The Georgia Cooperative Development Center exists to help co-op businesses in Georgia succeed, whether they are startups or existing businesses. We started our nonprofit organization because we saw that there was a need: people wanted to start co-ops, or grow their existing co-op, but they didn’t know where to turn for help. We knew there were some resources for businesses, but none tailored toward the cooperative business model. We also knew that there was data on the economic impact of co-ops in Georgia thanks to the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Cooperatives, but it had become outdated (2009). So the vision was born to bring together services in four key areas to help Georgia co-ops: technical assistance, networking, research and education.
In 2019, GCDC made strides as a small but mighty nonprofit in all of those key areas. For technical assistance, we worked with over 20 co-ops, focusing on topics ranging from legal documents to bookkeeping systems, new product development, patronage dividends, and more. We helped network co-ops in Georgia with examples/case studies, partners and conversations with other cooperators who operate in similar industries. Our research focused on our statewide needs assessment, which resulted in 18 unique co-op respondents to a 62 question survey that went into great depth with each co-op. We learned about demographic information, sales, cooperative principles and values, motivations for becoming a co-op, and more. And finally, we offered education on co-ops in a few different formats, including our first ever webinar, a pitch presentation to 1 Million Cups, a business model canvas workshop, as well as converting your business into a co-op workshop. We also presented about youth cooperatives at the Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy in Baltimore this year, and shared a panel discussion at this year’s Social Justice Symposium hosted by UGA’s School of Social Work. We also partnered with the Church at Ponce and Highland on the Fair Trade Holiday Market 2020 which brought together over 100 customers and over 30 vendors, all focused on gift items that were made following fair trade principles that empower producers. It’s been a busy year!
Why we do this work hasn’t changed: we believe having more successful co-ops in Georgia helps create a more equitable economy. What do we mean by equitable economy? One in which people are more in control of their economic lives, because as users of businesses, they are also owners, that is what we mean by a more equitable economy. How else can regular people say that they own their grocery store, their own workplace, their farm, their financial institution and their utility company? That’s a key cooperative difference. Furthermore we believe that with ownership comes the control to contribute to the direction of the businesses we depend on for things like power, shelter, food, and so on. And in an age of climate disruption, it will be the cooperatives that continue to lead the way in terms of the resiliency we need as a society to weather the coming storms, and emerge stronger, together. We hope you’ll join us as a donor, a volunteer, a subscriber, however suits you, in 2020. We’re here to help. You can email me at any time, Matthew@georgiacoopdc.org. Thanks for reading!