Notes from the February meeting of the DC Yoga Co-op Exploratory Committee:
In attendance: Mary Lyle Buff, Carol Collins, Jessica Howard, Sia Tiambi, Dustin Canter, Meg Artley, Andrew, Carrie
Objectives: To hear proposals from the Community Connections and Finance and Operations Task Forces, outlining strategic plans for 2018.
Mary Lyle reported for the Community Connections Task Force, which met by Zoom meeting. The task force agreed that in developing programs to “do good” as the DC Yoga Co-op, they would hold several values close:
- To work with systems and leaders already in place to meet the direct needs of the community
- To look for ways in which we can help those who are helping communities such as direct care service professionals in health, teachers, leaders
- Use a variety of methods to teach from panels, podcasts, webinars, elearning, and documents to reach more people
- Keeping the diversity of yoga styles and practices top of mind and the diversity of people we serve top of mind; finding ways to connect people with yoga beyond asana and take yoga “off the mat.”
At the January meeting of the DC Yoga Co-op Exploratory committee, the group decided that 2018 should be kicked off with a big event in the spring that would introduce teachers and serious practitioners to the co-op and show them the value proposition that a membership to the co-op brings. The task force developed topics for programming that would be topical, vital to the growth and development of teachers and not currently provided anywhere else in the region.
Given the fact that the Yoga Alliance has reiterated its commitment to sexual harassment protocols and the current societal focus on the #metoo movement, the task force recommends a panel presentation at the end of April on the topic of hands-on assisting. Niya Shah, a member of the task force who is an advisor at USAID with a background in gender equity and violence would moderate a panel of not less than three and not more than five speakers. The task force hopes to highlight the polarities in the philosophy of hands-on assisting — from those who do not assist because of their understanding of trauma or the yoga practice; to those who feel that hands-on assisting is a vital part of the teaching/asana practice. It is hoped that this type of educational event would help teachers begin to examine or re-examine their own hands-on assisting philosophies and start a community-wide conversation that could lead to better consumer education and protocols for talking with students about hands-on assisting and opting out of assists. The task force hopes to draw speakers or resources from the Legal Women’s Defense Fund, Yoga Alliance and teachers in the area and delve into issues of history, the future regulation of assisting and develop an audience for future programming in trauma informed teaching practices. The whole group brainstormed potential speakers, suggesting that developing a list of potential speakers and their bios would be helpful to the task force as they develop the panel. The group also brainstormed ways to make this an informed and intelligent program, from offering stories from survivors of sexual harassment to an art exhibit to ensuring that we have developed a way to track participant satisfaction and suggestions for follow-up events. Time for community gathering will definitely be a part of this first program.
Other workshop topics discussed by the task force centered on helping teachers understand implicit biases that we all have and ways that these might show up on the mat as one is teaching or learning as “micro-aggressions,” and the development of a yoga 101 consumer education module that can be used by the co-op to outreach to new yogis in the region. There was agreement that we should have the second program planned so that it can be advertised at the first program.
There was consensus that the task force should plan and execute the first panel presentation and the end of April was seen as a good opportunity — right after the Earth Day Celebration on the mall, a great place to drum up interest. Meg volunteered to help with finding a space, thinking that this would be a wonderful way to begin to develop partnerships with other organizations in the region.
Meg Artley reported for the Finance and Operations Task Force, which met in person to discuss a way to sustain and grow the co-op from 34 interested parties to membership. The task force proposes a membership fee of $108 for this first year, the benefits of which would be for a member:
- Free entry to four community-wide educational events which will carry continuing education credits
- The use of Routeam, a teacher’s POS system providing students that isn’t dependent on a studio or Mindbody online
- Access to resources such as podcasts and elearning as well as shared google docs
- Discounts at local and national yoga businesses
If we have 20 people pay $108 this year, we will have enough to pay for speakers and rental for 4 events, especially if we advertise programs to teachers outside membership at $45 for a stand-alone event. Twenty members isn’t too much of a stretch given the fact that we have 34 people already on our google group.
The issue the group discussed at length was the way in which the co-op would incorporate. The 501(c)6 option might suffice and Kimberly Binghaman will research, or help us find someone to research this option. Carol reminded the group of the importance of the co-operative to the current political climate in the world and did not want the group to forget our founding impetus, to offer an alternative business model to the corporate yoga culture in the region. The group agreed that the non-hierarchical, democratically managed, non-profit is the route we will take in our model, regardless of what tax designation we adopt. On a practical level, the group decided that Eventbrite offers a way to advertise and collect payment for the first event. In the meantime, the Finance and Operations task force will figure out a way to incorporate in DC and to meet the requirements of all non-profit organizations: the creation of by-laws and operations. In the meantime, however, the task force recommends an executive board that can develop this architecture and make decisions so that the task forces can concentrate on their work. It was decided that in the dissemination of these minutes, Meg would ask for nominations to the executive committee (Chair, Vice Chair, Secretary, Treasurer and Member at Large) by the close of business by Wednesday.
