DC Yoga Co-op

Does DC Need a Yoga Co-op?

Here are the issues/concerns/values Carol Collins and I have gathered in dozens of conversations with yoga teachers in the DC region:

  • We are worried about access, choice, affordability in an increasingly corporate landscape — issues that marginalize people who could benefit from the practice of yoga.
  • We want a bigger, broader, more diverse community of people than we’ve experienced in our smaller yoga communities in studios and/or in a style/method of practice.
  • This community should include both teachers and practitioners.
  • We want a community in which to learn and grow with each other, beyond our studios/style of practice — some independent yoga teachers referred to themselves as “islands” in need of support and feedback.
  • Teachers need a space in which the whole of their teaching practice could be offered to a wider community of practitioners.
  • There is a need for year-round public education about the practice of yoga, especially education to advance choices and alternatives to people who have specific physical, emotional or economic needs.
  • People are motivated to have a say in and work for this wider community.
  • There is a sense that preserving what the DC metro yoga scene was/is was worthwhile since it has a diversity of styles and practices, various price points and diversity of venues for practice that is still there, but is fast becoming invisible. Someone worried that Iyengar yoga was a style you had to hunt for now.
  • We have resources (the DC Yoga Teachers Collective and the Yoga DC Co-op on Facebook, the DC Yoga Week, among other groups and organizations) available to us that could be helpful in the building of this community.

These discussions led us to research the idea of a cooperative, which is an autonomous association of people united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned democratically controlled enterprise. (See below for more detailed information about cooperatives.)

There was consensus at November 12 meeting of a small exploratory committee that a cooperative was a good model to meet the needs and values we shared with each other in individual conversations, and that our next step should be to develop a clear vision and mission for a yoga cooperative with a much larger and diverse group of interested and committed teachers and practitioners. As we talked through this next step, it was also apparent that we could use people with specific skill sets in financial management, market development and research, organizational design and development, community organizing, and communications and fundraising.

Interested in participating?  The next steps are:

  • Research the cooperative model and gather your thoughts about what a yoga cooperative’s mission in the DC region would be;
  • Share this idea and information with friends, colleagues, and students who might be interested in building this type of community (particularly if they have the skills listed above) and ask them to be involved;
  • Come to another organizational meeting in January 2018 (date/time is being determined on through this two question survey ) to work on developing a vision and mission for this work;
  • Stay in touch with each other about who you are talking to and what you are finding out that will inform our meeting in January.

What is a Cooperative? 

(From The Cooperative Development Institute of The Northeast Center for Cooperative Business)

Definition:  A cooperative is an autonomous association of people united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned democratically controlled enterprise.  Cooperatives are user-owned, user-controlled and user-benefiting.

Values:  Self help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity with ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.

The seven international principles of cooperatives:

  1. Voluntary and Open Membership
  2. Democratic Member Control
  3. Member Economic Participation
  4. Autonomy and Independence
  5. Education, Training and Information
  6. Cooperation Among Cooperatives
  7. Concern for Community

Types of Cooperatives:

  • Consumer Co-ops: provide retail projects and services for customer members
  • Purchasing Co-ops: purchase products and services built to reduce share costs for members
  • Marketing Co-ops: build markets, improve bargaining power, improve quality for members
  • Value-added Processing Co-ops: add value to increase member share of retail mark ups
  • Worker Co-ops: provide jobs for members and services for their communities

Reasons Why You Might Want to Start a Co-op:

Cooperatives meet member needs.

Many cooperatives enjoy tax advantages under the US Tax Code.

Cooperatives are owned and controlled by their members.

Profits are returned to members.

Democratic decisions usually provide strong direction that is supported across the organization.

Cooperatives contribute to the economic stability of their communities.

The Cons of Co-ops:

Difficulty gaining access to capital.

Co-ops invest time/$ in member education, meetings and responding to member concerns.

Sometimes there are legal limits to the scope of operations of a co-op.

Co-ops are only as good as their members ask them to be, requiring an investment of time and energy.

How to Start a Co-op

Stage One:  Exploration

3 – 6 months of work

Type of work We will need to By the end we will have
Organizational Development Form an organizing committee with people who represent the cooperatives’ potential members.  Identify mission and core values A committed group of people who agree on what we want this business to sell to whom.
Business Development Define key business concepts – what products/services might the co-op supply that could make a significant economic difference in the lives of its members?  Create a project plan and budget. Conduct market research to determine the need for products/services and complete a feasibility analysis Market research that shows there is a large enough market and sufficient project to sell that the cooperative will be financially viable and make an economic contribution to its members. A plan and a budget for each stage of development
Member Development Share information with potential members about your business idea. Growing interest from potential members
Fundraising Secure funds for Stage One and begin fundraising for Stage Two Funds raised to cover the cost of the development of stage one and some of stage two: $0 – $10,000.


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