The Riverwest Cooperative Alliance (RCA) decided to devote most of our energy in 2016 toward the planning and implementation of Co-op Fest. Co-op Fest 2016 had a slow start in planning meetings in late 2015 and picked up momentum in a flurry of meetings leading up to a sunny yet chilly day in October. The theme this year was “Our. Cooperative. Communities.” with a focus on centering justice within the work we do. There was a lot of good feedback from people who participated, workshops went smoothly and the content was informative. http://rca.coop/program-2016/
The workshop on investing in our communities demonstrated the variety of options Milwaukee has in alternative economies, from older organizations like the Time Exchange, to the new Milwaukee Community Land Trust. These groups complement cooperatives well, developing social capital and using our personal time and energy to effect change. In the organizing of Co-op Fest, we made an effort bring more people to the table and to involve organizations outside the normal circles of cooperatives in Riverwest. This manifested itself in the wide variety of backgrounds of groups and attendees.
That said, attendance was low (around 50 people) compared to previous years and projections. However, the low attendance did allow for more intimate discussions and greater involvement for each participant. Through outreach and promotion we did get a more diverse set of attendees, especially people attracted to the cooperative movement from outside of Riverwest. The Riverwest Cooperative Alliance was pleasantly surprised to find out about new co-ops in the area and to expand our network of co-ops and justice-centered organizations.
A possible factor in attendance could have been the outline of the program and the cost associated with attendance. We could have been more flexible with attendance and the possibility of attending just one workshop without committing to the whole day.
A day-long festival like this is a great opportunity to expand personal and professional contacts. At the networking social at the end of the day, the Riverwest & Harambee Credit Union announced the launch of its fundraiser for its first two years of operating revenue.
Interested in Co-op Fest 2017? Want to volunteer with the cooperative alliance? Did you attend co-op fest and have feedback or not attend and what was your reason? Contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos below courtesy of Jesse McAfee