Interview with Board member Carol Fraser

newsletter image.jpg

Tell us about your experience with co-ops.
In 2013, I started working for a worker cooperative - a farm near Montreal called Ferme Tourne-sol. Though I didn’t join the cooperative (I was hired as a temporary, seasonal worker), I got a first hand look at how they run their day-to-day operations and their business as a whole. I was impressed not only by their farming techniques - top-notch - but by their efficiency, and how much fun they had. They inspired me to open my own market garden a few years later, but more than that, they reminded me that owning and operating a business with your friends can be just as rewarding as it is challenging, and the best part is no boss!

Why do you think co-ops are important?
I think co-ops are important because they respond to community needs. When it comes down to it, “normal” for-profit corporations are responding to the needs of a small amount of people (the Board, the CEO, the shareholders), whose primary goal is to make more profit for themselves, at any expense. The primary goal of a co-op is to provide a service for a community of people, usually in a small place (a neighborhood, a city, or a region). This can be the simple goal of providing decent work, affordable housing, or good food, for example. This is somehow a pretty radical idea in our society, but it seems to me that businesses like co-ops are only going to become more necessary in the future. We need to start looking out for each other more, and thinking less selfishly, in everything we do. That definitely includes economically.

How are co-ops related to your studies and work?
Co-ops are very much related to my work as an urban planner and sustainable design scholar. I see co-ops as great models for sharing resources and generating economic activity in a way that’s more fair to the underserved and more conscious of environmental impact. This is because of what I said earlier; since co-ops are concerned with what they produce and for whom, not just the profits that are generated, the whole outlook of co-ops is just different and has different long-term implications for society. Through my work, which right now is focused on the relationship between co-ops and sustainability, I hope I can raise awareness about co-ops and the potential they represent for our society.

What are a few things the readers probably wouldn't expect about you? 
One of my favorite activities is baking my own sourdough bread. I also make a really mean apple pie. Really, I love to bake, and share with family and friends.

I’m an extrovert and I love being with people, but one of my favorite ways to re-charge is to go on solo, week long bike tours in the countryside. There is truly nothing better to clear your mind.

In college in Montreal, I majored in German and East Asian Studies, so I speak German, Japanese, and French. Ja!

What's your favorite baby animal?
My favorite baby animal is probably a baby owl. They are the cutest!

If you imagined a newspaper headline about the Texas co-op movement 20 years from now, what would it be?

In 20  years, the headline will be: “From housing, to food, to manufacturing: co-ops drive the Texas economy, earning the Lone-Star state a new nickname, ‘Basque region of the Americas’” 

Board election candidate deadline extended to Oct. 2nd!

The Austin Cooperative Business Association is seeking candidates for the board of directors! If you love coops and want to help them grow and thrive in Austin, consider applying! The deadline for candidates to apply has been extended to Tuesday, October 2nd. For more info see our Election Information Packet:

You Can Help Make Austin a Co-op Superstar City!

Do you share our vision of Austin as a thriving cooperative business center and a national model for an equitable economic system? Now you can help us get there! I am so pleased to introduce a new way to support the cooperative economy in Central Texas, through a tax-deductible donation to the Austin Cooperative Business Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.  ACBF’s mission is to build and expand the cooperative economy in Central Texas. We help co-ops start-up and solve problems, and we educate Austinites about the cooperative model and how it can work for them.

This Fall, the ACBF’s goal is to raise $5000 from individual donations to make Central Texas an even better place for all types of cooperatives to thrive.   Your tax-deductible donation will allow ACBF to create even more educational programming and technical assistance for established and aspiring co-ops around central Texas.  
We have many ways to say thank you for donating.  All individual donors who commit to a monthly subscription become members of our Cooperation Club! You can check out our great thank you gifts, including Commit to Co-ops T-shirts and our gorgeous Cooperative Principles Posters designed by artist Christie Zangrilli at our donor page.

I know a financial contribution isn't possible for all of our supporters. If you prefer to participate by sharing your time or talents, I invite you to visit our Get Involved page.

We envision ACBF as a hub for Austin’s next generation of community-minded individuals, coming together to build a robust, equitable, and sustainable economy in Central Texas. Thank you for partnering with us to support the co-op business model. Together, we can create a more just, cooperative Central Texas!

Annelies Lottmann
ACBF Fundraising Committee Chair

Commit to Co-ops! Workshop Series

Request for Proposals: Facilitate a Workshop!

The Austin Cooperative Business Foundation (ACBF) is now seeking proposals and facilitators for workshops for its upcoming development and training series, Commit to Co-ops. Commit to Co-ops workshops and training sessions will help ACBF support and expand the cooperative economy in Austin and Central Texas by offering ways for everyone to expand their cooperative skills.

Workshop facilitators will:

  • Research, develop, and facilitate Texas- and/or Austin-specific workshops or training sessions for current or future cooperators, specifically on topics that address “intermediate” skills (beyond the basics!)

