CANference Workshop: Breaking Barriers with Cooperatives

Yesterday, I went to a workshop led by Lisa (Rohleder) entitled:  Breaking Barriers with Cooperatives.  (I’m skipping this mornings Pain Management presentation to tell you all about it because I attended the pain class last fall–it was fantastic.)  I also went to LarryG’s Trigger Points in Recliners, but this post is so long that I’ll have to save it for later.  Oh, and I apolpgize for this being written so hastily.  It’s not edited or proofread to much extent.  

First, a little about the CANference, in general.  There are CA practitioners here from all over the U.S. and Canada.  I’m not sure how many are here but we fill up the small auditorium.  It’s been a real reminder to me about how isolating this work can be.  Sure, we see many patients each day and I even have a clinic co-owner to talk with.  But building a business from scratch, using a business model that is new and still finding its way, is really hard.  Face to face contact is vital for us to stay connected.  Much like the buzz created in the treatment room by a sea of blissed-out patients, there is a buzz when we gather to cheer each other on, pat each other on the back and share pep-talks when things are difficult.

Now, for those of you at home, I don’t say these things just to make you jealous.  I say them because I think we need to make this kind-of in person contact a priority.  All of you who are planning clinics or are maybe in the first year of operation –Get your butt to a training, if you haven’t already!  It’s not a luxury to be in the same room with your colleagues.  It is a necessity.  And we all should start saving for next year’s CANference (there will be one next year, right?).  It’s too important to miss.

Breaking Barriers with Cooperatives

After Lisa’s keynote speech (she posted the speech in the previous blog post), I was psyched to hear more about the cooperatives thing: POCA–the People’s Organization for Community Acupuncture.  Lisa talked in greater detail about why we need to transition from the non-profit status we have in CAN to the multi-stakeholder cooperative POCA.  One of the limitations of CAN has been it’s focus on practitioners.  Patients haven’t had much of a role.  If we’re going to grow CA to it’s potential (world domination, perhaps), we need a way for ALL stakeholders to be involved.  POCA gives us immense opportunity for this.  POCA will also allow us to leverage our numbers through future microlending, easier sharing of job opportunities, and perhaps malpractice insurance (and I’m hoping for health insurance but that’s just me).  All of these things are off in the distance as we’ll need to grown quite large to make some of them happen, but transitioning to a co-op is the first step.

POCA Mission Statement and Goals

Mission Statement: The purpose of the People’s Organization of Community Acupuncture is to create a stable and sustainable economic foundation for the delivery of affordable acupuncture, and to establish and maintain structures to that end.

Goal #1–Facilitate the opening of new clinics, expansion of existing clinics, and stabilize clinics in transition to create and maintain jobs. 

Goal #2–Expand, support and sustain the workforce of Community Acupuncturists.

Goal #3–Cultivate collaboration between patients and Community Acupuncture Clinics through the Coop.

Goal #4–Maximize our resources for the economic benefit of POCA members.

Goal #5–Educating members and the public about Community Acupuncture. 

Why would stakeholders join POCA?  Aside from the official benefits of membership as spelled-out below, members will be supporting the CA movement.  This means that patients and community members can help ensure that they and their friends and family members have increased access to acupuncture.  An example that Lisa gave is this:  If a business in a town is threatened and may go out of business (in this case, a saw mill), and if this business is so vital to the community that it’s closing would harm the town, employees and community members might form a co-operative to buy the mill and keep it open.  A local seamstress or baker might join the co-operative as a way of supporting the town’s viability.  The benefit they get is that the town survives.

For POCA, patients and community members get a similar benefit–access to community acupuncture, and support for its growth and viability.  Because POCA will build capital and perhaps create microloans for future clinics, patients who join POCA might be able to refer their family in another state to new clinic that was supported with a mirco-loan.  Or, even more exciting–what if people who wanted a CA clinic in their area were to join POCA?  POCA could then tell practitioners that there are members waiting for access in this area and perhaps lure practitioners to under-served areas with ready-bulit contact lists of potential patients.  How many of us have heard patients say they wished they could do more to support our clinics?  This is one very tangible way for them to do so.  

