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Becoming a Co-op

 

Did you know that Walk2Connect is a worker-owned cooperative (co-op)?

Take a few minutes to look over the poster image and content we’ve provided below. While there is much more to share, this will at least invite you into the why, the how, and some of the what to help you better understand where we’ve come from and where we hope to go.

Light Organizational History:

Social Business: From July 2012 to March of 2016, Walk2Connect was a sole-proprietor LLC social business. Walk2Connect’s Founder, Jonathon Stalls created the organization as a for-profit business social enterprise model because he wanted the organization to anchor in A) the interest of the market (walkers, partners, and leaders) and B) the services it offers to the community. This allowed the organization to maintain great freedom in decision-making allowing for nimble, flexible, and quick-turnaround partnership opportunities while also depending on the organizations’s ability to be fully self-sustainable.

Partnerships: As long as Walk2Connect has been around, we have been able to sustain our work through a variety of community partners. Our partners span diverse representation from local, regional, and national city government, public health, non-profit, neighborhood/community, and for-profit sectors. Walk2Connect has championed hundreds of partnership-supported walks related to cardiovascular health, transportation, place-making, community connection, mental health, neighborhood asset-mapping, youth and families, public art, and so much more.

Practicing Whole-Health: Since the beginning, Jonathon Stalls (Founder) has worked hard to make sure that Walk2Connect’s commitment to whole-health plays out in the organization’s day to day operations. Keeping mission at the center with or without appropriate funding began creating challenges in the capacity of contract staff and the LLC business structure. For those involved on the inside, sustaining growth within and surrounding Walk2Connect began to demand increased (and isolated) operational transaction and less on-the-ground engagement with our mission. While business strategy and maturity remains vital and important, Jonathon (and our community Think Tank listed at the bottom) wouldn’t allow it to be the new center. It became very clear that as Walk2Connect continued to grow, a new model of collaborative ownership was needed.

What? A Walking Co-op?

Yes. Kind of like REI and your more common food market/agricultural co-ops, but not completely. After much discussion, deliberation, think-tank meetings, cooperative interviews, and legal/expert advice, our advising community and founding board decided that forming a cooperative business was the best next step to sustain our nimble and creative organization while also responding to organic growth. All cooperative businesses are member-owned companies that allow people who benefit from a specific service or product in their community to come together, pool resources, and organize to sustain the offering of specific products or services. This typically involves staff compensation, overhead, communications, marketing, legal fees, and everything else you would find in day-to-day business.

Walk2Connect is a Worker Cooperative.

This means that our co-op is owned by a community of workers, or who we are calling “Member-Owners.” These members make important decisions about partnerships, services, board members, and so much more. They are also the sustaining anchor to bring in revenue and other forms of capital (social, volunteer, sponsor) to sustain the staffing and overhead of the cooperative as a whole. There is a minimum return of 10% on every service offered by Member-Owners that will go back to the cooperative to support the grassroots whole-health walking program (30-45 free weekly walks, monthly training, communications/promotion, and walking leader development). You can learn more about co-ops and the 7 Cooperative Principles here. Please visit our Member-Owner page here for more information. After 6-8 months of working out this model, we will be more than excited to begin bringing on new Professional Members. So stay tuned and stay engaged!

More on the WHY:

Cooperatives are democratically owned and known for quickly activating real-time solutions to many economic, environmental, and societal problems. They share the benefits of the good times and collectively work through the tough times. They are wired to help sustain and partner with other cooperative companies. Their decision-making process is anchored in a collaborative “we” effort, and among many other traits, their mission and service to the community is built on self-sustainability.

Where you becomes we..
…and where we continue growing a whole-health walking movement that helps us connect to our neighborhoods, our relationships, and ourselves the way we’re built to (at 2-3mph).

Our organization has a very strong commitment to stay anchored in relationship, connection, community, and inclusiveness; therefore, we are determined to keep the majority of our walk offerings free of financial barriers. As you can imagine, most of the walks we offer (the ones you see on our calendar, social media, and in our email) demand a lot from our mostly volunteer staff. The time it takes to nurture and develop leaders, support on-going changes to walks/adding new walks, and endless email/online tasks is more than a handful of full-time jobs. The spirit of our collaborative leadership vision involves A) distributing various tasks to volunteer leaders/captains to help support new leaders in their region, B) inviting opportunities for internships and focused mentoring/coaching, and C) inspiring committed Walking Movement Leaders to become Member-Owners.

Folks, we’re the first walking cooperative of its kind.

We’re helping shape an organization that commits first to mission with a trust that all other pieces will find their way. We’re clinging tightly to our values and the great beacon that keeps us in the why. We are so grateful to each and every one of you for your support and involvement.

Take a quick minute to read over the FYI & FAQ section below.

Onwards!

Your new Walk2Connect Cooperative

A BIG THANK YOU to our:

Founding Professional Members:
Jonathon Stalls, Dawn Kirkwood, Nicole Huguenin, Darcy Kitching, Dustin Ratcliff, Chris Englert

Think Tank & Advisory Committee:
Angie Malpiede, Saoirse Charis-Graves, Rachel Hultin, Louis Chacon, Cierra McNamara

Cooperative Development Partners:
Beanstalk Foundation, Rocky Mountain Farmer’s Union, Mayu Sanctuary

Questions? Want to get more involved?
Follow this button to  out the quick form below and we’ll work on organizing a couple FAQ walking meetings with one or some of our Founding Professional Members!