The Industrial Commons trains workers in Morganton, North Carolina, to become upholsterers, one of the highest paid jobs in furniture

Innovative Ideas in Communities of Color Receive $170,000 in Grants From Capital Impact Partners and National Cooperative Bank

The eighth annual Co-op Innovation Awards supported five organizations’ work in California, Illinois, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Washington, D.C.

September 28, 2022 (Arlington, VA) – Five innovative ideas in five cities have received a combined $170,000 in early-stage grant funding from Capital Impact Partners’ 2022 Co-op Innovation Awards, which aim to increase cooperative development in communities of color and communities living with low incomes. 

This year’s awards, issued by Capital Impact Partners and National Cooperative Bank, are funding projects such as enabling Cambodian refugees to have permanent affordable housing; keeping a neighborhood safe so that families and businesses can thrive; creating an online marketplace for street food vendors; teaching skilled laborers how to become upholsterers; and helping a housing cooperative move toward sustainable growth. 

These worker, housing, and food co-ops are innovating programs or strategies to offer workers, especially workers of color, an alternative to extractive systems. 

“The Co-op Innovation Awards exemplify both a strong tradition and our current mission,” said Ellis Carr, president and CEO of the Momentus Capital family of organizations, which includes Capital Impact Partners, CDC Small Business Finance, and Ventures Lending Technologies. “Capital Impact Partners was founded 40 years ago out of federal legislation to encourage co-op development, so co-op development is at our core. We have disbursed more than $315 million in lending to cooperative businesses since our inception. Momentus Capital continues to invest in the cooperative movement as we work to help bring equity and social and economic justice for disinvested communities throughout the United States.”

“Since 1978, National Cooperative Bank has had a mission to serve cooperative development and is proud to once again sponsor the Co-op Innovation Awards,” stated Casey Fannon, President and CEO.  “The co-op model works in a wide range of sectors, as you can see from this year’s recipients, but what they all have in common is a commitment to improving the lives of their community and members.”

This year, the award pool was expanded through the participation of additional sponsors Rochdale Capital, CUNA Mutual Group, Local Government Federal Credit Union, and National Co-op Grocers, helping augment the award opportunities by $50,000.

Since 2015, the Co-op Innovation Awards have issued a total of $685,000 in grants. The 2022 awardees are:

  • Northside Residents Redevelopment Council, Minneapolis, $50,000
  • North American Students of Cooperation, Chicago, $35,000
  • The Industrial Commons, Morgantown, North Carolina, $30,000
  • Pilsen Housing Cooperative, Chicago, $30,000
  • Beloved Community Incubator, Washington, D.C., $25,000

Northside Residents Redevelopment Council is being awarded $50,000 to create a state-certified Community Safety Specialist apprenticeship program, formalizing and professionalizing a community-led patrol program that has existed in North Minneapolis for decades. These patrols aim to generate community wealth through cooperative ownership and by cultivating safe, supportive, and economically vibrant neighborhoods where families can thrive. 

Apprentices are drawn from the communities they serve and receive extensive classroom instruction before being paired with an experienced mentor, who has patrolled the neighborhood for years, for 2,000 hours of on-the-job training. Apprentices earn $19 per hour plus health benefits and are covered by a union contract. Upon graduation, they become journey-workers and earn $23 per hour.

“Over the last 12 months, young African American men in North Minneapolis have begun to transform their lives and their community through the Community Safety Specialist program. These apprentices have participated in intensive training and mentorship and are now providing culturally competent resources to address the challenges of violence, drug abuse and crime that have plagued their neighborhoods,” said Gayle Smaller, leader of the Community Safety Specialist Program and chair of the Northside Residents Redevelopment Council Public Safety Committee. “These workers, who earn a living wage with good benefits and union membership, now have the resources to pursue the creation of a worker cooperative and become owners in their workplace. Thank you to the Co-op Innovation Awards for your generous support.”

North American Students of Cooperation (NASCO) is being awarded $35,000 to establish a group-equity cooperative for a 209-unit complex in Stockton, California, that primarily houses Cambodian refugees and their families. The complex is owned by the Asian Pacific Self-Development and Residential Association. This project will pilot a scalable model where the Chicago-based NASCO works with tenants’ unions and residents of apartment buildings facing displacement and gentrification to provide training, and give them the tools to buy the properties and own them through the group-equity model. 

“This funding will help a community primarily made up of Cambodian immigrants and their families to establish permanent community-controlled, affordable cooperative housing for themselves,” said Brel Hutton-Okpalaeke, director of development services for NASCO. “Directly funding the technical assistance and community training work that will be needed for this project gets this over the hump of being just a good idea to something we can actually do. This grant will allow NASCO to also engage in language justice work, funding the needed translation work for organizers for whom English is not their first language.”

The Industrial Commons is being awarded $30,000 toward a project called Seat at the Table, which takes the need for skilled labor and turns it into a multi-layered business that trains workers to become upholsterers, one of the highest paid jobs in furniture. Seat at the Table’s short-term goal is to create a training program in Morganton, North Carolina, where young people in the community can learn the skill of furniture production while fulfilling contracts for other local furniture companies. The long-term vision is to create a direct-to-consumer furniture manufacturing co-op whose member-owners will come from the training program.

