New secondary coop supports growth of home care cooperatives
By Katrina Kazda
Elevate Cooperative — a new national network made up of home care cooperatives pooling resources and working together — aims to change the future of home care.
Plagued by a crisis-level caregiver shortage, driven by persistent poor job quality and inadequate compensation, the home care industry is in need of change. Worker ownership offers a much needed remedy to this broken, exploitative system by shifting the balance of power, profit, and rewards in home care to those that do the work — caregivers. But this requires systemic change, and individual cooperatives cannot create this change working alone.
Secondary co-op designed to drive growth of cooperative model
The path forward requires significant scaling of the home care cooperative model and deep collaboration, bolstered by a comprehensive cooperative ecosystem. To align, manage, and lead this effort, a new national institution — Elevate Cooperative — is being developed by the ICA Group with financial support from the Cooperative Development Foundation.
Elevate Cooperative will act as the centralized, coordinating body of the national home care cooperative movement, driving the profitability, growth, and influence of home care cooperatives for the mutual benefit of caregivers and clients.
For decades, a handful of cooperatives, including Cooperative Home Care Associates (CHCA) in New York City; Home Care Associates of Philadelphia, and Cooperative Care in Wisconsin, have pushed to change the industry through a “quality care through quality jobs” strategy, but they have been unable to achieve the systemic change they envisioned. Today, 14 home care coops are operating across 8 states. With Elevate Cooperative, the hope is to scale more quickly by giving cooperatives the support they need to grow.
Strengthening sector’s collective voice
Elevate Cooperative will act as the centralized, coordinating body of the national home care cooperative movement, driving the profitability, growth, and influence of home care cooperatives for the mutual benefit of caregivers and clients. Once formally incorporated, Elevate Cooperative will be governed, and its development guided, by a cooperative member majority.
Elevate will offer a full-suite of products and services — including marketing and sales, training, back-office systems, networking, and advocacy — designed to strengthen existing cooperatives and grow the census and size of the home care cooperative sector. As cooperative profits grow, so will the quality of cooperative home care jobs and the power of the sector’s collective voice.
Adria Powell, president and CEO of CHCA explains the importance of Elevate Cooperative:
We believe that the future of home care is in cooperative home care businesses. . . . It is going to be important to support home care co-ops to ensure growth, success, and sustainability, and I see that role being played [by] the secondary co-op. . . . The secondary co-op is really going to be transformational, and that’s what excites me: strengthening existing co-ops, growing the census and size of co-ops, and pushing for large-scale industry change. That is what needs to happen and needs to transpire for us to really realize a future where home care co-ops are the answer to what is broken in this system.
The secondary co-op is really going to be transformational.–Adria Powell, president and CEO of Cooperative Home Care Associates
Launch of first pilot product
In December 2021, Elevate Cooperative launched its first pilot product, Elevate Digital, a national website and digital marketing and sales platform designed specifically for home care cooperatives. CHCA, Home Care Associates of Philadelphia, and Cooperative Care, based in Wautoma, WI, are the first co-ops participating. The participating cooperatives have access to a state-of-the-art website and marketing and sales system backed by professional marketing experts.
Member co-ops have access to ongoing tech support, content development support, marketing and sales training, and ongoing performance monitoring and improvements all at a fraction of the cost of what individual cooperatives would pay to access these services independently. Digital marketing support was one of the top areas of need expressed by home care cooperatives in a 2020 survey of the sector by the ICA Group.
Larger suite of products and services coming
ICA Group is now working to build out the larger suite of products and services that will be available at the time of launch, as well as visioning for the longer term. Some will be standard membership benefits and others will be value-added products, services, supports (like Elevate Digital) that cooperatives may opt to purchase based on their specific needs and budgets.
Ultimately, the team developing Elevate Cooperative aims to create the conditions for the cooperative sector to fully realize its vision for home care — a world in which the worker-owned segment of the home care industry is large and strong enough to significantly and positively impact pay, benefits, and opportunities across the entire industry; a future where a young person who aspires to enter the caregiving profession will be met with the same societal affirmation and respect as those seeking to enter other skilled caring professions and will find a home care cooperative to welcome them.
For more information about Elevate Cooperative visit: www.icagroup.org/elevate
Katrina Kazda is the director of the Home Care Program at The ICA Group, where she leads the development and implementation of ICA’s national home care strategy.
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