recently awarded a $10,000 grant to St. Paul-based Nexus Community Partners to support the North Star Black Cooperative Fellowship. The program is a four-month fellowship focused on Black American Cooperative Economics and aims to offer a viable alternative to traditional economic development initiatives in the Twin Cities area. The region is a hub for cooperative development and ripe for innovation and investment.
The first 10-person cohort is made up of entrepreneurs seeking guidance on developing their cooperative enterprise ideas, which include investment cooperatives focused on vacant property development, a cooperative artist’s studio, a credit union, a Black design collaborative and a publishing cooperative, among others. Nexus Program Officer Danielle Mkali led the curriculum design and is already incorporating experiences from the first cohort into preparation for future rounds. Both Mkali and Nexus Vice President of Programs Theresa Gardella were thrilled with the level of response from budding cooperative entrepreneurs.
Nexus is planning to open source the cohort’s curriculum so that other community wealth building groups can benefit from the success of the program. Working in concert with local, national and technical assistance partners, their overarching goals are to strengthen the Black Cooperative Movement and address the pitfalls of economic development in a systemic way. Historically, economic development investment has not always translated into economic prosperity, particularly for people of color. In response, Nexus is innovating with its programming to incorporate locally and culturally-based factors, as well as adaptive learning along the way.
While the pilot is underway, Nexus is partnering with Project Equity, a cooperative business conversion group based in Oakland, California. As the aging Baby Boomer generation retires—with some estimates at over 10,000 retirees per day—the two groups see widespread opportunity for business owners to learn about the benefits of employee ownership. The Cooperative Foundation recently awarded support for Project Equity’s project to develop business outreach materials that will aid in the effort to keep businesses locally rooted.
The Cooperative Foundation is a steadfast supporter of cooperative development, research and education. Its mission is to expand and enhance cooperatives through research, teaching, extension, innovation and development. For information about funding priorities and the competitive grant making process, visit thecooperativefoundation.orgg.