Cooperative Design Lab is an action-learning based leadership development program for cooperatives that uses design process and permaculture ethics and principles to fertilize great ideas in great places with great people.  We are currently looking or youth partners in communities in Maine.


CDL9 is nine-month leadership development program for cooperative leaders. This is our original program. It is great for people looking at what it takes to be a change agent in their own community or be a cooperative manager or founder.

CDL9 is the only program of its kind offered in the Northeast and is in its fourth year. Over the course of three retreat weekends to a B&B in Gray Maine, participants bring their projects ideas to shape it and deep dive on the leadership challenges of the 21 Century business with cooperative principles and permaculture ethics. 

The first weekend's theme is Organizational Design. Topics are relevant to the group attending and generally include patterns in organizational structure, power dynamics, behavioral goal setting and regenerative systems, cooperative principles and ecosystems. The second weekend centers on Membership and Membership Skills. We unpacking issues feedback and communication, conflict management, network and relationship building, recruiting and keeping members, and training protocols. The final weekend in the series is all about Culture Work. We will tackle challenging issues pertaining to core values, diversity and anti-oppression, democracy, shared vision and mission, facilitation, marketing approaches, and working with technical assistance.

Throughout the course, there is homework that includes readings, films, field research and journal work. 


What you put in is what you get out. We recommend you attend all three of the weekends, do the independent work that we provide, and join us for our remote opportunities, like webinars, peer-support opportunities, and mentor-ship. 

Applications are due by January 7 2018 for Cooperative Design Lab 2018. Complete Registration details will follow. Dates will be available Nov 7.


This CDL is a rapid-cycle cooperative development process for specific projects in a specific community, and is hosted by CDL9 alumni. In Fall of 2017 CDL will be on location in Blue Hill with a project of the Farming Artists. We will explore structures in intentional community, farming and manufacturing, and innovative funding. We will be prototyping systems together and exploring the thinking and processes need to implement the design. 

You can Apply Here.

In both CDL and in CDL9, participants will gain the knowledge, skills and capacity to start, operate, lead, and enliven a cooperative project. We create a container for cooperative leaders, managers, board members, consultants, and founders to do the following:

  • Go through a step-by-step process to make a cooperative project happen as a start up or a conversion
  • Space to workshop an potential project for a loose collaborative
  • Do strategic development work for goal setting and prioritization
  • Discern the appropriate organizational structures for a project
  • Learn skills and tools for cooperative leadership and management
  • Weave a network of community support for a project
  • Explore the role of cooperatives in building a resilient local economy in their community
  • Learn about how to leverage multiple forms of capital to grow your project
  • Create or refine a specific process to take a project to the next level
  • Raise capacity and clarity among members
  • Surface possible models for community-scale ventures in food systems, shelter, transportation, energy, and education  


"Worker cooperatives are business entities that are owned and controlled by their members, the people who work in them. All cooperatives operate in accordance with the Cooperative Principles and Values. The two central characteristics of worker cooperatives are: (1) worker-members invest in and own the business together, and it distributes surplus to them and (2) decision-making is democratic, adhering to the general principle of one member-one vote.

Though we lack comprehensive data on the nature and scope of worker cooperatives in the U.S., researchers and practitioners conservatively estimate that there are over 350 democratic workplaces in the United States, employing over 5,000 people and generating over $500 million in annual revenues."

 - Excerpt from "What is a Worker Co-op?" in the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives, https://www.usworker.coop/about/what-is-a-worker-coop

7 Cooperative Principles

Seven principles are applied by the co-op movement worldwide. These were formalized in 1995, based on the six principles drawn up in England in 1844.

1. Voluntary, open membership

2. Democratic owner control

3. Owner economic participation

4. autonomy and independence

5. Education, training and information

6. Co-operation among cooperatives

7. Concern for the community 

Join the cooperative movement. Discover how you can apply these principles. Apply for CDL9 today!

Permaculture Ethics

As a basic definition, Permaculture is a holistic design system for creating sustainable human settlements and food production systems. It is a movement concerned with sustainable, environmentally sound land use and the building of stable communities, through the harmonious interrelationship of humans, plants, animals and the Earth. The Permaculture Ethics are:

  1. Care of the Earth
  2. Care of People
  3. Return of surplus to Earth and people (also called “Fair Share”)