Austin, UTRGV partner to educate people on benefits of co-ops

University Co-Op

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The City of Austin is partnering with a University of Texas system school in hopes to build more cooperatives citywide.

The city announced Thursday it will provide training, coaching and classes on how to start co-ops — both business and residential — through UT Rio Grande Valley. It’s an effort to address racial and economic inequality and housing affordability.

Co-ops are simply businesses and residences owned by an independent group of people who meet common needs through shared ownership and democratic control.

Austin already has several co-op businesses, and the city’s Chief Economic Recovery Officer Veronica Briseño said Austin can benefit from more education about how to develop co-ops in both the business and housing sectors.

“The Austin community is a welcoming environment for cooperatives, like Wheatsville, Black Star Co-op, ATX Taxi Co-op, or the UT bookstore,” she said. “We want to educate our residents and business owners of the benefits of co-ops and encourage the creation of more co-ops in Austin.”

The city plans to offer a series of six courses through UTRGV taught by co-op experts. The topics include:

  • Introduction to Worker-owned Cooperatives is for groups and individuals at the early stages of learning about or forming a worker-owned cooperative.
  • Housing Cooperative Formation and Governance is designed to give participants the knowledge and tools they need to create cooperative housing.
  • Convert your Small Business to a Cooperative Format is appropriate for business owners as well as prospective employee-owners. Classes will detail the conversion process from the perspective of both owner-sellers and employee-buyers.
  • Cooperative Governance will address key concepts in governance, and participants will have an opportunity to work through sample governance scenarios in small groups.
  • Finances and Accounting for Cooperatives provides an overview for groups and individuals forming or running cooperatives of the financial and accounting nuances specific to this business type.
  • Worker Co-op Management is for groups at the early to intermediate stages of forming a worker-owned business to identify which structure makes sense for their cooperative project and guidance for how to turn their management plans into action.

“Co-ops can strengthen local neighborhoods by preserving jobs and providing affordable housing alternatives,” the city said. “Co-ops have management and financial nuances that are different from conventional business ownership structures. Knowing what steps to take in forming a co-op business or housing project can determine the degree of success for a new co-op.”

The first class, an introduction to co-op housing, is at 6 p.m., March 24. Go to the city’s Eventbrite page to register for the course, and if you want to sign up for more, go to the city’s small business division site.

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