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In this issue:

Co-op Development Spotlight:
Homecare Co-ops

As the U.S. population ages, there is historic and growing demand for quality, in-home care. Across the nation, more than 2 million homecare workers help people stay in their homes by assisting with daily tasks such as eating, dressing, and bathing. The Census Bureau projects that by 2035, the U.S. population over 65 years old will increase by about 30 million people. In order to meet the rising demand for homecare services, there is an urgent need to recruit and retain homecare workers and to improve working conditions in the industry. Homecare cooperatives are uniquely positioned to address this crisis.

Homecare Industry Challenges
The homecare industry as a whole faces many challenges, which are compounded by insufficient governmental reimbursement rates and complicated regulations. Low quality jobs are particularly taxing on homecare workers, who -- according to the homecare specialist institute PHI -- face the following issues:
  • Low wages – In 2017, the average annual income for homecare workers was approximately $15,000. As a result, one-fifth of homecare workers live below the federal poverty level and more than half of homecare workers receive public assistance. Wages adjusted for inflation have remained virtually flat over the last decade. A major reason for low wages is the sector’s reliance on low reimbursement rates set by Medicaid.
  • Limited benefits – Most homecare agencies do not offer their employees benefits, and more than half rely on public assistance.
  • Part-time and inconsistent hours – client needs vary dramatically and may change over time.
Cooperatives as a Solution
Cooperatives are playing a role in addressing the homecare crisis. There are 12 active homecare cooperatives in the U.S., two of which are in Wisconsin. UWCC is part of a growing movement focused on using the worker co-op model to address homecare industry challenges in the following ways:
  • Working together at scale – The ICA Group found that while homecare cooperatives provided 3.4 million hours of direct care services in 2017, there is a substantial opportunity for growth since co-ops are only 0.1% of the industry. A larger homecare co-op sector can have a stronger political impact and reduce costs through sharing resources. Another path to scale is through the conversion of existing homecare agencies to the cooperative model. In September, UWCC and The ICA Group will deliver a presentation to homecare agency owners on the opportunity to sell their business to their employees at the Wisconsin Personal Services Association’s 2019 Summit.
  • Worker-focused jobs – Improving worker livelihoods through higher wages and having a voice improves care and increases retention rates. A recent survey by the ICA Group showed that amongst the 2,600+ homecare cooperative workers, wages were $1.84/hour higher than the industry average. Furthermore, it also showed that co-ops outperform non-cooperative agencies in worker retention. Homecare cooperatives have an average turnover rate of 30% compared to the national average of 67%.
  • Support structures – UWCC participates in the annual National Homecare Cooperative Conference, provides direct technical assistance to homecare co-ops in Wisconsin, and contributes to the growing body of resources for new and established homecare cooperatives. These activities help homecare co-ops address issues related to retention, financial literacy, and understanding cooperative governance.
While there are many challenges to overcome in the homecare industry, we continue to grow our power to support better livelihoods through cooperatives – for both workers and those who rely on their care.
How can you get involved?

Cooperative Tapestry:
Food Co-ops Gather in Durham, NC

This year's Cooperative Management Association (CCMA) Conference was centered around the theme, "Cooperative Tapestry: Fostering Democracy and Equity in Our Communities." The annual national conference for grocery cooperatives was hosted by UWCC along with Durham Co-op Market, Weaver Street Market, and Carolina Common Enterprise. CCMA brought together 375 food co-op leaders from 80 cooperatives to discuss pressing issues and innovations. 

