Cooperative Design Lab



Cooperative Design Lab  

a development course for worker, producer and hybrid cooperatives

Use this link to apply online. 

Cooperatives build local economic resilience by meeting community needs for goods, services and jobs through shared democratic business ownership. Cooperative Fermentation, a project of the Resilience Hub, is offering this course to strengthen the network of cooperatives in the region and to support the formation of co-ops in local farming and food production.

Come to Cooperative Design Lab if you want to: nepermacultureworkshop2

  • start a cooperative
  • expand your group’s capacity and skills
  • convert your business to a cooperative
  • help develop cooperatives in your community


Course Overview

Participants will gain the knowledge, skills and capacity to start a cooperative business.

Through the course, participants will:

  • go through a step-by-step process to create a co-op
  • plan their business
  • prepare and share meals together
  • engage in personal development
  • discern appropriate organizational structures
  • learn tools for cooperative leadership and management
  • connect to mentors, coaching and technical assistance
  • explore the role of cooperatives in building a resilient economy

Check out our Draft Agenda here

Cooperative Design Lab will meet three weekends from January to March in 2015 and online for webinars. There will be homework including readings, films, group projects, and journal work. In celebration of course completion, participants will have the opportunity to present their ideas to an audience of community members, mentors, funders, and policy makers.


Cooperative Design Lab Course Details

Course Outcomes:

Course curriculum will be tailored to participant’s needs and the following outcomes are expected:

  • Articulation of vision and goals for each stage of cooperative development and for various roles in the cooperative organization
  • Needs assessment for business, people and market planning
  • Analysis of resources including multiple forms of capital, market conditions, technical assistance and mentors to leverage in cooperative development
  • Detailed action plans and measures to evaluate success
  • Readiness for each stage of development from launch or conversion, to growth and management
  • Understanding of appropriate leadership for cooperative structures

Many topics covered in this course are listed below, following the course details.  You can view our draft agenda here.

Who can participate:

The Design Lab is open to both teams and leaders. New co-ops are encouraged to send teams of 2-4 members/organizers to the Design Lab so people can learn together. Individual leaders are also encouraged to attend. People signing up are one of the following:

  • Startups – folks planning to start a cooperative venture
  • Expanders – people from existing cooperatives that are seeking to grow
  • Converters – existing businesses looking to transition to a cooperative
  • Developers – organizations that want to be a resource for economic development in their community


This course will take place in New Gloucester, Maine in a large community house at Wayfinder School. There is plenty of onsite parking and optional overnight accommodations.  It is 30 minutes north of Portland, 20 minutes south of Lewiston, 1.75 hours south of Bangor, 2.5 hours north of Boston.


This three month course will gather in person three weekends in 2015: January 31 & February 1, February 28 & March 1, and March 21 & 22, and online several times between course meetings. Class generally runs from 9am to 7pm on Saturdays and 9am to 5pm on Sundays of each weekend. There are overnight accommodations available for those who want to stay onsite.

Participants are invited to return in late April or May for a celebration event where they can share their cooperative designs with funders, community members, policy makers and course mates.


The course is offered for a sliding scale of $400-700 per person, or $1200 for a 3 person co-op. After December 15, it increases to $500-800 per person, or $1300 for 3 person co-op, so early registration is encouraged.  Our sliding scale is based on what you can afford, you can choose the amount that you can pay.

Course fee includes all course materials, coffee, tea and refreshments, breakfast each day and one hearty organic evening meal per weekend. Lunches will be potluck/BYO in order to keep the course fee down. A 20% deposit is requested to hold your spot in this course.

There are creative payment options available including the following:

  • Register and pay in full by Dec 15 ($100 off)
  • Apply for a scholarship with the Ralph K. Morris Foundation by 1/1/15.  They provide small grants for people to pursue cooperative education and development programs.
  • For every full course participant who says that you referred them, receive $50 off.
  • Consider fundraising a portion of our course fee. Crowdfunding is another way to raise funds.
  • We also have limited scholarships that will significantly reduce the cost of the course.
  • Members of Hour Exchange Portland can pay for up to 10% of the course fee in time dollars.
  • Pay for the course in monthly installments if that makes more sense for you.
  • There is one work study position available for this course that provides a 20% discount.

We encourage you to contact us to discuss which payment option will work best for you and how we can help this program to be accessible to your needs.

Class size is limited.


This workshop consists of 74 hours of program (includes 58 hours of in-person time and 16 hours of webinars), connection to additional technical assistance & mentoring and homework. You will participate in this course through a combination of lecture, participatory projects, group work, hands-on activities, guest speakers, webinars, video, discussion and a design project. There will be approximately 5- 6 hours of “homework” between course weekends. Students must attend all sessions and complete their group project in order to receive their certificates of completion.

How to apply:

Use this link to apply online. After you submit your application, the organizers will contact you to assist you with the registration process. Please submit before January 15th. Remember, if you register by December 15, you receive $100 off tuition!

