Five co-operative initiatives have been awarded a total of US$130,000 to support their work in responding to the combined challenges of Covid-19 and racial injustice in the US.
The annual Co-op Innovation Award award is funded by Capital Impact Partners and the National Cooperative Bank, and seeks to support co-operative development in low income and communities of colour. The 2021 winners are:
$35,000 is going to Co-op Cincy for its three-month co-op development course, Power In Numbers: Black Co-op U. The black, indigenous and other people of colour (BIPOC)-focused course will provide technical support and start-up funding to six to eight black-led worker owned businesses, alongside racial justice and co-op history education.
The pilot will also develop a “train-the-trainer”course so the programme can be rolled out in other parts of the country.
Ellen Vera, director of development and co-op organizing at Co-op Cincy, welcomed the grant, saying: “African Americans disproportionately occupy essential jobs, which often pay low wages and offer no or meagre health benefits. We are filled with gratitude for the positive impact that this grant funding will have on helping Co-op Cincy create an economy that works for all.”
$25,000 is being awarded to Co-op Dayton in support of real estate investment co-op Unified Power. Unified Power combines co-operative investment with community land trusts to respond to local issues of vacant properties and unaffordable housing in West Dayton. Working with 150 primarily black members of the community, the Unified Power project aims to counter the destabilising effects of volatile housing markets on those most severely impacted.
Kenya Baker, executive director of Unified Power, said: “The grant dollars provided by Capital Impact Partners will help Unified Power to galvanise a community that has been isolated and divided by racial and economic oppression and now the public health crisis of the coronavirus pandemic,” adding, “through Unified Power’s community land trust and real estate investment co-operative structure, the community will amplify our voice, our collective impact, and our access to quality affordable housing.”
Another award of $25,000 will go to Los Angeles-based organisation Collective REMAKE, for a number of programmes supporting the development of worker-owned businesses led by people who have been incarcerated and/or excluded from the mainstream economy, including training, wellness and co-op development projects.
Mary Sutton, head of design and management at Collective REMAKE, said: “Collective REMAKE is committed to building an eco-system – using participatory practices – that includes a network of co-operative economic development, inclusive support systems and sustainable healing communities. This award will support Collective REMAKE’s efforts to develop a network of co-operatives with communities impacted by incarceration in South Los Angeles.”
$25,000 will also go to Custom Collaborative, to support their work with black and brown low-income and immigrant women in New York City around fashion sustainability. The Co-op Innovation Award will support Custom Collaborative’s sustainable fashion business and worker co-op Fashion That Works Production (FTWP), as well as their online educational platform.
Ngozi Okaro, executive director of Custom Collaborative, said: “This award will support the development and growth of more worker co-operatives, which are central to achieving our goal of creating ethical, innovative, profitable businesses that provide equitable opportunities to earn income and retain wealth and control for our communities.”
Cooperation Humboldt will receive $20,000 to run a free, six-week, bi-lingual course for aspiring entrepreneurs on California’s North Coast. The Cooperative Business Equity Program, which has been co-developed with community colleges, local indigenous tribes, immigrant communities and Community Development Financial Institutions, will offer technical support and co-operative business advice to low income BIPOC communities including the Wiyok and Yurok tribes.
Tobin McKee, program administrator of Cooperation Humboldt, said: “The pressures of low job-quality, unemployment, childcare costs, trauma recovery and family responsibilities often make it impossible for people living in poverty and hardship to set aside the time and money for business training and development. The Cooperative Business Equity Program’s unique approach is to mitigate barriers to entry by training and employing co-operative business advisors from underserved communities, and providing individualised and culturally appropriate supportive services for their clients.”
In addition to contributions from Capital Impact Partners and the National Cooperative Bank, this year’s award fund was increased by $30,000 with extra sponsorship from Cabot Creamery, CUNA Mutual Group and Local Government Federal Credit Union.
CEO of the National Cooperative Bank, Charles Snyder, said: “National Cooperative Bank is proud to once again work with Capital Impact Partners to award these deserving organisations with the Co-op Innovation Award. Each organisation is deeply rooted in their community and will enhance the co-operative model to address income inequality and increase community ownership. We look forward to seeing the impact of their work in the years to come.”