US Co-op Innovation Award winners to receive a total of $100,000

The award aims to increase co-op development in communities with low incomes and communities of colour

Three US co-operative organisations have been selected as the winners of this year’s Co-op Innovation Award.

ChiFresh, the Guild and the Bronx Cooperative Development Initiative will receive a total of US$100,000 from National Cooperative Bank and Capital Impact Partners.

Capital Impact Partners, a community development financial institution, created the award in 2015 to boost co-op development in communities with low incomes and/or communities of colour.

“In our sixth year of offering the Co-op Innovation Award, we are turning our minds not just to innovative ideas, but also toward ideas that expand the co-op model to more communities that could benefit from it,” said Ellis Carr, president and CEO of Capital Impact Partners.

“Workers deserve the opportunity not only for financial stability and mobility, but also for dignified work at a living wage. We are glad to partner with National Cooperative Bank to use this award as a tool to augment equity and justice for communities nationwide.”

“The National Cooperative Bank is proud to work with Capital Impact Partners to award these three deserving organisations,” said Charles Snyder, CEO of NCB. “Each one 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.”

The awards were open to co-ops from all sectors, particularly food, worker, and housing co-operatives. To be considered, organisations had to show how they are contributing to educating new audiences on the impact and potential of the co-operative model to address economic inequality and create opportunities for disadvantaged communities.

ChiFresh Kitchen in Chicago is being awarded $50,000 to expand its commercial kitchen, owned and determined by formerly incarcerated Chicagoans, primarily black women. The business is currently delivering prepared meals and has had to push forward its intended launch in response to the Covid-19 crisis.

“ChiFresh planned to serve meals to after school and summer programs, but as we launch in the midst of this crisis, we have pivoted to meet the immediate needs facing our communities,” said Camille Kerr, ChiFresh coordinator.

“This grant allows us to partner with our fellow BIPOC-owned worker cooperative farms and food operators to address COVID-related food insecurity. With Capital Impact’s support, we can use this moment to build up the infrastructure for cooperatives to play a larger role in our local food ecosystem long-term.”

The Guild in Atlanta is being awarded $25,000, which will support its mission of building community wealth through real estate, entrepreneurship programs, and access to capital. It plans to use the grant to launch an Integrated Capital Fund that will coordinate and deploy different types of capital and investments to entrepreneurs of colour and a Groundcover Community Investment Trust to introduce an alternative real estate development model to the Atlanta community.

“The Guild offers equitable real estate, entrepreneurship programs, and access to non-extractive capital to build community wealth and resilience,” said Avery Ebron, head of product at The Guild. “Capital Impact Partners’ Co-op Innovation Award will help The Guild democratise ownership of businesses and real estate through a racial equity lens.”

A community-led economic development organization, the Bronx Cooperative Development Initiative (BCDI) is being awarded $25,000. The funding will enable it to create of a worker-owned integrated pest management (IPM) co-op that provides living wages and the opportunity to scale through demand from institutional purchasers.

The main purpose of BCDI is to localise procurement to Bronx-based minority/women-owned businesses and worker-owned co-operatives by leveraging stakeholder relationships.

“Through the Co-op Innovation Award grant, BCDI and DAWI are forming an Integrated Pest Management co-operative that will be owned and operated by its workers,” said Michael Partis, executive director of BCDI. “Our intervention promises to create jobs, generate shared wealth, and move us closer to ending generational poverty in the poorest urban county in the United States.”