Participants discussing coops in small groups

Written by Nichelle Brunner


Walking into Room 105 of the Urban Outreach-Engagement and Research Center (UROC) in North Minneapolis, the room setup is perfect for group discussion, planning and work around cooperatives. The large room is filled with tables draped in colorful table cloths, and on the front walls, the co-op values and principles are centered.

In the room, there are over 20 community members, business owners and partner organizations who have come ready to engage and to learn about cooperatives and their role in our cultural history.

This was the first of a 2-part Co-op Learning Series hosted by Nexus Community Partners, a community building intermediary in the Twin Cities. Repa Mekha, President and CEO of Nexus, opened the meeting by introducing the Nexus staff and Nexus’ commitment to a strong, equitable and just community in which all members are afforded multiple access points to generate and sustain wealth.

During the almost 3 hour long meeting, Nexus introduced the room to the definition of a cooperative, the importance of  culturally-based economic development, and the idea of using cooperatives to build democratic communities.

Storytelling, power, and cooperative movements

Following the introduction, LaDonna Redmond, Seward Community Coop’s Diversity and Community Engagement Manager, approached the mic stand.

With a commanding and energetic presence, LaDonna set the foundation of her presentation by defining exactly what a coop is.

Grounding structure of coops

“One, a coop is a legal structure. That means it’s a business. Two, it also has a social justice lens. These two things tend to overlap in a coop structure.”

Once the foundation was set, LaDonna presented the history of coops and the importance of power and oppression in storytelling.

“I will start with telling the story of the Rochdale Pioneers. They say the Rochdale Pioneers in 1844 created the contemporary coop movement, meaning that they codified, or wrote down, the principles [of coops] as they understood them. So they show you a picture of 10 white men in England, where one of the dudes had the baddest mushroom haircut I’ve ever seen in my life,” LaDonna said, as the room erupted in laughter.

“But what they don’t tell you is the Rochdale Pioneers organized themselves to take control of their economic destiny. That doesn’t come across when you see the photo of these 10 white men. Me, a Black woman, when I saw this I thought, ‘This is only for white people.’ So when we talk about the narrative of coops, we have to talk about power and who has the power to tell these stories.”

For the next 30 minutes, LaDonna challenged the “white’s only” cooperative narrative by highlighting the stories and histories of Blacks in the United States.

“In 1787, 60 years before the Rochdale Pioneers, Africans formed cooperatives for their freedom in the U.S. The Black Panthers 10 Point Platform has the same values as our local coops. When someone asks me what is a coop and cooperation, I say it’s the Underground Railroad. It’s all the pieces and principles coming together.”

Back to the basics

Participants reflecting on the coop timeline development activity

For the final part of the meeting, guests were asked to get in pairs and participate in a gallery walk. On the walls of the room were pictures and descriptions of various coops, such as New York City’s Colors Cooperative, Oakland’s Mandela Marketplace, Pine Ridge Reservation’s Owíŋža Quilters Cooperative and Minneapolis’ Village Trust Financial Cooperative. As they circled the room, the pairs reflected on common themes and coop principles.

At the end of the gallery walk, guests shared their final thoughts and what resonated with them regarding cooperatives. One participant commented on one thing that is missing from nonprofit and federal programs.

“When we transition programs to nonprofits and to the federal government, community is lost in this transition. Coops can bring that back,” said one participant.

Everyone stressed the importance of getting back to the basics, as was summed up by one of the final thoughts of the evening.

“Capitalism and white supremacy are in place so we don’t practice what is at our basic core. If you take away those things, cooperation is human nature. It makes sense because it’s who we are.”


If you have any questions regarding the Cooperative Learning Series, feel free to reach out the Nkuli Shongwe, the Community Wealth Building Coordinator- nshongwe@nexuscp.org

We are ecstatic to welcome Keliyah Perkins to our Nexus team! Keliyah joins us as the North Star Black Cooperative Fellowship Summer Intern, where she’ll be supporting the cohort development and engagement, communications and research and technical support for the North Star Black Cooperative Fellowship.

Keliyah is a rising senior this fall at Gustavus Adolphus college. She is a Philosophy major with minors in Film and Media Studies and English. She believes that the problems that exist in this world cannot be tackled from just one angle, that if we want radical change we must advance from all sides.

