Capital Impact Partners announces winners of seventh annual Co-op Innovation Awards
by Karen Kahn
This year’s Co-op Innovation Awards will provide a total of $130,000 to five co-ops: Collective Remake, Cooperation Humboldt, Co-op Cincy, Co-op Dayton, and Custom Collaborative. All five demonstrate that, even in the face of challenges such as COVID-19 and racial violence, cooperatives can promote resiliency and prosperity for their communities.
The annual awards from Capital Impact Partners, a community development financial institution (CDFI), are intended to increase co-op development in low-income communities and communities of color. The focus this year, according to a Capital Impact press release, was on organizations expanding education about the cooperative model in the face of the “twin pandemics of COVID and racial injustice.”
In the face of increasing pronounced inequity, co-ops provide a clear path to sovereignty and wealth building that fosters equity.–Ellis Carr, president and CEO of Capital Impact Partners
“Our Co-op Innovation Award has been going strong for seven years, supporting emerging co-op developers to build community prosperity in underestimated communities across the country,” said Ellis Carr, president and CEO of Capital Impact Partners and CDC Small Business Finance. “In the face of increasing pronounced inequity, co-ops provide a clear path to sovereignty and wealth building that fosters equity.”
Capital Impact Partners makes the Coop Innovation Award in partnership with the National Cooperative Bank. The award pool was expanded this year through the participation of additional sponsors, including Cabot Creamery, CUNA Mutual Group, and the Local Government Federal Credit Union.
This year’s winners include:
Co-op Cincy: Awarded $35,000 to launch “Power in Numbers: Black Co-op U,” a program to infuse their three-month co-op development course with racial justice education and co-op history. The new BIPOC-focused co-op development course is being piloted with three Black-led cohorts that will also receive ongoing technical assistance and mini start-up grants. Co-op Cincy aims to support six to eight Black co-op entrepreneur teams to launch successful worker-owned businesses.
Co-op Dayton: Awarded $25,000 to support Unified Power, a real estate investment co-op organizing residents of West Dayton to control land and development in their neighborhoods; create quality, affordable rental and home ownership opportunities; and revitalize disinvested commercial and residential streets.
Collective REMAKE: Awarded $25,000 to create worker-owned businesses and other cooperatives to expand employment in Los Angeles for formerly incarcerated individuals and others who have been marginalized. The award will fund a train-the-trainers program to develop participatory education skills; a co-op development program to support start-up cooperatives; and a wellness hub to support individuals in overcoming barriers to re-entry.
Custom Collaborative: Awarded $25,000 to empower Black, brown, low-income and immigrant women with the tools and platform they need to create new solutions for the fashion industry and the planet, while acquiring jobs with dignity. In 2020, Custom Collaborative launched Fashion That Works Production (FTWP), a worker cooperative whose members graduated from their training institute. The award will support FTWP and expand Custom Collaborative’s educational platform.
Cooperation Humboldt: Awarded $20,000 to run a six-week, bilingual educational program for aspiring entrepreneurs on California’s North Coast. The funding supports continued technical assistance from cooperative business advisors who receive training from Co-op Humboldt’s Cooperative Business Equity Program. This program, developed in collaboration with community colleges, local indigenous tribes, immigrant communities and CDFIs, trains cooperative business advisors from rural, Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities to provide culturally appropriate supportive services.
Since 2015, Capital Impact Partners has awarded more than $515,000 in grants to 17 organizations to expand the cooperative economy. Over the years, those funds have leveraged an additional $6.3 million to start emerging and support existing co-ops.
Karen Kahn is a communications consultant and the editor of Employee Ownership News.