"Spoke Folks is a worker-owned, bicycle-powered cooperative that provides trash, recycling and compost pickup. Our services reduce food waste, local traffic, and greenhouse gas emissions. We create good jobs and cultivate a regenerative approach to waste management."
In 1991, Norway enacted a Recycling Ordinance that aimed to incentivize a greater degree of recycling in the area. However, private services have not had a history of fully supporting this policy between the curbside and the transfer station.
Starting in 2015, Scott Vlaun of the Center for an Ecology Based Economy (CEBE) began researching Pedal People Cooperative in Northampton, MA, where he conducted interviews and did some volunteer work with the group to identify how the model works in practice with the idea to bring this model back with him as a project of the Center. After keeping this project “back-burnered” for several years, CEBE became a training recipient of the USDA’s Rural Communities Development Initiative, with the Cooperative Development Institute (CDI) as the intermediary service provider. During that time, Scott, with support from CDI, the Democracy at Work Institute, and the entire training cohort, developed a project plan and recruitment strategy to launch Spoke Folks as a cooperative enterprise.
In late 2019 Scott was joined by Jessica Cooper and Justin Bondesen as worker/owners. More recently Lucas Brown joined the team, and Annie Doran from Pedal People joined the steering committee.
The business development process started in 2019 with branding and modeling work, has since conducted market research, refined the model, and began marketing efforts. Ms. Doran is guiding team skill building, from cargo-bike training to governance and values development work. When COVID-19 hit the area, Spoke Folks jumped to action prior to their projected launch date to provide a free delivery service, funded by a small grant, for both emergency food pantries and the business district to help maintain micro-access to food and business within the Norway-Paris downtown. In doing so, the group has gained visibility that has supported its marketing campaign.
Establish a robust service providing for over 300 households in the direct service area (10% of households)
Secure a location to move from community compost to commercial compost by year 5
Continue to work with community development organizations like CEBE to provide practical education and story sharing, and to spread the model to like minded organizations and municipalities
Work with the town to implement more waste management services that reduce waste, regenerate waste by composting, increase recycling, and reduce carbon emissions.