• Independent Drivers Guild Driver stands in front of banner

Investing In The Cooperative Model To Scale Social Impact

Cooperatives are an integral part of the fabric of our economy and have real power to transform low-income communities into strong, vibrant places of opportunity. With momentum growing around the power of cooperatives to create economic opportunity for underserved communities and communities of color, Capital Impact Partners created the Co-op Innovation Award in 2015, designed to further this movement and the impact that cooperative organizations are creating nationwide. Organizations are chosen yearly to receive a portion of a $100,000, one-year grant to recognize innovative strategies to increase the number of food, housing, and worker co-ops serving low-income communities.

Members of a housing cooperative in front of their property.

Bringing Co-ops to Scale
Co-ops afford disinvested communities nationwide the opportunity to break barriers to success and pursue shared prosperity and self-determination. Capital Impact supports Co-op Innovation Award winners that focus on methods for expanding equity, innovation and impact for low-income communities nationwide through food, housing, and worker co-ops, creating jobs and economic and social justice.

Three members of a Latina-run cooperative.

Active Partnerships
Capital Impact’s community development work is based in the cooperative model. Our history of amplifying the potential of the co-op model for all people – through strategic financing and capacity building – positions us well to work directly with cooperatives to activate and mobilize their models for food, housing, and worker collectives.

Two men in conversation.

Connecting Communities with Influencers
Through the award, Capital Impact acts as a bridge between the co-op community and foundations, impact investors, community development organizations, and policy makers. This provides a platform on which to showcase promising models and attract other grant dollars, policy change, and public interest.


This grant initiative aims to support work to bring co-ops to scale and/or increase cooperative development in low-income communities. Local and national organizations that work in the food, housing, and worker cooperative sectors with a focus on equity are eligible to apply.

Sponsorship Opportunities

In addition, there are exciting sponsorship opportunities for organizations that would like to support the Co-op Innovation Award.

Reach out to Alison Powers, Director of Economic Opportunities, at apowers@capitalimpact.org.

Proud Sponsors of the Capital Impact Partners Co-op Innovation Award




The ChiFresh Kitchen – 2020

ChiFresh Kitchen is a Chicago-based women- and minority-owned worker cooperative, owned and determined by formerly incarcerated Chicagoans, primarily Black women. ChiFresh is delivering prepared meals that are freshly cooked, healthy, delicious, and rooted in the culture and traditions of the people being served. ChiFresh pushed forward its intended launch in response to the COVID-19 crisis and its impact on Chicagoans of color and residents with low incomes.

Find out more about ChiFresh Kitchen’s work

The Bronx Cooperative Development Initiative – 2020

The Bronx Cooperative Development Initiative is a community-led economic development organization focused on building an equitable, democratic economy that creates shared wealth and ownership for people of color with low incomes. BCDI is supporting the creation of a worker-owned integrated pest management (IPM) co-op that provides living wages and the opportunity to scale through demand from institutional purchasers.

Find out more about BCDI’s work


The Guild – 2020

The Guild in Atlanta is focused on building community wealth through real estate, entrepreneurship programs, and access to capital, creating equitable and sustainable communities by addressing the root causes of economic inequality. The Guild is providing technical assistance to Black and Brown enterprises through its Community Wealth Building Accelerator; launching its Integrated Capital Fund that will coordinate and deploy different types of capital and investments to entrepreneurs of color; and launching the Groundcover Community Investment Trust to introduce an alternative real estate development model to the Atlanta community.

Find out more about The Guild’s innovative model

Community Labor Environment Action Network – 2019

The Community Labor Environment Action Network (CLEAN) is a grassroots, immigrant, car wash worker-led organization that seeks transformative change to the exploitative car wash industry. CLEAN is establishing CLEAN Carwash, a worker-owned car wash cooperative in Los Angeles that prioritizes worker and environmental rights, while working for improved pay and working conditions.

Find out more about CLEAN’s work

Independent Drivers Guild – 2019

The Independent Drivers Guild (IDG) represents more than 85,000 for-hire vehicle drives in New York City, 90 percent of whom are immigrant workers. IDG plans to launch a purchasing cooperative that will reduce expenses for drivers, and a worker cooperative to provide culturally appropriate meals-on-the-go for drivers.

Learn more about IDG’s innovative ideas

Centro de Trabajadores Unidos – 2019

Centro de Trabajadores Unidos: United Workers’ Center (Centro)’s goal is to transform the local economy in Chicago by empowering low-wage workers, especially immigrants, to achieve economic resilience through cooperative ownership. Centro is funding a dual-language, culturally appropriate train-the-trainer curriculum for both worker cooperative developers and individuals seeking to start worker cooperatives.

Learn more about Centro’s work

Association for Black Economic Power – 2018

Working to disrupt predatory lending practices in communities of color, the Association for Black Economic Power will create a Black-led financial cooperative credit union on the northside of Minneapolis called Village Trust Financial Cooperative. Fostering racial equity within financial services, the credit union will provide consumer loans to residents in the local area, as well as technical assistance and financial support for Black-led cooperatives throughout Minnesota.

Learn more about ABEP’s work

Sustainable Economies Law Center – 2018

Supporting residents in the Oakland area, the Sustainable Economies Law Center is incubating the East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative. EBPREC is piloting an innovative model that engages everyday people to organize, finance, acquire, and steward land and housing, particularly important for communities of color in and around Oakland that are experiencing rapid gentrification.

Take a Look at this Innovative Model

Food Co-op Initiative – 2017

Food Co-op Initiative used its award to establish a program providing support and guidance to the most promising low-income, urban food startup efforts. The program includes seed grants, technical assistance, and the creation of a strong support network among participating co-ops.

Learn more about Food Co-op Initiative’s work

Project Equity  – 2016 & 2017

Focusing on expanding its efforts to convert successful businesses to worker ownership, Project Equity seeks to increase access to quality jobs and create wealth building opportunities for low- to moderate-wage workers.

Learn more about Project Equity’s work

Democracy at Work Institute – 2015 & 2016

With more than $40,000 in grants through our Co-op Innovation Award, The Democracy at Work Initiative has spearheaded a national effort to help small, minority-owned businesses transition to worker-owned cooperatives.

Learn more about DAWI’s work

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Our Coop Strategy


We track and measure transformation in and among the communities we support. This ensures that the investment of capital and commitment translates into real, sustainable change. Ultimately, these efforts support the work of cooperatives to build communities of opportunity.


Graphic illustrating that Capital Impact has provided $283 million in financing to 213 cooperative businesses retailers serving more than 850 thousand customers

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