Cultivating Equity & Building Power

A DEI Peer Group for Co-op Leaders

Summer 2021 – Fall 2022


We are building a peer learning cohort to highlight and strengthen the diversity, equity, and inclusion work of cooperatives. By integrating the work of leading-edge practitioners and best DEI practices within particular industries, and investigating regional and industry specific histories, this cohort aims to build a strong network of cooperative leaders who will be equipped to cast a vision for incorporating DEI practices in their own cooperatives.  Through facilitated peer-to-peer feedback, group discussion, and individual writing / reflection, this cohort not only equips leaders with frameworks and tools to incorporate best DEI practices in their cooperative, but also works to situate the significance of that DEI work within a broader vision of the role cooperatives play in reweaving a new economic ecosystem that advances power-building, and social and economic equity among low-income communities and communities of color.

Words from past workshop participants

  • “I was surprised by how quickly we were able to drop into high-trust sharing and collaboration.” – Sam Hummel
  • “In an age of networks, they understand the power of the collective and its importance for our time.” – Kemp Battle
  • “Their fresh perspective and agility in linking seemingly disparate concepts and opportunities in new ways is truly a gift… and much needed in today’s transforming world!” – Michaela Duffy
  • “Felipe brings deep knowledge of the cooperative world he developed as a practitioner.” – Marco Vangelisti
  • “They understand that these businesses [co-ops] are solution machines with the potential to address many of today’s greatest social, economic, and environmental challenges.” – Doug O’Brien

About this Workshop

  • Four 90-minute workshop sessions facilitated virtually through Zoom (July 28, 2021; October 27, 2021; February 16, 2022; and May 25, 2022)
  • Four prompts/frameworks to help you prepare for each workshop session to go deeper in your understanding of what you most want to learn/apply regarding DEI practices in your cooperative (plan to invest 10-12 hours per quarter via these prompts to prepare for each workshop session);
  • Optional “Deep Dive” Cohort to meet monthly to engage in more depth (details below);
  • Deep connection and collaboration with other leaders through collective imagining and case studies exploring the potential for transformation through incorporating DEI practices in your cooperative and the potential these practices have for building power and ownership in low-income communities and communities of color;
  • Accountability in doing the hard work first and embracing emotional labor;
  • A way to build relationships across the field of cooperative businesses.
  • Optional: The workshop culminates through participants’ Capstone Presentations at the in-person Cooperative IMPACT Conference in October 2022 where participants will lead/present on their learning outcomes, proposals for organizational change within their cooperatives, visions for broader industry-wide and/or regional impact.

We are building this experience to include group work, collective and individual discernment practices, personal writing/reflection, and meaningful feedback from peers. It will be a way to extend and expand the culture we’re seeking to create—a deeply relational culture that’s curious, generous, and focused on building communities of collaboration and new economic praxis.

Two Tiers of Participation

  • “High-Level” ~15 hours/quarter
    – Large Group Meetings (90 minutes/session) + 10-12 hours of preparatory reading and reflection
  • “Deep Dive” ~2 additional hours/month
    – “Deep Dive” Cohort will meet 1x/month for additional 60-min sessions and one reflection/writing piece each month in advance of the Large Group Meetings
    – This “Deep Dive” Cohort will meet monthly in small groups of five to check-in on key reflections
    – Indicate your interest in a “Deep Dive” Cohort in your application

Apply here

Why this format?

Due to the information-oriented culture we live in and the lingering effects of quarantine, we are bombarded with news and opinions and yet left with fewer in-person relationships to process and digest this flood of information. Worse, we’re often swimming in bubbles of ideas very similar to our own. While the world continues to move at an ever faster pace; to create structural change requires us to slow down and reflect—often with the shared insight of others.

This workshop is meant to be an environment for exactly that. An opportunity to engage deeply with ideas, both individually and collectively, and to foster new and genuine relationships with cross-sector peers about how we can leverage the tools of our own cooperatives, histories, DEI best practices, and innovation to explore the potential cooperatives have to build power, ownership, and economic equity among low-income communities and communities of color.

Through writing and dialogue over a sustained year-long period, we’ll work collectively to build trust, community and solutions. Writing will allow us to engage with our ideas and emotions critically and surface the best of our individual insights in an authentic voice. Through reading the writing of others we’ll gain perspective from peers about new concepts and get needed feedback on our own work. Together we’ll refine and discuss ways to use the collective knowledge of the cohort to progress from ideas to application.