Learn more about Keliyah here, and please help us welcome her to the Nexus family!

In June 2018, Nonprofit Quarterly featured Nexus Community Partners’ Community Wealth Building (CWB) work – the framework, the programs and collaborations:

In adopting a community wealth-building frame, Nexus borrowed heavily on the work of others… But Nexus has also sought to make the ‘community wealth-building’ approach its own. This includes redefining community wealth-building by developing its own set of eight principles, including equity, mutuality, stewardship, and attention to cultural practices. The cultural practices principle in particular illustrates the unique ‘Nexus approach’ to community wealth building. As Nexus writes, ‘Economic strategies must be tailored for the specific communities they are designed to benefit. Culture is a resource for creating and expanding wealth building options…’

“But building a supportive culture to support this work cuts across all three of these program areas [authorship, leadership and ownership]. In terms of rollout, the foundation has envisioned a three-part strategy: with 2016 envisioned as a ‘seeding’ phase focused on awareness raising, convening, educating, and getting a common language, 2017 focused on launching programs (a ‘cultivation’ phase), with this year being a ‘harvesting’ phase where tangible outcomes begin to become visible…

“[Nexus program officer Elena] Gaarder points out that a large part of the work is not just building cooperatives, but also building the ecosystem of support that gives the cooperatives a reasonable chance to prosper and thrive. As Gaarder explains, ‘The work that Nexus is building infrastructure around cooperative models. From that what we learned, it has to be a coordinated effort that builds the infrastructure first locally and then brings in national partners to build support that is needed.’”

Click here to read the full article

In a recent Next City article titled “City Halls Now Hiring for Community Wealth Building,” Reggie Gordon lifted up community wealth building as a strategy that cities across the country are beginning to invest in.

Reggie Gordon is the director of Richmond’s Office of Community Wealth Building, the first of its kind in the nation. As he says, minorities all too often suffer from high unemployment or are pushed into low quality, service-sector jobs that don’t give them the opportunity that they need.

“The first step is to call it out,” says Gordon. “This isn’t fictional. Sixty years ago, there was intentionality around redlining and segregation that led to concentrated poverty. And here we are in 2018 receiving the byproduct of those intentional decisions … It’s up to us to be just as intentional about solving these problems.”

Check out how Community Wealth Building is gaining momentum around the country!

Join us to celebrate the North Star Black Cooperative Fellowship 2017-18 Graduating Cohort!

Come help us honor this year’s graduating North Star fellows: Amoke Kubat, Carl Crawford, Harrison Bullard, Lashunda Roberts, Lavasha Smith, Nicque Mabrey, Selah Michele and Sheronda Orridge and their efforts in establishing Black led Cooperative initiatives. Fellows’ initiatives vary from housing, worker owned, healing networks, hair care and hair product cooperatives.

Join us to learn more about their work and how you can be in cooperation with them. A keynote address will be made by Collie Graddick, our local north and south cooperative leader.

RSVP by April 18th here!

The Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA) CSA shares are back at Nexus again this year! Sign up today for your spring and summer shares to pick up Thursdays between 12-4:30pm at Nexus Community Partners.

Welcome to the 2018 HAFA CSA! We offer fresh produce and flower shares throughout the growing season. The HAFA CSA features produce grown by Hmong farmers in the Greater Twin Cities area. When you purchase a HAFA CSA, not only are you committing to eat fresh produce, you are investing in local farmers and your community.

Check out HAFA’s CSA site for more information and to sign up today!

Learn more about Business Conversions from Nexus’ partner, Project Equity

For Nexus Community Partners, business conversions to worker ownership is part of its community wealth building initiative that seeks to promote local and broad-based ownership and encourage economic practices rooted in cultural communities.

This work received a shout out in the Nonprofit Quarterly’s “Nonprofits Shift Baby Boomer Businesses to Worker Ownership in Bid for Community Sustainability.”

“If you’re a boomer business owner planning for succession, you can’t afford to overlook the employee ownership option,” writes Lori Shepherd in Entrepreneur.

At NPQ, we have written about the growing prominence of employee ownership, but mostly from the perspective of the value of preserving businesses and jobs in the community. Still, these community benefits will only be realized if business owners agree to sell to their employees. So, what would drive a business owner to do so?

