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Collective Action in Rural Communities:

Mapping Opportunities for Cooperative Conversion and Start-up

USDA Agriculture Food Research Initiative

About the Program

Cooperatively owned businesses play an important role in rural economies throughout the United States. Examples include farmer-owned cooperatives and farm credit institutions, rural utility providers, rural credit unions and community banks, service sharing organizations for school districts and health-care providers, and business-to-business purchasing cooperatives that support local retail. Although their presence in rural areas is nearly universal, the extent of cooperative business activity in rural areas varies widely across regions and business sectors.

Through this grant, UWCC proposes to enhance opportunities for rural cooperative entrepreneurship by providing robust decision-making tools and research-based information to cooperative and economic developers, rural entrepreneurs, and policy makers.    

Advisory Group
UWCC is fortunate to have a national, cross-sectoral advisory group that will assess research and extension activities:

● Thomas Beckett, Co-Executive Director, Carolina Common Enterprise
● E. Kim Coontz, Executive Director, California Center for Cooperative Development
● Kevin Edberg, Executive Director, Cooperative Development Services
● Noemi Giszpenc, Executive Director, Cooperative Development Institute
● Melissa Hoover, Executive Director, Democracy at Work Institute
● Jim Johnson, Co-founder and Certified Peer Advisor, Democracy at Work Network
● John McNamara, Co-op Development Specialist, Northwest Cooperative Development Institute
● Roy Messing, Director, Ohio Employee Ownership Center
● Stuart Reid, Executive Director, Food Cooperative Initiative


● Map exisiting cooperatives, recent cooperative start-ups and conversions
● Identify clusters of robust cooperative activity in the United States
● Study environments that support cooperative development in each cluster and share lessons learned in case studies
● Create and disseminate mapping and assessment tools for use by regional cooperative and economic development centers


For questions or more information about this program, please email Anne Reynolds at