Participants toured host co-ops, local cooperatively-owned businesses, and community organizations throughout Durham. The opening session kicked off with a panel of retail industry leaders discussing the future of retail and how cooperatives can compete.
On Saturday, Dara Cooper of the National Black Food & Justice Alliance shared her racial equity work with food hubs and cooperatives. Thirty breakout sessions addressed topics ranging from expansion and engagement strategies to board oversight and sizing up the competition.
The closing session brought together cooperative leaders from different sectors in North Carolina to share how their cooperatives are staying relevant to members by addressing community needs. The closing night party featured local North Carolina barbecue, cooperatively made wine, and entertainment from Durham's foremost social justice drag family, House of Coxx.
Recognizing outstanding leadership and innovation in food cooperatives, the 2019 Cooperative Excellence awards were given to:
  • Cooperative Service – Allan Gallant, Blooming Prairie Foundation and Food Co-op Initiative
  • Cooperative Innovation & Achievement – Nancy O'Connor, The Merc Co+op
  • Cooperative Board Service – Twin Pines Cooperative Foundation board
  • Cooperative Excellence Award – Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op
  • Food Co-op Startup of the Year - Green Top Grocery
CCMA 2020 will be hosted by The Co-op Natural Foods in Sioux Falls, South Dakota!

SAVE THE DATE: 22nd Annual Farmer Cooperatives Conference 

Anne Reynolds Inducted into
the Cooperative Hall of Fame

Anne Reynolds, former executive director of the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives, was inducted into the Cooperative Hall of Fame on May 8 in Washington, DC. Induction into the Cooperative Hall of Fame is the highest honor that the U.S. cooperative community bestows on the extraordinary men and women who have made genuinely heroic contributions in support of the cooperative form of enterprise. Anne’s Honoring Video can be viewed here. Thank you again for joining us in honoring Anne and supporting the important work of the Cooperative Development Foundation.

In Brief: Updates & Resources

UWCC to Research Latinx Co-ops

The Cooperative Development Fund recently awarded UWCC a grant of $5,000 to research and take inventory of Latinx co-ops in the United States. Although not the first research to include Latinx co-ops, this will be the first national compilation of U.S. Latinx co-ops. Latinx people have long been an influential and integral part of the U.S. cooperative movement. This research will provide a better understanding of how the cooperative model is currently used among Latinx populations. The renowned Dr. Jessica Gordon Nembhard, professor of City University of New York, will provide advisory support to UWCC Cooperative Development Specialist and Chicanx Esther West. Dr. Gordon Nembhard is author of Collective Courage, and her work has inspired the creation of Black-led co-ops nationally. By recognizing modern Latinx co-ops in the U.S. and providing a means for greater connection, this research will provide a foundation for further Latinx co-op research, support, and growth.

Co-ops Directors 101 Provides Foundation for New Directors

Since 2015, UWCC and Cooperative Network have co-hosted Co-op Director Forums that bring together co-op directors from all sectors and types to discuss issues impacting cooperatives. From those meetings, we saw a need for targeted training for new directors to ensure that they have foundational knowledge to lead a cooperative business. In May, UWCC and Cooperative Network hosted 30 directors from the farmer, home care, transportation, and grocery sectors. The Co-op Directors 101 program focused on roles and responsibilities of co-op directors, co-op finance 101, strategies for good decision making, and developing a more efficient board. 

Grants Awarded to Support Forestry Cooperative Development

In March 2019, the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives awarded three grants for forestry cooperative development around Wisconsin totaling $47,500. The grant recipients are:  Golden Sands Resource Conservation and Development Council, Inc.Northwoods Alliance Inc. with Partners in Forestry Landowner Cooperative; and Wisconsin Urban Wood.  Recipients will use their funds for a range of activities from woodland cooperative development and sustainable forest management workshops for landowners to expanding marketing efforts for urban wood utilization.       

Upcoming Events

September 12, 2019
Madison, WI

This one-day Regional Policy Roundtable discussion is an opportunity to connect with local leaders and cooperative business experts to identify and articulate the most significant strategic national, state and local policies, financing mechanisms and other systems and structures that support or impede cooperative development.

More information
November 6-8, 2019
St. Paul, MN

The Farmer Cooperatives Conference is a national event highlighting the latest strategic thinking on current cooperative issues and trends. It provides a forum for cooperative directors, managers, and those doing business with agricultural cooperatives to learn and exchange ideas with policy, research, and legal experts about issues currently affecting the agricultural cooperative community.

More Information
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