Arlington, VA ( June, 29, 2020) The cooperative development model creates opportunities for economic mobility and for financial and community resilience, including during times of crisis. Three cooperative organizations were chosen to receive the Co-op Innovation Award, which aims to increase co-op development in communities with low incomes and/or communities of color. In partnership with Capital Impact Partners, the 2020 awardees – ChiFresh, The Guild, and the Bronx Cooperative Development Initiative – received a total of $100,000.
“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 organizations,” stated Charles Snyder, CEO of NCB. "Each one is deeply rooted in their community and will enhance the cooperative model to address income inequality and increase community ownership. We look forward to seeing the impact of their work in the years to come."
This year’s Co-op Innovation Award focused on organizations educating new audiences on the impact and potential of the cooperative model to disrupt income inequality, steward community ownership, and create strong vibrant places of opportunity. Priority was given to food, worker, and housing cooperatives, but all sectors were invited to apply.
While the award was advertised before restrictions were implemented around the COVID-19 pandemic, co-ops provide community stability which is critical in weathering crises that can be crippling to small businesses and low wage workers. Working in communities, co-ops allow their members to determine what is best for everyone.
ChiFresh Kitchen is being awarded $50,000 to expand its commercial kitchen, owned and determined by formerly incarcerated Chicagoans, primarily Black women. ChiFresh pushed forward its intended launch in response to the COVID-19 crisis and its impact on Chicagoans of color and residents with low incomes.
ChiFresh is now delivering prepared meals that are freshly cooked, healthy, delicious, and rooted in the culture and traditions of the people being served. Many of the members lost jobs because of COVID so launching the co-op provided much needed income in addition to getting food out to the community. They are working closely with local government and anchor institutions to become the go-to prepared meal vendor for anchor institutions implementing good food purchasing policies. ChiFresh hopes to influence the narrative around worker cooperatives and their impact on the lives of the most marginalized community members.
"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 to support its mission of building community wealth through real estate, entrepreneurship programs, and access to capital, creating equitable and sustainable communities by addressing the root causes of economic inequality.
The grant will support the Guild’s “whole systems” approach, allowing the Guild to continue providing technical assistance to Black and Brown enterprises through its Community Wealth Building Accelerator; launch its Integrated Capital Fund that will coordinate and deploy different types of capital and investments to entrepreneurs of color; and launch the 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 democratize ownership of businesses and real estate through a racial equity lens.
The Bronx Cooperative Development Initiative (BCDI) is being awarded $25,000 to bring worker ownership to an entirely new audience of minority business owners and workers through an industry focused strategy. The grant will support the creation of a worker-owned integrated pest management (IPM) co-op that provides living wages and the opportunity to scale through demand from institutional purchasers.
BCDI is a community-led economic development organization focused on building an equitable, democratic economy that creates shared wealth and ownership for people of color with low incomes. They are an inclusive organization that provides materials, training, and workshops in several different languages. A key objective for the organization is localizing procurement to Bronx-based minority/women-owned businesses and worker-owned cooperatives by leveraging stakeholder relationships.
“Through the Co-op Innovation Award, grant, BCDI and DAWI are forming an Integrated Pest Management cooperative 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.”
During times of crisis, the cooperative model encourages greater civic engagement, as well as community self-determination, agency, and resilience. Worker cooperatives, in particular, have been increasing through innovative organizing and growth strategies that empower workers and build wealth for those who locked out the mainstream economy. As mission-driven organizations focus more on expanding economic, social, and racial justice across the country, cooperatives and organizations that empower them will continue to be partners in broadening opportunities for all.