While the ability to defer capital gains tax is a factor, it turns out there are also powerful market incentives. A wave of retirements (2.4 million, Shepherd estimates) has long been expected in the decade or so to come, and as Shepherd points out, “In a crowded marketplace, transferring full ownership to the workers may represent [retiring owners’] best chance to sell their businesses at fair market value.”

Full article here

Nexus is proud and excited to share that three of our community partners are receiving the 2017 Bush Prize for Community Innovation!

Congratulations to Appetite for Change, the Hmong American Farmers Association and the Latino Economic Development Center for the well-deserved recognition and added capacity for all your amazing work in community!

“Now in its fifth year, the Bush Prize celebrates organizations that are extraordinary not only in what they do but in how they do it. As models of true problem solving, they work inclusively, in partnership with others, to make their communities better for all.

“’The Bush Prize recognizes organizations that are creative, fierce and dogged in the way they work and in what they accomplish,” said Bush President Jennifer Ford Reedy. “As models for problem solving, they consistently pick a path of innovation that drives profound results for their communities.’” 

Read the entire announcement and learn about all seven 2017 Bush Prize winners from the Bush Foundation here. 

 

Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute (BCLI) Program Director Terri Thao and BCLI Alumna Sonya Lewis are hitting the road to help the State of MN promote the state boards and commissions!

Come to an upcoming information session in your region between now and December 14th to learn more about how you can connect, engage and participate in the policy decisions that impact YOU by serving on a state board, commission or task force! 

Click here to register for one of the information sessions!

 

  • Who should come? Anyone who is interested in learning about civic engagement, certainly young adults (18+) interested in learning more about this topic.
  • Why come? Learn about what opportunities are available to participate in and affect change at the state level.
  • Why serve?
    • Ability to shape and influence public policy through your knowledge and lived experience
    • Expand networks across the state
    • Understand how state government works, especially since there are several different agencies working on many different issues
    • Grow your personal & professional development skills
  • What do state boards and commissions do?
    • Review agency reports, state policies, plans and budget
    • Facilitate community input and incorporate public comments on policy
    • Research and inform the agency of critical issues
    • Make recommendations to agency
    • Make decisions on policies and implementation

Staff from the MN Department of Human Rights and Governor’s Office will be present too! Click on the following link to take you to the main page where you can register as well. https://mn.gov/mdhr/news-community/diversity-inclusion/events.jsp

Register now!

We are at a critical moment in history.

Wealth disparities across the country are at an all-time high, and in Minnesota growing racial and economic inequalities threaten our econom­ic vitality. The Twin Cities has the third highest employment gap between whites and people of color among the large metropolitan areas.1 In 2015, the overall poverty rate in Minnesota was 10.2%, but it was 16.4% for Asians, 20.8% for Latinos, 32.4% for blacks, and 25.1% for American Indians.2 According to a recent Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) report, it will take the average African American family 228 years to amass the same level of wealth as the average European American family.3

At the same time the trend in disparities threatens our economic vitality, the unprecedented wave of baby boomer retirements could further entrench the wealth gap. Nationally, approximately 50% of privately held businesses are owned by baby boomers, with 85% of owners having no succes­sion plan.4 One-third of business owners over the age of 50 report having difficulty finding some­one to purchase their business.5 This could result in the loss of millions of jobs, billions in tax reve­nue; leading to significant economic instability.

But the ‘silver tsunami’ doesn’t have to be an eco­nomic disaster. The trend could actually provide opportunities to mitigate wealth disparities and root ownership in communities of color. Across the country, the strategy of converting business­es to worker cooperatives is gaining traction as a means to redefine the traditional notion of ownership and build community wealth. In the worker cooperative business model, employees become the new owners; sharing the profits, ac­cumulating wealth, and participating in decision making through a one worker, one vote structure. Worker cooperatives offer a way to promote local and broad-based ownership, provide dignified employment and eliminate racial and economic disparities.

In 2016, Nexus Community Partners and the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) at the University of Minnesota began conducting a landscape analysis to assess the potential impact on our local economy and to identify potential opportunities for conversions to worker coop­eratives. What follows are the results, a case for worker cooperatives and a set of recommenda­tions for how the Twin Cities region can support the growth of the cooperative sector in commu­nities of color.

Click here to continue reading the Impact Brief: Business Conversions to Worker Cooperatives.