by John A McNamara, Northwest Cooperative Development Center

The Northwest Cooperative Development Center (NWCDC) works in multiple sectors of co-op development in the Pacific Northwest region of Oregon, Idaho, and Washington (NWCDC is based in Olympia, WA). During 2021 many projects came to fruition in housing, worker cooperatives, and NWCDC’s Co-op Academy. To keep up with demand, NWCDC has expanded to 10 full time staff members working together to foster community economic development primarily through the cooperative business model.

Over 200 Homes Preserved During Housing Crisis

In June, three manufactured housing communities in Central Washington were added to the ROC Northwest portfolio of Resident Owned Communities (ROC), preserving over 200 affordable homes. Bringing the grand total to 20 ROCs in Washington. A ROC is a housing cooperative business comprised of resident members that own their homes. Collectively they democratically manage the business using lot fees to cover the cost of maintaining the property. In total, an estimated 450 people, including adults and children, will benefit from these acquisitions.

  • Royal Coachman Homeowners Cooperative, in Royal City, closed on June 8 preserving 59 total units.
  • Quail Run Homeowners Cooperative, in Moses Lake, closed on June 9 preserving 66 total units.
  • Selah Hills Homeowners Cooperative, in Selah, closed on June 30 preserving 104 total units.

Salish Sea Co-op Academy Launches 4 Co-ops

Due to the pandemic, participants in NWCDC’s 4th annual Co-op Academy met on-line. Though the academy focused on the Salish Sea communities of San Juan and Islands Counties in Washington, participants joined from across the PNW and further. At the final session, participants presented on the co-ops that they will be bringing to fruition in the coming year. Cooperative business concepts included:

  • An Oregon based co-op developing tablet and phone apps to help people with dementia (a possible partnership with home care co-ops).
  • A Montana based Equine Support co-op for people with horses to provide quality care and break down social and economic hierarchies.
  • A Washington based Mushroom co-op focusing on Lions Mane production and a commitment to BIPOC leadership and development
  • A national co-op, the Data Scientist Co-op, commits to providing universal access to information around corporate political donations to create more transparency (openness and honesty) in US elections.

Worker-owned Cooperatives

NWCDC, continues its programming in support of caregiver owned homecare co-ops. Heartsong Homecare Cooperative became Washington’s 5th homecare co-op this year. Homecare continues to be a rapidly growing sector in the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Baby Boom. The 5 cooperatives provide over 4 dozen jobs paying above $15/hour. In addition to these start-ups, NWCDC expects 4-5 existing businesses to finalize their conversion to worker ownership by the end of 2021 and has contracted with the City of Olympia for a special academy focused on converting 5 businesses in the coming year.


Supporting Inclusion

In the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd and others in 2020, NWCDC worked with community partners to help incorporate messaging around justice, equity, diversity, inclusion into our work. NWCDC partnered with Miik Wells for development of a training program: Inner Equity: Incl.u.des Includes You that was incorporated into the Co-op Academy and as a stand-alone training program. NWCDC also worked with Brandon King (a founding member of Cooperation Jackson) during the Salish Sea Co-op Academy.

As we look forward to the end of Covid-19, we will be working across our region to help build up resilient rural economies by helping business owners create succession plans that keeps their businesses open and thriving under the cooperative model, creating more resident owned communities to provide greater housing security, and helping people meet their needs and take ownership of their economy