We’re Now A Cooperative!

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We are eager to announce some fun and exciting updates happening with our growing walking community. Many of you know that we’ve been in an organizational transition for the past 6 months. We’ve had to better discern what’s working, what’s not, and how to move forward in a way that best reflects who we are and where we want to go. We organized a focused think-tank back in November of last year and it’s launched us into where we are as we send this message to you.

A few things that you may or may not know about Walk2Connect:

Social Business: For 3.5 years, Walk2Connect was a sole-proprietor LLC social business. Jonathon created Walk2Connect with a for-profit business model because he wanted the organization to anchor in the services it offers to the community and to partners. This allowed the organization to keep its mission central to all decision-making while allowing for nimble, flexible, and quick-turnaround partnership opportunities.

Partnerships: As long as Walk2Connect has been around, we have been able to (sometimes just barely!) sustain our work through a variety of community partners. Our partners span diverse representation from local, regional, and national city government, public health, non-profit, neighborhood/community, and for-profit sectors. Walk2Connect has championed hundreds of partnership-supported walks related to cardiovascular health, transportation, placemaking, community connection, mental health, neighborhood asset-mapping, youth and families, public art, and so much more.

Practicing Whole-Health: Since the beginning, Jonathon has worked hard to make sure that Walk2Connect’s commitment to whole-health plays out in the organization’s day to day operations. Keeping mission at the center with or without appropriate funding began creating challenges in the capacity of contract staff and the LLC business structure. For those involved on the inside, the model we were working in only pointed to more transactions and less engagement with our mission. While business strategy and maturity remains vital and important, Jonathon wouldn’t allow it to be the new center. It became very clear that as Walk2Connect continued to grow, a new model of collaborative ownership was needed.

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We’re now a Cooperative Business!

What? A walking co-op? Yes. Kind of like REI and your more common food market/agricultural co-ops, but not completely. After much discussion, deliberation, think-tank meetings, cooperative interviews, and legal/expert advice, our advising community and founding board decided that forming a cooperative business was the best next step to sustain our nimble and creative organization while also responding to organic growth.

All cooperative businesses are member-owned companies that allow people who benefit from a specific service or product in their community to come together, pool resources, and organize to sustain the offering of specific products or services. This typically involves staff compensation, overhead, communications, marketing, legal fees, and everything else you would find in day-to-day business.  Walk2Connect is a worker cooperative. This means that our co-op is owned by a community of “Professional Members.” These members make important decisions about partnerships, services, board members, and so much more. They are also working to bring in revenue and other forms of capital (social, volunteer, sponsor) to sustain the staffing and overhead of the cooperative as a whole. You can learn more about co-ops and the 7 Cooperative Principles here.

More on the WHY:

Cooperatives are democratically owned and known for quickly activating real-time solutions to many economic, environmental, and societal problems. They share the benefits of the good times and collectively work through the tough times. They are wired to help sustain and partner with other cooperative companies. Their decision making process is anchored in a collaborative “we” effort, and among many other traits, their mission and service to the community is built on self-sustainability.

Where you becomes we..
…and where we continue growing a movement that changes our neighborhoods, our relationships, our environment, and our world for the better.

As you know, we have a very strong commitment to stay anchored in relationship, connection, community, and inclusiveness; therefore, we are determined to keep the majority of our walk offerings free of financial barriers. As you can imagine, most of the walks we offer (the ones you see on our calendar, social media, and in our email) demand a lot from our mostly volunteer staff (Jonathon, Nicole, and Dawn). The time it takes to nurture and develop leaders, support on-going changes to walks/adding new walks, and endless email/online tasks is more than a handful of full-time jobs. The spirit of our decision to be a Cooperative is to A) begin distributing various tasks to volunteer leader Captains to help support new leaders in their region B) invite opportunities for internships and focused volunteering and C) eventually inspire committed leaders to become Professional Member-owners.

Folks, we’re the first walking cooperative of its kind.

We’re helping shape an organization that commits first to mission with a trust that all other pieces will find their way. We’re clinging tightly to our values and the great beacon that keeps us in the WHY. We are so grateful to each and every one of you for your support and involvement.

Take a quick minute to read over the FYI & FAQ section below.

Onwards!

Your new Walk2Connect Cooperative

Founding Professional Members:
Jonathon Stalls, Dawn Kirkwood, Nicole Huguenin, Darcy Kitching, Dustin Ratcliff, Chris Englert

Think Tank & Advisory:
Angie Malpiede, Saoirse Charis-Graves, Rachel Hultin, Louis Chacon, Cierra McNamara

FYI & FAQ

As we invite you to hold all of this new information, we want to make sure that you know most of what Walk2Connect does in the community (and internally!) isn’t changing. For example:

  1. Our walks will stay the same. They are 95% no-low cost. There are no new fees unless its a special/featured walking experience.
  2. Walking Movement Leaders. We will still train, support, and celebrate new and existing Walking Movement Leaders.
  3. Websites, Emails, Communications. While we may update our tools and processes once and awhile, nothing will change about where you find walks and how you connect to us.

Have more questions? Want to know how you can get more involved?
Follow this button to  out the quick form below and we’ll work on organizing a couple FAQ walking meetings with one or some of our Founding Professional Members!