Stronger Together: How Cooperative Models could support the Creative Economy

On Thursday October 6th, Arts Alive! hosted an Artist to Artist workshop in partnership with the Hannah Grimes Center and MAxT, Peterborough's Makerspace, to teach the community about how cooperative models work and how they can benefit creative entrepreneurs.

Cooperatives we discussed:

Creative Ventures, Amherst, NH

Was launched by two individual artists
Provides shared classroom space, shared gallery space, a suite of small artist studios, some cooperative marketing
Is lead by Betsy Craumer, visual artist
Fees: $250/month for space, 20% of class fees for classroom use5% of gallery sales

Monadnock Food Coop, Keene, NH

Is a community-owned business, lead initially by a board of directors and a program manager and then transitioned to an elected board who hired a general manager
Provides a full service community grocery store open to all; cooperative buying discounts for member-owners, annual member-owner patronage refund based on purchases and co-op success
Member-owners democratically elect board members that lead the co-op using Policy Governance model
Fees: $200 investment to become a member-owner (this is not an annual fee)

New England Web & Tech Collective (NEWT), Keene, NH

Was launched as a nonprofit arm of a forprofit business in partnership with another nonprofit
Provides co-working space, high speed internet, coffee, beer, networking events
Is lead by Zach Luse, owner of Paragon Digital Marketing and 4Web Design
Fees: $150/month for coworking space, FREE netowrking events

MAxT, Peterborough, NH

Was launched with grant support under Arts Alive!'s Fiscal Sponsorship Program
Provides internet, workspace, shared tools, community education events
Is now an independent nonprofit driven by a dedicated board and executive director
Fees: $30/month for membership full access, $90/month for a private workspace within the Makerspace

Understanding models, benefits, and structure

"Collaboration can lead to physical, social, and economic wellbeing." - Jim Kelly

What are the greatest benefits to a cooperative business or organization?

A Cooperative is all about building relationships and a community for like-minded individuals. What's so great about community?

  • Connecting with others - not working alone
  • Having a source for feedback and critique on work
  • Getting inspired and expanding your craft through community connections

If you build it will they come?

"Community and Energy to drive collaborations HAPPENED because we had the right space to work in." - Zach Luse

A cooperative is a business. You invest in something to share and collect partners to share in that resource with you. But that means you need partners or members for your cooperative model to work - by definition you can't do it alone! So, how do you engage your community?

  • Offer opportunities and space for members and potential members to LEARN something together
  • Offer opportunities and space for members and potential members to TEACH EACH OTHER something
  • Convene people in a consistent space that has the resources they need to experiment and explore together

Getting Help

"Southwest Regional Planning Commission was interested ways to keep wealth local, and a coop can do that by giving shoppers access to local products. Income then gets recirculated locally, instead of going to makers or producers from outside the region." - Jen Risley

Who were the key partners that helped get you going?

There are MANY challenges to getting a cooperative off the ground. Our panelists identified some key partners that helped them get their organizations launched. If you're thinking about starting a cooperative, who in your community will be best situated to help get you started?

  • Our board of directors - Our board of directors has been passionately engaged from the beginning, and have been able to connect us with funding opportunities, the city, and new communities of members.

  • The City of Keene - The planning department helped us jump through the right hoops so we could get started. The City also gave us a small grant to fund a feasibility study to help us determine how big we should be thinking for our coop.

  • Southwest Regional Planning Commission - Our project was identified in the Southwest Regional Planning Commission's regional plan as something that was highly important to the local economy. They helped connect us to funding, data, and people that moved our project forward significantly.

  • Antioch New England - A graduate student at Antioch made part of our start-up phase her thesis project - she conducted our viability research. We later hired her as our first project manager.

  • MeetUp groups - These groups were where we started to connect with future members. We still work with them and now invite them to host their meetings in our space.

  • Arts Alive! - offers a basic business startup guide and fiscal sponsorship for organizations that are looking to become nonprofits. Monadnock International Film Festival, Monadnock Choral Alliance, MAxT, ConVal Visual and Performing Arts Center, ArtWalk, and Friends of Public Art have all been a part of the Fiscal Sponsorship program.

To learn more about different cooperative models, visit Co-op Law or Contact: Jen Risley