View a timeline of worker co-ops since MadWorC's founding and a snapshot from 2023

MadWorC History Narrative

MadWorC began to meet in 2009. In 2012 we incorporated as a cooperative under Chapter 185 of the WI Statutes. In July 2019 we re-filed our Articles of Incorporation and are now a 501(c)(3) non-profit cooperative. We promote worker ownership and democratic workplaces in WI. We support the creation, development and growth of democratic workplaces organized as worker cooperatives. We provide peer support and mentoring to new and existing worker cooperatives through our monthly meetings, public outreach, and voluntary support. Our vision is a peer support network with outreach, trainings, and social events to ensure the sustainability of each cooperative and our cooperative community.

Over the years we have expanded our support to new worker cooperative development. The first new co-op we supported is the Interpreters Cooperative, which is very active in MadWorC! 

During the 2011 protests in WI, MadWorC supported workers rights and unions, with a visible presence at the protests. We started our outreach efforts, tabling at the Farmer's Market all summer. We now table at many neighborhood festivals. We ran a “board member exchange program” where members of cooperative boards could sit in on the meetings of other cooperative boards. We also took a trip to visit cooperatives in Milwaukee. 

In 2011, we joined Summit Credit Union's Principle 6 efforts, including the creation of Co-op Connections, now an annual event drawing thousands. MadWorC members were key in getting the City to commit funds for a Cooperative Business Conference, meeting with Mayor Soglin, and working with the organizers using our knowledge and connections to help plan the successful 2012 conference that drew hundreds of economic development professionals from around the state. The conference planted the seed for the Madison Cooperative Development Coalition (MCDC), and multiple MadWorC members helped plan, organize, and implement MCDC's programs.

In 2012, Madison cooperatives were featured in the documentary, Shift Change, and we arranged a screening attended by over 150 people. We hosted Co-Cycle, a group of youth biking across the country to visit cooperatives. We supported the beginning of Center Point Counseling Services Cooperative and the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Cooperative. We hosted a presentation on the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation, attended by 60 people.

We’ve hosted a number of events featuring influential cooperators and solidarity economy organizations. In 2016, we hosted Kali Okuno from Cooperation Jackson. In 2018 we co-hosted an event about unions and cooperatives, with MCDC. In 2019, we co-hosted Ed Whitfield from the Fund 4 Democratic Communities.

MadWorC members helped organize the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives (USFWC), with members serving on the Board from 2006 through 2018, and serving as President for five years. MadWorC members have also been certified as DAWN (Democracy at Work Network) Certified Peer Advisors.

Over the years our members have given presentations to various cooperative, government, non-profit, church, and school groups, as well as presentations at Board Training events around the state. MadWorC members have given presentations at the USFWC biennial national conference in 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018.

In 2019, we applied for a grant from the Madison Cooperative Development Coalition, and in 2020, we hired our first ever staff-person. Having a halftime staff person drastically increased our capacity. 

In 2020, days before the COVID pandemic shutdowns, we hosted a Regional Rendezvous that drew 60 people from around the midwest to discuss worker cooperatives. One of the needs identified by the group is the need for more education about worker cooperatives, with consensus that starting at the trade school level would be a logical place to start. In 2021, MadWorC received a grant from the Cooperative Development Foundation to develop a worker cooperative curriculum for trade school students, with a practical element so that students leave with the materials and information they need to start a worker cooperative. 

We started a virtual book club during the pandemic, originally to read Collective Courage by Jessica Gordon-Nembhard, and then continued to read additional books about cooperatives, organizing, and labor. We also hosted a virtual Regional Rendezvous in 2021 and 2022. In 2022, we committed to providing Spanish language translation and interpretation for the first time. 

We created our first strategic plan in 2021, which goes until 2024 and guides our activities and decisions. 

In 2023, we returned to an in-person Regional Rendezvous, and continued to provide Spanish language translation and interpretation. We also underwent some internal work to create our organization's shared values. After a few attempts, we also taught our first "Start a Worker Co-op Class" through the Professional and Continuing Education division at Madison College.