POCA membership

A co-op has 2 types of members:  voting and non-voting.  POCA will have 2 categories of voting members:  Individual patients/community members and Punks/students.  The benefits for each type of membership will be as follows (I’m not 100% of how nailed-down these benefits are.  I think they are pretty solid, but there may be additions that I don’t have listed here):

  • Patients/Community membership ($25 and up):  For becoming a member POCA will provide each person with a  “punch card” that will give them a 10th treatment free, access to special offers, a waiving of the initial paperwork fee at POCA member clinics, 3 “free treatment cards upon request from POCA member clinics to share with family and friends and a regular newsletter.
  • Punks/Students membership ($45 and up): Access to CAN forums, support for various clinic business issues (i.e. HR items such as an employee handbook and various forms already created), collective buying power for supplies, access to low-interest loans, possibly malpractice insurance, etc.

Only the above types of members will have a “vote” for any cooperative business.  Non-voting members will include the following:

  • Clinics ($50 and up): Can be listed on Locate a Clinic page of website (what I’m not clear about is if this is also true for the punk level). 
  • Organizations ($100 and up):  This one is less clear to me as well, although I’m guessing some advertising benefits would be included.  I must have gotten so excited that I just quit taking notes.

Okay, them’s the highlights from Lisa’s workshop.  Enjoy! 

Author: NancyS

I've been a member of POCA since the early CAN days. My first CA training was in Oct. 2006 and I've been hooked ever since. In 2010, I started a CA clinic in Salem, Oregon. We've grown to about 150 visits per week. I'm moving to San Luis Obispo this summer (2012) for my partner's job and to be near family. I'm not eligible for licensure in California so my acupunk days are limited and will be on hold for a while. But I plan to stick around POCA.

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  1. Okay guys. I’m trying to

    Okay guys. I’m trying to chew this over, and something just isn’t digesting well.

    Part of this feels MORE complicated. While I really like the idea of POCA, and I am intrigued by the idea of micro loans and what that can do to help this movement, I feel like some of the way the memberships are set up are more complicated and almost irritate me.

    Imagine a patient comes in and sees that another patient has a punch card. Now we’re explaining to them why one person gets preferential treatment. Oh you need to go sign up… not that a POCA member doesn’t necessarily deserve props for supporting our cause, but because it is less stream lined.

    And, to be frank, this feels strange to be part of this and have the co-op dictating the way we take payments… when we give free treatments. I’m not sure how to express this. I like the autonomy of being my own clinic, with the support of others, and have a natural aversion to anyone else altering how I run things. Especially if in order to be what we are now (a CAN member) with all of the fabulous (really incredible) benefits of support from each other and blog posts, forum posts, etc we would need to be okay with this.

    I feel like the heart of this development could be great, but the execution may need some work? What does everyone else think?

     Dana @ Skagit Community Acupuncture

  2. check out the handouts

    There is Phase 1 and Phase 2 of rolling out the co-op. Some clinics may choose never to go to Phase 2, which is where patients get involved, if they choose.

    Phase I is when CAN’s functions mostly shift over to POCA. You can, if you like, participate in POCA exactly the same way that you have participated in CAN. You can have a practitioner membership and pretty much stop there; you still get all the benefits that you got from CAN. You can sign your clinic up so that it gets listed on POCA’s LOC, but you don’t have to do anything else.

    This is the phase we are going to be in for the next 6 months or so.

    Phase 2 involves POCA clinics signing up POCA patient members. By the time we get there we will have thoroughly road-tested the systems for marketing membership to patients in a few of the clinics, and we’ll have lots of materials to help with the process. But whether or not you ever choose to help sign up patient members is up to you.

  3. I need to educate myself

    I need to educate myself more about co-ops, but I’m wondering if the patient benefits are enough to really make them feel a sense of ownership.  Right now, it doesn’t seem much different from the type of marketing promotions that a lot of clinics offer anyway.

  4. governance

    Patients serve on the board, vote for board members, participate via patient advisory committee. Please do read up about co-ops. It’s all about one person, one vote, shared ownership of the organization. Some people of course are not going to be interested in that, but if they are, there is a lot they can do to participate.