What We Do

The Cooperative Development Center brings resources and education to existing and developing cooperatives in Western Montana. Our center assists groups in:

Developing Western Montana’s Cooperative Ecosystem 

Cooperatives are a time-tested business model for building rural, agricultural communities, furthering democratic ideals, and ensuring shared access to necessary products and services such as food, housing, utilities, and more. Since 1999, Mission West has supported emerging and existing groups in organizing, planning, and growing member-owned businesses.  

In meeting the unique needs of cooperatives, we offer: 

  • Strategic Planning Around a Shared Need: We help groups articulate a common need and provide business planning advice and templates. 
  • Group Facilitation: Our team helps steering committees set up group norms and meeting practices for moving their project forward. 
  • Drafting Legal Documents: We help groups create their articles of incorporation, bylaws, preferred stock offerings, and other legal documents before professional review. 
  • Navigating Capitalization Strategies Through Grants, Loans, and Equity: We help groups identify and access valuable resources from government grant and loan programs as well as organize membership drives and preferred stock campaigns. 
  • Montana’s Only Revolving Loan Fund for Cooperatives: Co-ops can experience many barriers with traditional financing. In 2019, Mission West seeded the state’s only Cooperative Revolving Loan Fund for providing accessible small loans for cooperative projects. 
  • Access to Professional Network: We connect groups with our vetted system of local professionals for their HR, legal, and accounting needs within a cooperative context. 
  • Cultivating Cooperative Leadership: Mission West facilitates broad-based and customized trainings for new and prospective directors of co-op boards.  

The Cooperative Model

A cooperative is a private business owned by and operated for the benefit of the people who use its products and services.

Cooperatives are created by people who have identified a SHARED NEED. The organizers of a co-op work together to start and operate a company to meet that need.

Some cooperatives are owned by consumers or customers, while others are owned by producers of a product or service, like farmers or artists.  Another form of co-op, worker cooperatives, are owned and governed by the employees of the company.  Some co-ops use a combination of these forms of ownership- simply put, there’s a co-op for everyone!

People who use or work for the cooperative own their co-op because they finance it in a variety of ways. They SHARE OWNERSHIP in both the risks and profits of the business. Each cooperative determines the level of financial participation that is required to establish membership status in the co-op.

Cooperatives are governed democratically by the members. Cooperatives operate on a one-member, one-vote basis—each member is entitled to one vote.

The membership of the co-op elects a board of directors who SHARE in the GOVERNANCE the cooperative. They make important decisions such as hiring management personnel on behalf of the general membership.

Members SHARE in the BENEFITS of the cooperative because they have access to the products and services that they need. In addition, all or part of a cooperative’s net operating profits may be distributed proportionately, based on each member’s use, or patronage, of the co-op.

In a worker cooperative, the worker-members benefit from secure employment and the opportunity to use democratic decision making to manage the company.

Cooperative Development News

Cooperative Updates & Success Stories

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Mission West Awarded $3 Million National Grant to Launch Montana Local Food Financing Fund Partnership

The Montana Local Food Financing Fund Partnership will promote food hub development to expand food access for communities across Montana. …
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MMFEC Spring/Summer Newsletter

A quarterly update on MMFEC news, workshops, and funding opportunities.
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Pedal to Plate Toolkit Workshop

A Virtual Introduction to thePedal to Plate Toolkit May 16th | 11am – 12pm | Online Since 2017, a group…

Get In Touch

If you’re interested in forming a cooperative or have questions about how we can assist your co-op, reach out to our Cooperative Development Team

Charlie Michel
Cooperative Development Center Director
Blake Lineweaver
Cooperative Development Outreach Coordinator



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