    • Some potential topics: non-violent communication for housing co-ops, marketing and social media for coops, financial stability and growth for coops, co-op activism and community organizing in Central Texas, converting your business to a co-op in Central Texas

    • Please note you are welcome to submit workshops that pertain only to a specific type of co-op (i.e. housing, or consumer co-ops) or on a topic that applies to all types of cooperatives

  • Create engaging, well-designed, and digitally-distributable materials to complement the workshops

  • Spread the word about ACBF and the workshops to help raise the profile of ACBA/Austin-area cooperatives, and to encourage attendance

What we’re looking for in a workshop designer/facilitator:

  • Have an idea for a training session and excited to lead it!

  • Passionate about cooperatives and excited to help build the local cooperative economy

  • Eager to learn more and teach others by doing original research and workshop design

  • Bilingual in Spanish/English (preferred, not a requirement)

Diversity Encouraged:

We aim to build a multi‐racial and class‐diverse organization that reflects the future of our member cooperatives. Women, people of color and others who may be underrepresented in non-profits, cooperative development, and cooperatives are strongly encouraged to apply.

Further details:

Workshop facilitators will be contracted by the ACBF for a total of $500 per workshop, for up to 10 total workshops. You may propose to give a particular workshop once, or up to 3 times. Workshops/training sessions must be delivered sometime between November 2018 and December 2019. You may apply as an individual or a small group to do a workshop; however, note that due to limited funding, the payment is per workshop, not per person. A limited amount of funding will be available for materials, promotion, and food.

Please submit your application here. Please submit a separate application for each proposed workshop if the topics are different.

The deadline to submit proposals is October 5 at midnight.

If you have questions, reach out to Carol Fraser, Grant Administrator, at

The Commit to Co-op Workshop Series is partially funded by the Cooperative Foundation. Austin Cooperative Business Foundation is supported by donations from people like you. Please consider a tax-deductible donation to the ACBF today.

Co-op Advocacy: Victory and Opportunities

By Ryan Nill, ACBA Advocacy Chair and Beth Aavang Advocacy Committee Member


ACBA is pleased to announce two major updates on local policy related to business co-ops. The City of Austin is revising its business incentive policies to focus more on community needs. These include targeting support to small businesses, local businesses, art and music spaces, and businesses providing major community benefits. ACBA and co-op members participated in community stakeholder meetings and sessions with city staff to make sure worker and consumer co-ops were included in these discussions. Thanks to advocacy from the co-op community and the leadership of co-op allies on City Council, a strong policy was passed on Thursday August 30th, that includes co-ops as targets for incentives, grants, and affordable commercial rent programs. Councilmember Greg Casar also championed an amendment that awards cooperatives additional “points” for consideration for tax incentives and other supports. We encourage co-op supporters to contact Casar’s office and thank him for supporting the growth of Austin co-op economy.


The Advocacy Committee has continued organizing to have co-op technical service and education included in the 2018-2019 City budget. ACBA has long advocated for this, with endorsements from the City’s Economic Prosperity Commission and the Small Business Division, which recommended $75,000 for co-op education, business outreach, and technical support. The Committee organized emails to City Council offices from member businesses, and speakers to attend the budget hearings. City Council will decide on the final budget between September 11th-13th. Please take a moment to contact your city council member and ask them to support co-ops in the new budget!


ACBA also thanks all of the co-op supporters who came out to lobby for housing co-ops during the CodeNEXT process! While the mammoth six-year, $8.5 million effort to rewrite of the land development code was ultimately scrapped last month, progress was still made for the co-operative community:

·  Prior to CodeNEXT, housing co-ops were only known in niche circles. After your advocacy efforts, every council member and land use commissioner is familiar with them. We will be able to leverage these relationships going forward!

·  The contention over CodeNEXT largely boiled down to a debate over residential density vs. the preservation of existing neighborhoods. Advocated argued that co-ops preserve affordable existing structures, while instilling a community-based approach to density.

·  Advocates also showed that density coupled with a co-operative model creates some of the most impressive housing affordability in the city, averaging 40-60% the cost of comparable market rates.

·  While a single, massive overhaul of the land development code proved infeasible at this time, piecemeal reform is still possible. Through the CodeNEXT process, different features were identified that would help & hinder co-ops within the land development code and incentive programs and can use this knowledge in future Council initiatives.

Improving a city’s infrastructure takes time and is often achieved through incremental victories. We look forward to working together to continue paving the way for co-ops going forward! Follow the ACBA for updates or contact us if you are interested in joining our Advocacy Committee. Thanks again for all of your support!

Annual Report now available

The 2017 Annual Report for ACBA (our 501(c)6) and ACBF (our 501(c)3) is now available. Thanks to everyone who helped put this report together, and to everyone who contributed to ACBA/ACBF's many accomplishments over the past year!

Click here to read the ACBA 2017 Annual Report!