-op culture, project management, community organizing, facilitation, and governance.
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“We also imagine having sector specific cohorts and topics on worker co-ops, food co-ops, housing co-ops, and credit unions,” Holmes said. “The target audiences for the Cooperative Leadership Institute are current staff and managers of co-ops, worker-owners, involved members, and board members.”
“This is really exciting for PACA. It’s a wonderful way for us to build our movement as a whole and the strength of each individual cooperative by supporting and growing the capacity of their top leaders!” she added. “It’s a way to invest directly in the people who are driving our cooperative economy.”
Images via PACA
*This piece has been updated to reflect that the program begins in early 2016, with a few workshops held in late 2015 as well as to clarify that the program is the first to offer leadership training for cross-sector co-ops/-30-
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