When this North Star cohort started in October, it was our first virtual cohort, our first cohort organized around collective land ownership, and our first cohort where entire cooperatives participated together. In anticipation of North Star graduation this Wednesday, we will be revisiting some of the North Star sessions, what they learned, and sharing some resources. 

Cooperatives provide a different model of ownership and wealth sharing, and in the process, we are asked to invest deeply in one another, identify and communicate our needs, and skillfully navigate conflict. At Nexus, we realize that we are all connected – what affects one person or community, affects another – and this kind of approach to decisions and conflict is one part of learning how to honor our responsibility for each other. In April, Autumn Brown joined our North Star to discuss democratic decision making and conflict resolution. 

A co-owner at AORTA, Autumn taught us about different models of democratic decision making and strategies for working through conflict. Autumn emphasized the importance of breaking down HOW decisions are made, identifying who has the final say, and thinking about if you like how it is. These considerations are key for any group of people starting a cooperative. 

A key piece of democratic decision making is navigating conflict—a natural and healthy part of people working and/or living together. Autumn talked about how to prepare and plan for conflict before it even happens, making it easier for conflict to be handled well, and be generative and healthy for the group. For example, self-evaluations of conflict styles, helping cooperative members understand how they feel about conflict, and how they like to address it, help cooperatives determine their approach to conflict before it starts. 

Conflict resolution skills are foundational in cooperatives, and in our lives, communities, and movements as well. Dealing with conflict in grounded and centered ways can be difficult, but is essential. As we fight for better futures for all of us, we must simultaneously consider how we govern ourselves—how we want to be together, how to make decisions together, how we want to deal with hurt and harm, and what accountability means to us.

Do you want to learn more about North Star? Mark your calendars for graduation this Wednesday (5/26)! 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.

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. 

North Star Black Cooperative Fellowship 2018/2019 cohort sessions have started off well! The first cohort meeting dug into the history of cooperatives and the society in which we live in that bread a necessity for cooperatives to exist. We also discussed how modern-day society makes it difficult for black businesses to remain afloat without systematic structures trying to tear them down. Our second session dove into the role capitalism plays into the overall success of a cooperative economy and the need to bring it to fruition. And our most recent cohort session dissected the cooperative bylaws and development – what makes cooperatives successful and what foundations are necessary for keeping the cooperative stable. It asked a difficult question: what is most important to the board – profit or the people? Through this, many of the members revealed the ingrained roots of capitalism and have continued to tackle the multilayered issue of social inequality with curiosity and understanding. The pessimism that surrounds our community due to the weight of social inequality can be back breaking, however, this is only true if you allow it to consume you.