Five US co-ops to share $170,000 in grants for development projects

The funding, from Capital Impact Partners and the National Cooperative Bank, will benefit low income areas and communities of colour

Five US co-ops have have been awarded a total of US$170,000 from a fund to increase co-op development in low-income communities and communities of colour.

The 2022 winners of the annual Capital Impact Partners’ Co-op Innovation Award, funded by Capital Impact Partners and the National Cooperative Bank, include training programmes, housing and business ventures. 

Northside Residents Redevelopment Council receives $50,000 for a state-certified Community Safety Specialist apprenticeship programme in Minneapolis. This will formalise a community-led patrol programme that has existed in the north of the city for decades, creating paid apprenticeship opportunities which will lead to jobs for young African American men.

Programme leader Gayle Smaller, who chairs the Northside Residents Redevelopment Council Public Safety Committee, said: “These workers, who earn a living wage with good benefits and union membership, now have the resources to pursue the creation of a worker co-operative and become owners in their workplace.”

North American Students of Cooperation receives $35,000 to develop a 209-unit group equity co-op in Stockton, California, which will provide housing for Cambodian refugees and their families.

“This funding will help a community primarily made up of Cambodian immigrants and their families to establish permanent community-controlled, affordable co-operative housing for themselves,” said Brel Hutton-Okpalaeke, director of development services for NASCO. 

$30,000 goes to the Industrial Commons for the establishment of a new co-op in Morganton, North Carolina. The Seat at the Table programme will train workers as upholsterers, one of the highest-paid jobs in furniture, with the long-term goal of creating member-owners of a new direct-to-consumer furniture-making co-op.

“At the Industrial Commons we launch and scale worker co-operatives, and having flexible start-up funds is important for any project we embark on,” said Aaron Dawson, workforce development senior director for The Industrial Commons.

Pilsen Housing Cooperative (PIHCO) in Chicago is being awarded $30,000 to fund growth activities including the temporary employment of a fundraising project manager and the expansion of its third property.

“PIHCO provides a realistic option for people that have no other opportunity to purchase and stay in the neighbourhood,” said co-founder and resident Gabriel Villa.

Beloved Community Incubator will receive $25,000 to support its Vendors United Food Cooperative in Washington DC, who will sell food online via a co-operatively owned marketplace. 

Geoff Gilbert, legal and technical assistance director for Beloved Community Incubator, said: “Investment in the Vendors United Food Cooperative represents a unique opportunity to bring informal economy workers into the solidarity economy ecosystem while DC street vendors continue to fight together to decriminalise street vending and to create a just licensing system in the District.”

The Co-op Innovation Awards have issued a total of $685,000 in grants since 2015, to support alternatives to extractive economic activity.

Ellis Carr, president and CEO of Momentus Capital, which includes Capital Impact Partners, CDC Small Business Finance, and Ventures Lending Technologies, said: “The Co-op Innovation Awards exemplify both a strong tradition and our current mission.

“Momentus Capital continues to invest in the co-operative movement as we work to help bring equity and social and economic justice for disinvested communities throughout the United States.”

Casey Fannon, president and CEO of National Cooperative Bank, said: “The co-op model works in a wide range of sectors, as you can see from this year’s recipients, but what they all have in common is a commitment to improving the lives of their community and members.”

The funding pool was also expanded by $50,000 this year, through additional sponsorship from Rochdale Capital, CUNA Mutual Group, Local Government Federal Credit Union, and National Co-op Grocers.