“At The Industrial Commons we launch and scale worker cooperatives, and having flexible startup funds is important for any project we embark on,” said Aaron Dawson, workforce development senior director for The Industrial Commons. “We will use the grant to support a new co-op, Seat at the Table, and a young African-American man from our community, Herron Harper, who will help lead it. This funding couldn’t have come at a better time, as it will give Herron a chance to build his skills, create opportunities for others in our community and serve as the bridge to our sustainable future.”

Pilsen Housing Cooperative (PIHCO) is being awarded $30,000 toward the expansion to its third property, a “generator building” that will help make the co-op’s ongoing growth sustainable. By buying the building via donations, rather than debt, PIHCO can then use the building to help fund subsequent acquisitions and supplement capital improvements across its portfolio. 

Through PIHCO, owner families can secure affordable homes in a neighborhood that many consider to be the heart of Mexican Chicago. They earn equity and build wealth, build leadership skills, increase democratic participation in civic life, and take a pragmatic stand against displacement. 

“PIHCO provides a realistic option for people that have no other opportunity to purchase and stay in the neighborhood,” said Gabriel Villa, co-founder and Resident of PIHCO. In addition, “It creates another alternative of living and growing together as a community. In this country we’re used to just relying on your immediate family. Now all of a sudden you become part of a collective, and people have your back.” 

Beloved Community Incubator is being awarded $25,000 to support the Vendors United Food Cooperative, a group of street food vendors in Washington, D.C. — many of whom have been persecuted by the police and locked out of the mainstream economy. The vendors are starting an online, cooperatively-owned marketplace to sell their food. Building on the success of its pilot program, Beloved Community Incubator will scale Vendors United Food Cooperative, help build the foundation of the cooperative, and strengthen their team, which will result in higher incomes and more democratic control.

“The Co-op Innovation Award will allow Beloved Community incubator to build on our track record of incubating worker cooperatives in the care sector that are owned and led by poor and working class Black and Brown workers, primarily women and femmes,” said Geoff Gilbert, legal and technical assistance director for Beloved Community Incubator. “Investment in the Vendors United Food Cooperative represents a unique opportunity to bring informal economy workers into the solidarity economy ecosystem while DC street vendors continue to fight together to decriminalize street vending and to create a just licensing system in the District.”

About Momentus Capital

Momentus Capital is transforming how capital and investments flow into communities to provide people access to the capital and opportunities they deserve.

Through our family of mission-driven organizations including Capital Impact Partners, CDC Small Business Finance, and Ventures Lending Technologies, we are working to reinvent traditional financial systems that have failed to address systemic issues of inequality, economic empowerment, and the widening racial wealth gap.

Each organization under the Momentus Capital brand will continue operating as a separate entity committed to serving its key market and clients, albeit with additional resources and product offerings. 

We offer a continuum of financial, knowledge, and social capital to help local leaders build inclusive and equitable communities and create generational wealth. This includes a comprehensive package of loan products, impact investment opportunities, training and business advising programs, and technology services that advance locally-led solutions.

Leveraging 80 years of combined experience, a portfolio of nearly $3 billion, and strong community engagement, the family of companies has delivered more than $23 billion in financing, created and preserved 250,000 jobs, and served 12,000 small businesses and five million people across their history.

With headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, and San Diego, California, Momentus Capital operates nationally with a focus on larger urban areas and cities in Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, New York, Texas, and Washington, D.C.

Learn more at momentuscap.org.

About Capital Impact Partners

Capital Impact is transforming how capital and investments flow into communities to provide people access to the capital and opportunities they deserve. We work to champion key issues of equity and social and economic justice by deploying mission-driven financing, capacity-building programs, and impact investing opportunities.

Capital Impact is now part of the Momentus Capital family of organizations, including CDC Small Business Finance and Ventures Lending Technologies. Together, we offer a continuum of financial, knowledge, and social capital to help local leaders build inclusive and equitable communities and create generational wealth. This includes a comprehensive package of loan products, impact investment opportunities, training and business advising programs, and technology services that advance locally-led solutions.

A nonprofit Community Development Financial Institution, Capital Impact has disbursed more than $2.5 billion since 1982 to create access to critical social services, grow entrepreneurs, and create quality jobs. Capital Impact’s leadership in delivering financial and social impact has resulted in the organization being rated by S&P Global and recognized by Aeris for its performance. 

Headquartered in Arlington, VA, Capital Impact Partners operates nationally, with local teams in Austin, TX, Detroit, MI, New York, NY, and Oakland, CA.

Learn more at capitalimpact.org and momentuscap.org.

About National Cooperative Bank

National Cooperative Bank is dedicated to strengthening communities nationwide through the delivery of banking and financial services, complemented by a special focus on cooperative expansion and economic development. NCB provides financial products and services for the nation’s cooperatives, their members, and socially responsible organizations. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the Bank has offices in Alaska, California, New York, Ohio, and Virginia. To learn more, visit www.ncb.coop, National Cooperative Bank on Facebook and Instagram, or on Twitter @natlcoopbank.

Footer icons

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER

© Copyright 1982 - 2022. All Rights Reserved.