In order to make it easier for folks to start and run local investment clubs, we founded the Cooperative Principal. In terms of organizational structure, think of a bike wheel where the center or hub is the Cooperative Principal (CP), a Minnesota based non-profit. This center hub serves the local clubs that are at the end of the spokes, around the wheel. The CP provides the education, documents and some administrative support to make starting a legal, properly registered club easier. Then, on an on-going basis, the CP provides investment ideas and analysis, facilitates local clubs connecting with each other and promotes the growth of the larger co-op movement.
The first club we started, CP Local 001, currently has 17 members. These members contribute $50 per month and together they have invested over $25,000 in 9 co-ops around the country. While the minimum amount to purchase preferred stock or member loans in each of these co-ops varies, all are out of reach for most individual cooperative members. This creates an inherent contradiction, the people who generally want to support and invest in co-ops face a high barrier to entry while the co-ops frequently have a difficult time getting financing. This is the beauty of CP Investment Clubs, people who on their own can’t afford to invest in their values now have a vehicle to do so and co-ops have access to a new source of capital.
Beyond the dollars and cents, there is a social and educational component to The Cooperative Principal. Members meet in person a minimum of 4 times per year, ideally in a social setting (think microbrewery!) and the clubs operate in a cooperative, democratic manner. Based on investment analysis from the central non-profit, or their own research, members discuss and vote on where to put their pooled funds. Club members are both participating in their own democratic organizations and supporting the co-op economy in a way that is only possible by working together. Local 001 Members have also found that club meetings are downright fun. As more clubs start we envision that clubs can share ideas and support each other.