Who is this for?

This workshop is for cooperative leaders seeking a bold new imagination around DEI practices in their specific cooperative and a vision for the broader role cooperatives can play building power and promoting economic equity in low-income communities and communities of color. We seek participants who are versed in DEI work, as well as those who are simply interested in better understanding its promise and application. Mostly, we seek to build a community that is eager to learn, dream and imagine together towards a more equitable economy and the roles cooperatives can take leading the way.


This workshop is divided into three parts for a total of four workshop sessions:

Frameworks: History & Identity (one session)

  1. Policy, Exclusion, Possibility? What major US policies in the last century continue to shape and influence businesses, communities, and individual experiences today?
  2. Origin Stories Tracing the histories of specific industries (agriculture, electric, food, etc.) and regions where cooperatives have significant market penetration. Where/how/why did your specific cooperative come to exist? How has your industry and cooperative been affected by broader economic and social shifts in American life and public policy?
  3. Collective Identity Who makes up this cooperative? What does your particular cooperative want to embody? How is this vision distinct in your industry? How can intentional focus on DEI contribute to strengthening your cooperative, and your industry? What challenges have or could emerge?

DEI Best Practices: Making DEI specific (two sessions)

  1. Surveying the Field Examples of leading-edge companies at the forefront of DEI. Practices, policy, and leadership that make DEI concrete and leads to institutional /cultural transformation.
  2. A Closer Look Analyzing the culture, power dynamics, and key leaders in your industry, region, and cooperative. What policies, practices, and corporate structures perpetuate exclusion?
  3. Envisioning Change What are the horizons for possible change in your cooperative and in your industry/region around DEI? What role could your cooperative play in the transformation of your member’s experiences, and also the broader industry/region in which your cooperative competes?

Community Building for the Long Haul (one session)

  1. Networks of Trust Building this peer learning cohort as a community of practitioners/professionals to co-labor in pressing individuals, cooperatives, and industries further into their deepest DEI work. Casting a vision for this cohort to cultivate a thick network of experiences to sustain participants’ appetite to meet and collaborate BOTH through AND after the cohort experience ends.
  2. A New Vehicle Organizing key leaders from this cohort to lead the next generation of transformative DEI work in the cooperative movement, and in specific industries and regions.


  • Q&A/Info Session – Is this workshop for me?
    – Wednesday, May 19, 12 pm EDT (via Zoom)
    RSVP and learn more– Wednesday, May 26, 12 pm EDT (via Zoom)
    RSVP and learn more
  • Workshop dates
    – July 28, 2021, 12 pm EDT
    – October 27, 2021, 12 pm EST
    – February 16, 2022, 12 pm EST
    – May 25, 2022, 12 pm EDT
  • “Deep Dive” Cohort
    – Monthly meetings, beginning August 2021 (will NOT meet the months of October 2021, February 2022, May 2022). Last “Deep Dive” Cohort meeting June 2022.
    – Indicate your interest in a “Deep Dive” cohort in your application
    Apply here
  • Capstone: Presentation Planning Meeting (optional)
    – August 2022 (follow-up meeting September 2022)
  • Capstone: Cooperative IMPACT Conference (optional)
    – October 2022
  • Applications (for “High-Level” participation and “Deep Dive” Cohort) are due June 1, 2021
    Apply here


  • Felipe Witchger brings a love for creating spaces where we can get free to focus on our most important work. He loves economics, unleashing investors, entrepreneurs, and organizers, and facilitating dynamic projects that transform. He’s eager to build power and new vehicles for action around this new economy we desperately need.
  • Cullen McKenney, PhD brings a decade of experience teaching, facilitating, and organizing. He integrates a passion for community organizing with critical historical analysis as fundamental tools for agitating social and institutional transformation in local communities.
  • Tamela Blalock is Vice President of Cooperative Relations at the National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International (NCBA CLUSA), where she enhances engagement and impact with the trade association among the collective cooperative leadership community. NCBA CLUSA is the primary voice for cooperatives in the U.S. that use the cooperative business model to empower people in their businesses and communities.
  • Rev. Dr. Fatimah Salleh brings 15 years as a race educator for organizations large and small. Her lived experience, work as a pastor and theologian, DEI trainer, help us dream of and make real progress towards a future of reciprocity and mutuality.