The Marketing and Communications Task Force decided to postpone their meeting until this meeting adjourned, since they need concrete plans to market and communicate. They will work with each task force on their plans and share their work widely.
Meeting adjourned at 4:30 pm.
Notes from the January 21 meeting of the DC Yoga Co-op Exploratory Committee
In attendance: Marrisa Martucci, Nicole Van Houten, Niyati Shah, Melissa Van Orman, Kimberly Bingaman, Mary Lyle Buff, Chanel Barnes-Osula, Jolie Lee, Saule Kassengaliyeva, Bernie Waddel, Sia Tiambi, Anne Kennedy, Alia Khan, Meg Artley, Carol Collins, Harris, Miller (facilitator), Emma Artley (scribe)
Meg explained the process she and Carol had taken to gather this exploratory group around the idea of a DC Yoga Co-op. In one-on-one meetings and in small group meetings with teachers we heard that teachers want to do good AND do well. A cooperative, which is a democratically managed autonomous entity that works for the good of community and membership rather than a founder, CEO or corporate investor, seemed like a good alternative model to the current corporate landscape of the DC Yoga scene.
In these conversations, common needs/values kept coming up about the current state of yoga in DC: concern about access to and choice in yoga practice for all, a sense that we need to work on inclusion and belonging for all, compassion and quality teaching. This helped us formulate what a co-op could bring of value to the student: the highest quality yoga teaching for a reasonable price and for the teacher: the ability to grow their clientele, diversify their community, and deepen their practice as teachers.
Carol introduced herself, telling the group that as an independent yoga teacher she feels like an “island” in this community and is actively seeking a way as a teacher to serve all communities and people and understand how we talk about inclusion. She asked others to introduce themselves around the table. As people introduced themselves, several feelings/ideas found resonance with the group:
- Yoga community can and should happen beyond the studio setting
- Teachers should recognize their own value and should be paid what they are worth
- Teaching that embraces diversity should come from a safe place – not only compassionate but high quality and trauma informed
- A diverse community includes equity
- Teachers need community to avoid the pitfalls of solo practice – the financial and physical burn-out that comes from trying to make a living in this profession
- We must use our lineage for the good of community, seeking truth, trust
Carol posed the question, “Where do you see the DC Yoga Co-op in one year?” to the group. The answers helped to prioritize our work together. In the first year of service to the community and to teachers, the DC Yoga Co-op will:
- Provide affordable continuing education to DC Region yoga teachers, drawing on the expertise of local teachers.
- There was discussion of whether this would be a conference, or a series of workshops.
- Topics would include information about how to keep teachers safe – physically and emotionally, and students safe – sexual harassment, ethics, assisting
- These trainings need to be at times that are conducive to a teacher’s schedule – and also online
- These meetings can be a place to grow our individual and collective community, adding membership to the co-op, getting buy-in and support
- Understand what we don’t know – where are the deep needs for yoga in the DC Region? What are the barriers to practice for people in the current landscape? This is key to understanding how we can offer yoga practice to those who need it, can’t find a practice, or develop a way for people to find a practice in the DC area, building on existing assets (DC Yoga Teachers Collaborative, DC Yoga Week, etc.) What are the gaps in service for teachers and practitioners?
- Develop position papers on the needs/values we shared today and develop a mission statement and strategic plan for future growth
Harris Miller, a business/campaign facilitator spoke to the group about the difference between tactic, strategy, mission and vision. He put a strawman vision for the Co-op up for discussion:
To offer the DC Region an alternative to corporate yoga by creating a democratically managed business model that places quality teaching, transformative education, inclusion and compassionate community at its core.
Harris explained that the mission would come from unpacking “quality teaching,” “transformative education,” “inclusion” and “compassionate community,” and strategies for fulfilling the mission, like developing and offering continuing education courses, would grow from there.
There was consensus around this vision and while the work to draft and adopt a mission still needs to be done in the first year, Harris encouraged the group to begin to grow its ranks around the vision – a campaign of sorts — with the value proposition very clear to everyone who becomes involved. Teachers are busy and they will come out and support only if there is value in these meetings, in being involved. Time is of the essence now. He proposed a continuing education event by the end of March that would include promotion about the next event after that.
To work efficiently, the group formed three task forces around the work ahead. These task forces will meet independently in the next month and report to the next in-person meeting of the bigger group on Sunday, February 18 from 2:30 – 4:30 pm.
Marketing and Communications: What we’re doing and why – the case for involvement
Meg Artley, Sia Tiambi,
Connected Community: “Do good” How do we serve members? The community?
Mary Lyle Buff, Chanel Barnes-Osula, Melissa Van Orman, Carol Collins
Resources and Operations: “Do well” What are the value propositions? What business model will work?
Saule Kassengaliyeva, Dustin Canter, Anne Kennedy, Kimberly Bingaman
From the November meeting of a group of 6 teachers to discuss the formation of a 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:
- Voluntary and Open Membership
- Democratic Member Control
- Member Economic Participation
- Autonomy and Independence
- Education, Training and Information
- Cooperation Among Cooperatives
- 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.|