Promoting development of cooperatives in Maine through supporting existing cooperatives and helping new ones form & operate sustainably.
- FINDING FUNDS FOR NEW MAINE CO-OPS
Good ideas with feverish devotion need nourishment to grow. We are aware of the potential need for start-up capital. We maintain a lookout for investment sources.
- BUSINESS TRAINING FOR START-UP & EXISTING CO-OPS
Co-ops need fertile soil to thrive. We imagine a time when regional groups meet around the state, inviting speakers to teach marketing, bookkeeping, publicity, etc. We envision a mentoring program for fledgling co-ops in the future.
- EDUCATING MAINE PEOPLE ABOUT COOPERATIVES
The idea of starting a cooperative business needs to sprout. Since 2008, we exhibit annually at the Hope Festival in Orono and at MOFGA’s Common Ground Fair, offering information about cooperatives.
- AN ONGOING PRESENCE FOR MAINE CO-OPS
A presence for co-ops is needed in the state of Maine. We meet monthly by teleconference and, in person, occasional and at annual meetings. Since 2008, we have published a Maine co-op directory, met with the Maine Housing Director, cosponsored a co-op study tour, and assisted two new housing co-ops. In addition, we have sponsored, co-sponsored, and organized several statewide cooperative workshops.
- EXPANSION OF MAINE LAW AND POLICIES FOR CO-OPS
Working with lawmakers and helping shape policy to support cooperative enterprise are essential needs.
On March 25, 2016,
Cooperative Maine turned 9 years old!
Here’s what happened at our first meeting:
On Sunday, March 25, 2007 more than two dozen people from around Maine, representing nearly every sector of cooperative enterprise met in Augusta to discuss the potential for strengthening their local economies and communities through greater cooperative business development in the state. They focused on three areas: defining the group’s mission; what the nature (structure) of this group should be, and its connection to other groups; and identifying possible initial goals as well as strategies for achieving them. By day’s end, the group had agreement on a general mission, a place and tentative date for the next meeting (June in Belfast) and had approved the registry of a web site.
There was general agreement that everyone in the room was committed to seeing increased cooperative development in Maine. (The group was given the International Co-operative Alliance’s definition of a cooperative: “An autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise.”) Repeated emphasis was placed on building local/regional reliance among co-ops and between co-ops and other stakeholders.
Structure and Funding
Some think a new non-profit or co-op might serve this end more effectively and others would like to look at existing organizations we might become part of. A development subcommittee will keep this discussion moving forward. While some feel reluctant to start fundraising until this work is further along, there appeared to be agreement that we should raise some funds right away to pay someone to coordinate this effort and to do at least some of the “grunt work” that will arise from that (as well perhaps as to enlist the help of volunteers).
Goals and Strategies
Predictably, there were many excellent suggestions. Most could be labeled ‘educational’ and many fell into the ‘networking’ realm as well. These included holding statewide, regional, and/or distance-learning events for co-ops, other stakeholders, and the public; creating an online information clearinghouse, and curriculum and policy development. Other goals: start more co-ops, find funding for development.
Emphasis was placed on self-education as well, including conducting a needs/resources survey of existing Maine co-ops; utilizing resources better to help one another and to foster new co-op development (e.g. through mentoring, information exchange, etc.); surveying co-ops elsewhere for replicable models, best practices, advice and assistance; and connecting with groups/resources other than co-ops, in Maine and beyond, who support or who might support cooperative development.