Course Topics:

Topics included (but not limited to) the following:

  • Cooperative skills for founders and members
  • Cooperative Culture and Values
  • Cooperative Principles and History
  • Regenerative enterprise ecology
  • Legal and financial structures
  • Eight forms of Capital
  • Finance and Funding
  • Tools for transparency
  • Conflict resolution, Communication & Group dynamics
  • Governance, Management & Participatory Leadership
  • Self reflection tools
  • Membership and hiring techniques
  • Hiring, Training and Succession
  • Niche Analysis and Marketing plans
  • Accountability and Evaluation


Facilitation team:

Jonah-Fertig-wegJonah Fertig

Jonah is the Founder & Coordinator of Cooperative Fermentation. He also works as a cooperator with the Cooperative Development Institute, consulting with worker and producer cooperatives in the food system. He is a cooperator, organizer, consultant, chef, teacher, designer, facilitator, farmer, artist, musician and father.  In 2007, he co-founded Local Sprouts Cooperative in Portland, Maine and helped to develop it from an idea into a successful worker-owned cafe, catering business and learning programs.  He also started the People’s Free Space, a community space in Portland, and the Burdock Gathering, a community-learning gathering on a farm in Central Maine.  He most recently co-founded the Machigonne Community Land Trust in Portland and the Portland Urban Agriculture Sub-Committee that is part of the Mayor’s Initiative for a Healthy and Sustainable Food System. He is currently a Board Member for Crown of Maine Organic Cooperative, on the Board of the Eat Local Foods Coalition and is a facilitator for the Sustainable Food System Leadership Institute, a project of the Maine Association of Non-Profits.  He teaches a food business class at the New School, a democratic high school in Kennebunk.

Jonah is a peer advisor apprentice with the Democracy at Work Network and is a graduate of the Maine Food Leadership Forum.  He has a Bachelor of Arts in Art and Cultural Studies from New York University.  He lives in a strawbale cabin at Neverdun Farm, a cooperative organic farm in Arundel, Maine.


Rachel Lyn Rumson

Rachel Lyn wears many hats in her work to build community resilience and learning networks. She is a freelance organizer and facilitator with The Resilience Hub, where she teaches permaculture courses, organizes, and provides technical assistance to organizations.

Rachel Lyn has more than fifteen years experience has a facilitation and process consultant and seven years experience as a professional trainer and educator. Her client list includes Seacoast Area Renewable Energy Initiative, New England Grassroots Environment Fund, Sustainable Seattle, Belfast Cohousing and EcoVillage, 350 Maine, Winter Cache Project, Portland Tool Library, Parent Resource Center, The Organizational Development Network, Natural Fitness, Educare, Seeds of Compassion, the Permaculture Institute of the Northeast, and Cooperative Fermentation. Rachel Lyn excels at building networks and social ecologies that work together and learn together.

Before achieving her masters degree in 2009, she was a serial entrepreneur, having had a hand in  array of startups including: Attention to Detail, where she was Managing Partner of a residential, commercial and marine cleaning company; Useful Hands, a woman-owned construction LLC where she was Managing Partner; iCore Systems, a systems engineering company that she consulted  to launch then served as Managing Director; and Natural Fitness, a locally owned fitness studio she coached the owner to plan and launch. Rachel Lyn received her masters in Applied Behavioral Science from Bastyr University in Washington State. While there, she served as the Program Director of the Pacific Northwest Organizational Development Network and co-founded Community Conversation Project. Returning to her home-state of Maine she taught Sociology, Psychology and Leadership courses at Kaplan University before earning her Permaculture Design Certificate from Lisa Fernandes in 2012, and eventually joining The Resilience Hub.

Rachel Lyn also grows much of her own food and helps with local food initiatives by designing and implementing school garden projects. She has worked with R.W. Traip Academy and Wayfinder Schools to establish thriving garden programs and now serves as consulting faculty to Wayfinder Schools teaching Green Initiatives in their residential high school program for teens that are at-risk of not graduating. This course blends restorative agriculture, social action, permaculture education and restorative justice work.

And many others…

Additionally, we will have many other guest experts in business and cooperative development from the Northeast and beyond that will come to some weekends and appear via webinar.


About Cooperative Fermentation

Cooperative Fermentation helps inspire people to create cooperatives in the food system and supports them through education and food production. Our mission is to transform the food system through creating cooperatives.  We are a project of the Resilience Hub and collaborate with the Cooperative Development Institute, Democracy at Work Network and others to grow cooperatives.   We focus on growing cooperatives in Maine with a particular focus on supporting worker, producer and hybrid cooperatives.


About The Resilience Hub

The Resilience Hub is a collaborative non-profit organization based in Portland Maine.Their mission is to build resilience at the personal, household and community levels while creating thriving examples of abundance based on ecological wisdom. They do this by offering a range of events, education and training as well as resilience-building services and projects. They operate at local, statewide and regional scales and their work touches on all the realms traditionally encompassed by Permaculture (land use, energy, water, buildings, etc.) but with special focus on food and creating new economic models.

About the Cooperative Development Institute

Cooperative Development Institute (CDI) is the source for cooperative business development in the Northeast. CDI’s mission is to build a cooperative economy through the creation and development of successful cooperative enterprises and networks in diverse communities in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Maine, Rhode Island and New York.

Cooperative Development Institute staff specialize in helping people work together to plan and launch a cooperatively owned business. We help existing privately held businesses convert to ones owned by their employees or the consumers of their products and services, we help start-up cooperatives, and we support existing cooperative businesses.

Additional Support is provided by:

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Funding for the Cooperative Design Lab is coming from these organizations and co-ops, participants, the Broad Reach Fund and RSF Social Finance.CEIlogo

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