Cooperative Academy

Cooperation Buffalo’s Cooperative Academy is an intensive 13-week training program that helps teams of cooperative entrepreneurs develop worker-owned cooperative businesses.


For 13 Tuesdays from August 31st through November 23rd, teams will engage in classroom training with experts in business development, finance, governance, democratic decision making, and participatory management, and will learn about the rich history and culture of cooperative economics in the US, and in Buffalo, NY.


After completing the course and pitching your cooperative business concept, Academy graduates will continue to receive one-on-one technical assistance from Cooperation Buffalo to guide you through legal requirements, securing start-up capital, and navigating other resources on your way to launching your co-op.


  • Over 25 hours of training by skilled experts

  • One-on-one technical assistance from cooperative business developers

  • Training and support in fundraising, legal, and other start-up requirements

  • Access to a peer-support network beyond the length of the course

  • Greater visibility and name recognition for your cooperative

  • Meet and network with member-owners of existing Buffalo cooperatives

 Application Window Closed 


Who is it for?


The Cooperative Academy is designed for teams working together on a single business concept. Teams of at least 2 people are encouraged to apply, whether at the idea stage, already taking steps to grow a business, or considering a conversion of an existing business to worker-ownership.


While the Cooperative Academy is open to everyone, we give higher priority to applications from teams based in Buffalo and those made up of members of traditionally marginalized communities, including Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, immigrants, queer and trans folx, formerly incarcerated, and others who have been historically excluded from participation in the mainstream economy and opportunities to build wealth.


Worker cooperatives are successful in any industry, so all business ideas are welcome, especially those that strive to meet the criteria of our Values Filter:


  1. Shift economic control to communities

  2. Democratize wealth and the workplace

  3. Advance ecological restoration

  4. Drive racial justice and social equity

  5. Relocalize most production and consumption

  6. Retain and restore cultures and traditions


How many people can be on a team?


Teams of 2 or more individuals are encouraged to apply. A worker cooperative is owned and managed by its workers, and your plan for your cooperative will be strongest if the team of workers participates together in creating it.


In special cases, such as if you are a business owner thinking about selling your business to its workers, or if you are the only team member who is able to attend the Academy sessions, it may be okay to participate in the Academy on your own. Please talk to us if this is the case!


The application process for the Cooperative Academy is highly competitive. We're looking out for strong, dedicated teams with a mix of talents and experience.


Who can apply?


There are 4 requirements to apply:


  • Teams must be 2 or more individuals, except under special circumstances.

  • Each member of your team must complete the application form separately.

  • Each member that applies must be able to commit to the 13 weeks of the course, and ideally will plan to continue on your start-up journey after the course ends.

  • You must have a single business concept in mind for you and your team when you apply.


Note: You do not need to already be in business and you can absolutely be at the idea stage. The Cooperative Academy is designed to support teams in the early stages of their business, including the idea stage.


Is there a fee to participate?


The Fall 2021 Cooperative Academy is offered free of charge thanks to support from charitable foundations and individual donors.


When is the Fall 2021 Cooperative Academy?


The Fall 2021 Cooperative Academy takes place on Tuesday evenings from 6:00 to 8:00 pm, beginning August 31st and running through November 23rd.


In addition to the weekly evening sessions, all participants are expected to meet weekly with your teams and dedicate additional time towards homework, including research, business planning, building democratic internal structures, and completing your Final Project and pitch.


Where is it held?


The Fall 2021 Cooperative Academy will be held virtually using Zoom and Google Classroom. Applicants should have access to a computer with a camera, and will need to create a Google account. It is possible (but not ideal) to attend Zoom sessions on a phone or tablet instead. This is a live course; it is designed to be interactive in an online group setting. We do not offer this as a recorded course.



We plan to provide simultaneous language interpretation during the Academy if applicants need it. We also ask during the application process for you to name any access needs that you may have, so we can do our best to accommodate them. If technology will be a barrier due to the online nature of the course, let us know so we can work it out together.


How to apply


You can apply today using this form! Applications are due by August 1st. We will review your application and contact you to set up an interview with your full team. We may also reach out via email or phone with further questions, or to follow up on any of your access needs or requests for more information.


Applicant interviews


All team members must complete the application and we will follow up to schedule a 30 minute interview over the phone with ALL team members. We will do interviews on a rolling basis during July and August. The earlier your team applies, the sooner we can interview your team.


What happens after the course ends?


Once your team completes the course, we continue to give technical assistance to support your co-op for 3 months. We have staff available to guide you through legal requirements, securing start-up capital, and navigating other resources and supports.


The goal is to make sure your co-op is incorporated and in business within a year. After the first 3 months, we will evaluate your team’s progress and decide on a path forward together: you may be ready to launch, you may require a longer-term technical assistance relationship with our co-op developers, or you may be ready to pursue start-up capital through our membership in Seed Commons. Each cooperative has multiple needs and many decisions to make, and this will depend on your timeline.


We also provide structure for you to stay connected to the Fall 2021 Cooperative Academy cohort, as well as to past Academy cohorts, to build relationships and grow a cooperative economy together. We will also promote the co-ops that complete the Academy through our events, organizational networks, and media. We want your worker co-op to become visible and let other entrepreneurs see co-ops as an option for their business goals as well.

 Application Window Closed