For the 2005 conference, the Eastern Coordinating Council (the board and planning committee of ECWD set up an advisory committee of worker owners to help with planning. These advisors included Billy Brett and Siri Gunnarson (Little Grill Collective,), John Abrams (South Mountain Company), Inc.), Michael Elsas (Cooperative Home Care Associates), and Julie Petot (Equal Exchange).
The 2005 ECWD conference was the first gathering following the founding in 2004 of the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives. That founding conference in Minneapolis had created a renewed sense of excitement in the regional work. The third ECWD conference took place July 15th-17th at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester, New Hampshire. SNHU was selected because of the university's School of Community Economic Development and its co-op curriculum as well as the university's hospitality program. Planners looked forward to the opportunity to discuss the relationship between worker ownership and community economic development, and include cooperative scholars from SNHU.
In addition, Professor Christina Clamp's involvement at SNHU meant that the conference enjoyed reduced rates for the site.
The ECC officially hired its first staff person, Mary Hoyer comma to manage logistics and general conference planning. Another first, the ECC established a web site for itself and the ECWD at http://east.usworker.coop . The theme for ECWD 05 was "Growing Stronger Together."
2005 was a banner year for sponsorships, with more worker co-ops and worker-owned companies providing financial support than ever in the past. Sponsors and supporters included: National Cooperative Bank, National Cooperative Business Association, Chroma Technology , Cooperative Development Foundation, Cooperative Development Institute, Cooperative Fund of New England, Cooperative Home Care Associates, Democracy Collaborative at University of Maryland, GAIA Host Collective, Grassroots Economic Organizing Newsletter-EDINA, Once Again Nut Butter, Red Sun Press; Chelsea Green Press, Collective Copies, Carey Center for Democratic Capitalism, Dollars and Sense, Equal Exchange, Ownership Associates, Red House, South Mountain Company, Vermont Employee Ownership Center.
One hundred and seven attendees came from seventeen states, including Puerto Rico and Washington, DC, as well as three countries (the U.S., France, and Canada). A number of co-ops and organizations sent multiple members to participate, including Little Grill Collective, Equal Exchange, Once Again Nut Butter, Long Island Home Enterprise, Chroma Technology, and GEO Collective. Connections, a new translation cooperative in Rhode Island, also came.
William Greider, author of The Soul of Capitalism, was the keynote speaker. Greider discussed the appeal of cooperatives to both the "right" and the "left" and suggested that the focus of the movement should be to build broad appeal to the majority of people in this country. He encouraged ECWD to investigate creative fundraising to ensure that worker–owned enterprises clearly demonstrate their structural advantages.
A plenary panel on "The Role of Workplace Democracy in the Community Economic Development Movement" was a major part of the conference. Dominic Mouldon , executive director of Manna Community Development in Washington, D.C.; Michael Swack, dean of SNHU's School of Community Development; and Clamp, a professor of cooperatives and community development at SNHU, were on a panel exploring the topic. A consensus developed that community development corporations (CDCs) should be natural allies for cooperatives in community building, and that an effort should be made to reach out to them.
The 2005 conference continued to have three major tracks-- creating democratic workplaces, managing democratic workplaces, and building the workplace democracy movement. In addition, open space opportunities took place during every concurrent workshop slot. Thirty workshops were offered, more than ever before, as well as ample opportunities for networking and conducting ECWD business. John Abrams presented a workshop challenging the idea of "growth" as being the goal of all business. He suggested that small, quality businesses with better internal relationships should be considered a alternate strategy . Ajowa Ifateyo and Ajamu Nangwaya, both board members of the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives, lead a workshop on supporting the Federation and creating a co-op business ethic. Sharon Rowlett presented on internalized oppression. John Abrams, cofounder of South Mountain Company, a worker cooperative residential building and design company on Martha's Vineyard, brought his newly published book, The Company We Keep: Reinventing Small Business for People, Community, and Place. In the book, he discusses South Mountain's experience over thirty years turning out quality homes with unique designs, using recycled fallen trees, and becoming an important force in their island community off the Massachusetts mainland.
2005 was the year that DataCommons -- a project to catalogue worker cooperatives and democratic businesses in the U.S. -- grew from an idea to a committee. The Data Commons was the integration of Noemi Giszpenc's school project at SNHU and the book Economy of Hope, GEO Collective's list of cooperatives.
At the conference, the following people were elected to the Eastern Coordinating Council
Lynn Benander / Co-op Life, Sue Bob / Community Builders Cooperative, Terry Daniels / Long Island Home Enterprise, Aaron Dawson / Equal Exchange, Ajowa Nzinga Ifateyo / GEO Collective, Jessica Gordon Nembhard / Democracy Collaborative at University of Maryland, Doug Woodhouse / Little Grill Collective; and alternates Adam Trott / Collective Copies, Charles Uchu Strader / Gaia Host Collective, Noemi Giszpenc / Ownership Associates, and Jeremy Thaler, Once Again Nut Butter. The following non-voting advisors were appointed after the conference: Dan Bell / Ohio Employee Ownership Center, Christina Clamp/ Southern New Hampshire University School of Community Economic Development, and Richard Dines / National Co-op Bank.
The ECC presented proposals that the eastern region have no geographical boundaries membership, regional boundaries, elections for the ECC, and other issues in its mandate at this conference. Some members expressed opinions that the region had lost some of its momentum with the creation of the southern region by the national the previous year.