Mondiacult 2022 side-event | Q&A with Caroline Woolard

22 Sep 2022

Ahead of the ICA’s 2022 Mondiacult 2022 Side event – “Cooperatives are Key Stakeholders in advancing SDGs through Culture and the Creative Sector” – we spoke with some of those taking part to hear their views on cooperative enterprise, culture and sustainable development.

Caroline Woolard is an artist, educator, author and the Director of Research and Programs at Open Collective, a technology platform that supports 15,000 groups to raise and spend US$35m a year in full transparency. Woolard is also a founding co-organizer of which exists to grow the Solidarity Economy movement by centring systems change work led by artists.

How does the cooperative model empower workers in the cultural and creative sector (and also, why should cultural and creative sectors embrace the cooperative model)?

Without cultures of cooperation, the cooperative movement will fail because most of us have no practice of direct democracy at school, at home, online, or at work. We have to learn how to do this together, and often this happens through cultural practice. core organizer Sruti Suryanarayanan and I wrote about this in a recent report. 

A scan of the arts and culture landscape in 2021 reveals a growing demand for education and training about cooperative forms of enterprise. In cooperatives, creatives can learn technical artistic skills alongside racially just and solidarity business practices by following internationally recognized principles. BIPOC-led co-ops have been proven to offer low-cost models for learning, high-quality jobs, and to build intergenerational wealth. Despite a strong presence of arts and culture workers in the cooperative sector of the economy—with an estimated 1 in 5 worker-owned businesses in the arts and culture sector—presently there is no cooperative training program designed by and focused on the particular needs of BIPOC creatives, artists, and culture-bearers—the same communities who hold and shepherd healing for the entire ecosystem. 

The cooperative and art sectors are uniquely positioned to advance education for creatives about cooperative enterprises. To succeed, grantmakers and leaders in higher education, the public sector, arts institutions, and Co-op Developers must support collaboration across sectors and follow the lead of BIPOC creatives who are innovating the co-op model now.

How have you been involved in these types of activities? began with the Solidarity not Charity: Arts and Culture Grantmaking in the Solidarity Economy report and is now a network that exists to grow the Solidarity Economy movement by centring systems change work led by artists and culture-bearers in the United States. 

My artwork has been featured twice on New York Close Up (2014, 2016), a digital film series produced by Art21 and broadcast on PBS.  I am the co-author of three books: Making and Being (Pioneer Works, 2019), a book for educators about interdisciplinary collaboration, co-authored with Susan Jahoda; Art, Engagement, Economy (Onomatopee, 2020) a book about managing socially-engaged and public art projects; and TRADE SCHOOL: 2009-2019, a book about peer learning that Woolard catalyzed in thirty cities internationally over a decade. You can read more about this on my website and on Instagram.

What do you hope to get out of the Mondiacult side-event?

I hope to build connections with cultural workers in other countries to talk about ways to support and learn from each other. 

As part of this series, you can also read interviews with Stefania Marcone(Legacoop), Caroline Woolard ( and Fabíola da Silva Nader Motta (Organization of Brazilian Cooperatives (OCB)).

The ICA Mondiacult side-event takes place on: 26 September 13-17h (CEST)

The full programme for the side-event is available here.

Find the profile of speakers here.

Online participation is free - register here to join the webinar.

For additional information, visit the event website.