Appalachia Cooperates Initiative

Appalachia Cooperates Initiative

The Appalachia Cooperates Initiative (ACI) is a learning network connecting cooperative, community, business, and economic developers and advocates in Central Appalachia. The Appalachia Cooperates Initiative was born out of a collaborative dialogue between partners in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. The College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) Center for Cooperatives at The Ohio State University leads the Initiative, facilitating and organizing sessions. Collaborative organizations contribute to the development of ACI strategies and learning sessions, including contributing their vast expertise in economic development, community building, and scholarship to learning sessions.

Goals of the Appalachia Cooperates Initiative 

Appalachia Cooperates Initiative

  • Develop practitioners’ understanding of the co-op business model and development resources to better recognize and act on co-op opportunities 
  • Foster relationships among practitioners that will facilitate joint co-op development activities and allow practitioners to better utilize existing resources 
  • Raise awareness of the co-op business model as an opportunity for economic development and justice in the region 

How to Get Involved

The Appalachia Cooperates Initiative hosts quarterly workshops, dialogues, screenings and other events that are focused on learning and peer-exchange around the co-op model. How can you get involved in your cooperative community? Check out some ideas below! 

Attend Appalachia Cooperates Initiative learning sessions and other activities 

Subscribe to the CFAES Center for Cooperatives email list to receive updates about upcoming events and news from the Center. Subscribe to the Cooperativedev email list here. Connect with the CFAES Center for Cooperatives directly at Follow the CFAES Center for Cooperatives on Twitter @OSUCooperatives for updates. 

Volunteer with organizations that support development of cooperatives

Offer help with tasks that utilize your unique skills such as translation, graphic and web design, newsletter articles, social media, member recruitment, and more. 

Get connected to development networks

Seek out and get involved with organizations supporting economic, workforce, and business development in your community including small business networks, community institutions, and existing cooperatives. 

Learn about the cooperative business model

There are many ways to learn about the cooperative business model from technical assistance and support organizations to web resources, books, and more. Check out recordings of past ACI learning sessions below and explore Co-op Mastery: Beyond Co-ops 101, the CFAES Center for Cooperatives online learning platform. (Tip: Co-op Mastery's Library is a great resource for taking a deep dive into the cooperative model!)


View Past Event Recordings

Challenges and Opportunities for Cooperation: Childcare Access in West Virginia" (April 30, 2024)

Panelist Speaker: Kristy Ritz, Executive Director of the West Virginia Association for Young Children and guests 

Representatives of the West Virginia Association for Young Children shared challenges and obstacles West Virginia childcare centers are facing, from rising costs of supplies like food to retaining enough qualified employees. The CFAES Center for Cooperatives team shared some models of childcare cooperatives that might help providers meet those challenges. Participants shared their activities to explore opportunities for cooperatives in childcare through a Rural Partners Network initiative in southern West Virginia. 



Mondragon Cooperative Experience with Dr. Todd Nesbitt (October 11, 2023)

Panelist Speaker: Todd Nesbitt, Professor at Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Todd Nesbitt talks about his recent travel to visit the worker cooperative ecosystem of the Basque Region of Spain, including what we can learn about creating worker cooperative networks in the United States and Appalachia. The co-op ecosystem in the Basque Region is an example of worker cooperative development known worldwide.



Selling to Your Workers (September 18, 2023)

Panelist Speaker: David Gray, Project Equity

Are you a business owner thinking about retirement and succession strategies? Do you work with business owners getting ready for the next life stage of their business? Selling to workers is one alternative for business owners thinking about transitions or succession planning!  This webinar was hosted by the CFAES Center for Cooperatives at Ohio State, in partnership with Project Equity, as we dive into the mechanics of selling an existing business to workers!



Cooperatives and Sustainable Development in Appalachia  (June 29, 2023)

Panelist Speakers: Todd Nesbitt, Professor at Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania; Myrisa Christy, Project and Development Specialist with Kentucky Center for Agricultural and Rural Development; and Hannah Scott, Program Director at The Ohio State University CFAES Center for Cooperatives, and moderated by Dr. Kathryn Engle, Director of the Appalachian Center at the University of Kentucky.

Cooperatives are democratic enterprises with embedded values of self-help, solidarity, and equity. From farmers marketing their products to consumers accessing new or affordable goods and services to workers democratically owning their workplace, the model is being applied across Appalachia.



All about Housing Co-ops: What are they and how do they work? (March 7, 2023)

Speakers: Peter Dean, Director of the National Co-op Community Services, and Andrew Reicher, former Executive Director of Urban Homesteading Assistance Board

Description: Interested in the housing cooperative process but don’t know where to start? Appalachian Cooperative Initiative hosted an introductory session on how a housing co-op works and the development and operations of cooperative housing. Presenters Peter Dean, Director of the National Co-op Community Services, and Andrew Reicher, Executive Director of UHAB, share their expertise in the housing co-op sector.



*View a transcript of the recording here.

Legal Frameworks For Cooperatives in West Virginia (September 29, 2022)

Speakers: John Williams, attorney and program director of the Entrepreneurship & Innovation Law Clinic at West Virginia University

Description: Whether you’re a community member interested in co-ops or a service provider helping farmers, businesses, or communities, join us for a webinar with John Williams, attorney and program director of the Entrepreneurship & Innovation Law Clinic at West Virginia University to a learn about the legal frameworks for cooperatives in West Virginia and the services of the EILC. ​


*View a transcript of the recording here.

