Collaboration brings homecare cooperative academy to Nebraska

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Nebraska Cooperative Development Center is collaborating with the Northwest Cooperative Development Center, based in Olympia, Wash., to create an online academy that walks rural communities through creating homecare co-ops in their communities. The six-session academy begins May 4 and runs weekly through June 8. Sessions will be available on Zoom for free.

“The reason we’ve partnered with Northwest Cooperative Development Center,” said Cindy Houlden, the NCDC cooperative development specialist running the academy, “is they have formed five homecare cooperatives. The oldest one was founded in 2009; the most recent one in 2021.”

The academy will be the first of its kind in Nebraska. Cooperative law varies from state to state, so while the Northwest Cooperative Development Center is providing the know-how, the legal questions, licensing requirements, caregiver rules, logistical guidance and other details the sessions cover will all be specific to Nebraska’s regulations.

“Unlike grocery co-ops, where members of the community come together to form the store, this cooperative is made up of employees,” Houlden said. “It’s owned democratically. They set the wages, benefits and policies. They determine how the business is managed. And specifically with a homecare cooperative, they decide the quality of care, how care is delivered, the type of client they want to serve, the type of care they want to provide, how they want to be reimbursed, their rates — it’s all determined by the employees.”

There’s a lot to consider when creating a homecare co-op, Houlden said, but the academy will cover all the red tape and how to manage it successfully.

The percentage of Americans 90 years and older has doubled since 1980. With the number of senior citizens expected to reach 73 million by 2030 (outnumbering children under 5 for the first time in history), homecare co-ops are increasingly becoming a viable career option and a necessary part of rural communities.


The Nebraska Cooperative Development Center has worked with cooperative grocery stores in communities for years, but Houlden said the idea for a homecare worker cooperative came to them serendipitously. A woman who once worked for a homecare co-op in Washington moved to Lincoln and contacted Houlden’s office, asking if they had information on similar businesses in Nebraska. When the answer was no, the woman connected Houlden with Deborah Craig, a cooperative development specialist with the Northwest Cooperative Development Center.

“We started conversations last summer about, ‘How do we bring this model into Nebraska? What do we do? How do we make this happen?’” Houlden said. “Long story short, the initial contact moved to Maryland; however, we continued the conversations with (Craig), applied for a socially disadvantaged populations grant through USDA, got the grant, and now we’re creating this academy.”

The topics and goals of each academy session are outlined below:

Session 1, May 4: “Making Decisions — Democracy in the Workplace” | Goals: Participants will review and practice different decision-making models and learn the roles of the board, manager and members in co-op governance.

Session 2, May 11: “Laying the Foundation — Business Basics” | Goals: Participants will create a basic business plan, identify the skills and experience needed to run the business and take inventory of the group’s skills.

Session 3, May 18: “Show Me the Money — Understanding Your Co-op Finances” | Goals: Participants will learn how to read financial statements, understand basic financial terms and systems used and understand how financial decisions are made in their co-op.

Session 4, May 25: “Telling Your Story — Marketing Your Co-op” | Goals: Participants will develop a one-page marketing plan and learn how to market their co-op and train other co-op members to do the same.

Session 5, June 1: “People Management — Inspiration and Accountability” | Goals: Participants will identity and understand the many accountability systems that will run through the co-op, practice “difficult conversations” and develop active listening skills.

Session 6, June 8: “Member Engagement — Bringing Democracy Alive in the Workplace” | Goals: Participants will learn the importance of making democracy a priority in their co-op and have a plan to implement various systems for democratic participation. This session will facilitate discussion on building systems for meaningful member participation and power sharing within the co-op. The presentation will include testimony from Washington homecare co-op members on how their co-op brings democracy alive in the workplace.

Registration for the academy is available at After registration, an automated email will be sent containing information about joining the sessions via Zoom.

The Nebraska Cooperative Development Center is housed in the Department of Agricultural Economics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Its programs abide with the nondiscrimination policies of the UNL and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The center is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Cooperative Development Grant Program and Social Disadvantaged Groups Grant Program. For more information, visit


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