Cooperatives are a key part of transitioning to a just economy, and cooperative finance is a crucial piece of the process. But, with banks’ and lenders’ histories of racism in lending to Black and Brown communities, applying for loans can be daunting. The North Star Black Cooperative Fellowship exists to help Black-led cooperatives navigate these processes in community and with support.
Last month, the North Stars dove into finance with our partners at Shared Capital, Jessica and Samantha, Social Impact Strategies, Elaine Rasmussen, E Coco Consulting and Nexus’ own Christina Nicholson, the Worker Owner Initiative Program Manager. Our speakers and teachers were thoughtful, supportive, realistic as they shared their expertise and answered fellows’ questions.
Shared Capital is a CDFI (community development financial institution) that finances cooperatives across the nation. Jessica and Samantha walked the fellows through the loan application process, the different types of investments they can make in cooperatives, and the ways the cooperative principles guide Shared Capital’s work.
Afterwards, our partners had a panel discussion about their experiences with cooperative finance, including different opportunities and obstacles Black-led cooperatives can face when raising capital. Elaine talked about how to get connected to and build relationships with investors. Coco talked about opportunities to raise money to support cooperatives in an unexpected place—philanthropy. She gave fellows insights into how to navigate spaces with funders and find opportunities for funding that might not be obvious.
Fellows and speakers supported each other in this conversation about financing. Together, they unpacked how banks, lenders, and foundations have extracted wealth from Black communities while also denying them support—this historical and present discrimination can make financing an exhausting process. It was powerful for fellows and speakers to talk about these barriers together and find support in their shared experiences. Black people have built cooperatives throughout history to support each other and thrive, and there is a tight community of folks ready to dig in and help other cooperators out.
Do you want to learn more about North Star? Mark your calendars for graduation next Wednesday! Learn about our incredible fellows, and hear some of our keynote speaker Noni Session’s wisdom (East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative). Click here to RSVP.