Building a Community Economy: Exploring Worker and Community Ownership Models (March 30, 2022)

Speakers: Ellen Vera, Director of Development and Co-op Organizing, Co-op Cincy and Hannah Scott, JD, Program Manager for the CFAES Center for Cooperatives

Description: From worker-owned restaurants to parent-led childcare centers and community-owned groceries, the cooperative model builds principles of self-help, democratic control, and joint ownership into business models. Speakers from the CFAES Center for Cooperatives at Ohio State and Co-op Cincy discuss the cooperative business model, with a special focus on worker cooperatives, and the ways cooperatives are helping build community economies.

*View a transcript of the recording here.

Building Legacies: Retaining Jobs and Creating Wealth through Worker Ownership (December 20, 2021) 

Speaker: Michael Palmieri, Research Associate & Special Projects at the Ohio Employee Ownership Center at Kent State University

Description: In “Building Legacies: Retaining Jobs and Creating Wealth through Worker Ownership,” Michael Palmieri and Chris Cooper of the Ohio Employee Ownership Center (OEOC) at Kent State University explore how employee ownership can change the workplace, particularly as many business owners consider retirement. Join the CFAES Center for Cooperatives and Michael Palmieri of the OEOC at Kent State University to learn about current research around the benefits of employee ownership and opportunities to cultivate employee ownership.

*View a transcript of the recording here.

Building a Self-Help Network of Cooperatives: The Electric Co-ops Story (September 2, 2021)

Speaker: Doug Miller, Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives, VP of Statewide Services

Description: As communities and regions look to innovative models for economic and community development, the cooperative model, and particularly networks of cooperation have emerged as a strategy to build local ownership and wealth. The story of rural electric cooperatives across the United States is a story about the power of self-help networks. Doug Miller of Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives will share how the rural electric co-op community has built connections among local cooperatives, state and national organizations, and co-ops of cooperatives to support over 900 rural electric co-ops serving over 50% of the nation’s landmass.

*View a transcript of the recording here.

Cooperating for Connectivity: An Appalachian Broadband Webinar (March 23, 2021)

Speakers: Mike Keyser, CEO, BARC Electric Cooperative and David Brown, co-founder, Southeast Ohio Broadband Cooperative

Description: For many Appalachians, the question is not only when will broadband internet access arrive but at what cost. During the COVID-19 pandemic, citizens, schools, and employers in the region all have struggled to gain reliable access to the internet. Join us to see how some have used cooperation to provide broadband to Appalachian community members. Learn from guest speakers Mike Keyser, CEO of the BARC Electric Cooperative, and David Brown, co-founder of  the Southeast Ohio Broadband Cooperative. Mike has led his rural electric co-op to include broadband services for their member-owners in Appalachian Virginia and David has successfully led a grassroots effort to provide broadband to residents in Washington County, Ohio.

*View a transcript of the recording here.

Exploring Appalachia’s Cooperative Economy (January 27, 2021)

Speakers: Hannah Scott, Program Manager, CFAES Center for Cooperatives at Ohio State and Ryan Kline, Cooperative Development Specialist, CFAES Center for Cooperatives at Ohio State

Description: From Western Pennsylvania to Eastern Kentucky, central Appalachia fosters a network of cooperatives as diverse as the people who call the region home. Join us to learn more about the foundations of the co-op model, cooperatives as economic development agents, and cooperative efforts in Appalachia today.

*View a transcript of the recording here. 

Cooperating for Sustainable Development in Partnership with Environmental Professionals Network, OSU SENR and OSU Sustainability Institute (November 10, 2020) 

Speakers: Jeff Sharp, Director, School of Environment and Natural Resources, OSU; Ryan Schmiesing, Vice Provost for Outreach and Engagement, OSU; Cathann A. Kress, Vice President for Agricultural Administration and Dean of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, OSU; Doug O'Brien, President & CEO, National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International; Kip Curtis, Associate Professor, OSU; Matthew Stanfield, President, Richland Gro-Op; Walt Bonham, Founder, Gardener, Farmer & Chef, The Food Lab; Tom Worley, Director, CFAES Center for Cooperatives, OSU

Description: Cooperatives are uniquely positioned to address today’s grand challenges, from growing wealth inequality, to climate change, to the increasing divide between America’s rural and urban communities. Co-ops are driven by member problem-solving and innovation. They build wealth through ownership and champion concern for community. View this program to learn about the Richland Gro-Op cooperative approach to solving environmental, social, and economic challenges. You will learn ways that cooperative businesses can drive sustainable development. 

Small Business Transition to Worker Ownership (September 18, 2020)

Speaker: Roy Messing, Ohio Employee Ownership Center at Kent State University, Executive Director

Description: With an estimated 2.34 million small businesses in the U.S. owned by entrepreneurs who are 55 years old or older, the ownership transition of small businesses is vital to the health of our economy and communities. Worker ownership is one strategy to transition a small business while also building worker wealth.

Join the Appalachia Cooperates Initiative and guests from the Ohio Employee Ownership Center to learn about worker ownership as a business transition strategy, the process for such transitions, and real-world examples of worker ownership conversions.

*View a transcript of the recording here. 

What Can Central Appalachia Learn from Mondragon and Worker Cooperative Collaboratives? (July 22, 2020)

Speakers: Michael A. Peck, 1worker1vote, co-founder and executive director and Amanda Marple, West Virginia University Center for Resilient Communities, Program Director of Education and Outreach
Description: The Mondragon Cooperative Corporation, a system of worker-owned cooperatives in the Basque region of Spain founded its first enterprise in 1956 during an economic crisis. Today, Mondragon’s network of manufacturing, financial, retail, and other firms is recognized as one of the most important models for worker-owned co-ops in the world. What can Central Appalachia learn from this story? Join the Appalachia Cooperates Initiative to learn about the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation model, ways the model might be applied in Appalachia, and the opportunities and challenges to worker-ownership in Central Appalachia.


*View a transcript of the recording here.