To kick-off research, Antioch University professor Gilda Haas developed a 10-week intensive curriculum that introduced us to the foundations of worker-owned cooperatives and several business sectors in Los Angeles that could benefit from this model.

The intensive focused on key sectors of Food, Health Care, Waste and Recycling. We talked with people who’ve researched those sectors deeply, and had encounters with worker cooperatives in those sectors. We also met with attorneys regarding alternative legal entities for worker coops and learned about business model generation.

Week 1: Residency

At Antioch University Los Angeles, students were given an introduction to capstone projects, the 10-week intensive and discussed ways to organizing the class into a democratic, decision-making, and accountable body.

Week 2: Waste Sector

Students met with Lauren Ahkiam, the Senior Research & Policy Analyst on the Don’t Waste LA Project for LAANE (Los Angeles for a New Economy), at the LAANE offices. She talked about the new franchise ordinance in Los Angeles, the waste/recycling sector, and where she sees value-added for worker cooperatives.

Week 3: Conversation with CERO Cooperative

Lor Holmes, manager of CERO recycling/compost cooperative in Boston, discussed their start-up efforts in an online chat with students from her East Coast office.

Week 4: Food, Waste, Compost and the Good Food Economy

Students attended the L.A. Food Policy Council Member Meeting on the USC Campus. Speakers included: Will Allen, Growing Power; Karen Coca, L.A. Department of Sanitation; Jackie Cornejo and John Guevarra, LAANE; Dan Noble, Association of Compost Producers; Michael Martinez, L.A. Compost; Paula Daniels, LAFPC Founder and Senior Fellow on Food Systems, Water and Climate at the Office of Governor Jerry Brown; and Clare Fox, L.A. Food Policy Council.

Week 5: Cooperatives and Healthy Food in L.A.

At Gilda’s house, students had a conversation with Rudy Espinoza of LURN and Clare Fox of L.A. Food Policy Council to discuss possible intervention points for worker co-ops in L.A.’s food economy, as well as a distribution coop that they are working on together to supply L.A. corner markets with healthy, affordable food.

Week 6: Mid-Course Check In

Students met at Gilda’s house to check-in about how the course was going and reaffirm the method by reviewing readings and upcoming focus areas.

Week 7: L.A. Health Sector 

Students met at Mercado La Paloma with Nancy Ibrahim of Esperanza Community Housing Corporation and Jim Mangia of St. John’s Well Child and Family Center. The discussion focused on the health sector in Los Angeles and where they see opportunities for cooperative enterprises.

Week 8: Conversation with Circle of Life Caregiver Cooperative

Jo Ann McNerthney, Founder of Circle of Life Caregiver Cooperative, described the start-up and current operations of Circle of Life in an online session from her base in Bellingham, Washington.

Week 9: Elements of a Business Model

At Gilda’s house, she provided an overview of the basic elements of a business model with a slideshow and we were introduced to the book: Business Model Generation, by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur.

Week 10: Choosing a Legal Entity 

Students met at Public Council with Brad Caftel, Chief Legal and Business Affairs Officer for the Insight Center for Community Economic Development. He walked students and members of Pacific Electric Worker Owned Co-op (also in attendance) through legal and technical considerations in forming a co-op. The meeting was hosted by Doug Smith, Staff Attorney – Community Development at Public Counsel, who also contributed information about the legalities surrounding cooperative businesses.